Picturing the Peacock Arts Trail

Art work by Sheona Beaumont, painter Victoria Cleverly, and Lacock Primary School; St Cyriac’s Lacock.

From the 5th to the 13th October, I’ve been busy exhibiting and curating an exhibition in St Cyriac’s Church, Lacock, as part of the Peacock Arts Trail 2019. We’ve had a wonderful 10 days, with over 1,000 visitors to the building, and plenty of inspiring chats over a cuppa and cake. Joining me in exhibiting were local painter Victoria Cleverly, and the pupils of Lacock Primary School.

At our preview event, I unveiled my community project Wall of Remembrance. This is an 8-panel, 35-aperture photographic installation, displayed in the south transept at St Cyriac’s. Featuring lenticular photography (where the images appear to change as you walk past them), Wall of Remembrance commemorates the service and commitment shown by local servicemen and women during the First World War, as well as the love of the families who supported them. The piece is the culmination of a community project in Lacock that began in 2018, having been commissioned by the Green Café at St Cyriac’s Church, and supported by Wiltshire Scrapstore, initially as part of Lacock Remembers 2018. Local families were invited to contribute to the project by sharing their photographs, medals, clippings and other objects connected to war time.

These objects appear in the lenticular panels and include portraits of Major Charles Selwyn Awdry and Major Allen Llewellen Palmer, as well as of Matilda Talbot serving at the Red Cross Hospital in Corsham, and Ivy Gladstone at the Chippenham and Bowood Red Cross Hospitals. Other images include a Soldier’s Penny given to Ernest Leonard Stevens, an engraved communion cup presented to St Cyriac’s in memory of Basil William Ramsbottom, and a shell casing. The poppies in the images were made out of clay by the 1st Lacock Scout Group in 2018. 

My work also included the display of Scriptorium (first displayed in 2018). The complete text of the King James Bible text, with the exception of the Psalms, is transcribed onto Fabriano drawing paper with light, with one book per page. Cyanotypes are photographic prints produced without a camera, in this case with the superimposition of an acetate layer and a single peacock feather, over the sensitised paper. The vivid blue pigment forms as a result of iron compounds reacting to light – the process was originally adopted in the copying of architectural designs known as blueprints. I’m playing with ideas here of old and new copying of sacred texts – the scriptorium was where medieval manuscripts were copied onto parchment, and ‘script’ is also a programme in computer code for running or executing the display of public domain text.

Victoria’s thoughtful paintings with geometry, layers, and textures of natural form and detail (seen together with the artist above) were found in all corners of the church. It was wonderful to create spaces of accented contemplation, where a kind of slow looking worked between painting and architectural setting, and also brought organic shapes and subjects into view. The Lady Chapel at St Cyriac’s worked particularly well for this relationship with its wall and ceiling paintings featuring natural world designs in abundance. Other parts of the church such as the pulpit and the font received specific artistic interventions from the school pupils, who I’d invited to respond with ideas around the theme of unity. With Victoria’s help in class, the results are joyous and colourful, expressing hope and beauty through a world recycled and held together (with plastic and palm-prints), and a rainbow-like church seen in the pulpit above. Other paintings were displayed hanging between the pillars and also share exuberant multimedia designs from children aged between 6 and 9.

It’s been a privilege to share this space and its time with so many interested and enthusiastic people. To the parents and church members who helped with stewarding and cake – you’ve been amazing, and we couldn’t have done it without your help! It’s made the event feel special and connected to the community in new and exciting ways, so thank you. To the church PCC and the team at the Peacock Arts Trail, thank you too. I’ve really appreciated your professional support, with dedicated helpers and layers of expertise all working to make something magical happen – not just here but across the other trail venues. What a rich creative field in this corner of Wiltshire! Here’s to the next one in two years’ time…

The lenticular, the RA and me

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My second excursion from maternity leave finds me celebrating inclusion in this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. I submitted my two lenticulars from Elemental in 2012. Genesis didn’t make the final cut, though May saw me carrying both pieces up to London on the train. The New Passage was created from 12 photographs taken at half-hour intervals from this spot on the Severn Estuary. The images are interlaced by a computer programme which creates a file for printing and mounting behind a Perspex lens. In this piece, the effect of animation occurs when the viewer walks past the image. The tidal difference is at its highest in the year and marks the point where John and Charles Wesley crossed from England to Wales in the early founding of Methodism. The parting of the sea evokes a sacramental theology, and bears obvious reference to the biblical account of the exodus of the Israelites.

At last week’s Varnishing Day for the artists, the exhibition was opened after we had had the Service for Artists at St James’s Piccadilly. A typical service in every respect, with hymns, prayers, liturgy, a sermon and a blessing. Yet I found it profoundly affirming, and resonant with everything I try to do in my work. I’ll be writing about this experience for an article in the next issue of Art & Christianity Enquiry, and asking who or what is served, even transformed, by this commemorative act.

Lenticulars unveiled at St Stephen’s Church

Genesis

We’re now three days in to my exhibition at St Stephen’s Church, Bristol. I blogged the press release two weeks ago, but here I’d like to share a bit more about the two lenticular prints which are the highlight of the show. You have to see them! (Church opening hours are Monday – Friday, & Sunday 8.45am – 4pm. Exhibition ends 27th May)

Above is my piece Genesis, a 60 x 80cm 3D lenticular print. Lenticulars have two physical parts: the print, which is made by splicing a sequence of photographs together with extremely high accuracy; and the lens, which is a ridged acrylic or perspex sheet sealed to the front of the print. The ridges on the lens are designed to refract the light at slightly different angles (compared to normal reflection on a flat surface), which, depending on the interlaced images, can create animation effects, flips, or the illusion of 3 dimensions. Genesis, as a 3D image, looks like it has depth – but you have to see it in the flesh. My photo of it above doesn’t show this because a camera only has one eye. With stereoscopic vision, each of our own eyes sees a slightly different view, and the lenticular print recreates this when you stand in front of it.

For this picture, I set up a still-life by arranging butterfly wings in gel in a fish tank. I had several trial-and-errors with gelatin and other carrageenans (thank you biology-loving husband) – I didn’t want bubbles, but I needed to be able to move the wings around, so the set had to be just right. I lit the scene at night, and then shot over 90 images from slightly different angles around a central point. I’d never done this before, and my heart was in my mouth that evening. But, almost despite me, and definitely bigger than me, something special came together. The piece is about the opening verses in Genesis, about the Spirit of God hovering over the waters, about the fragility of a wingbeat becoming the whirlwind of creation, and about the butterfly as a symbol of new life.

Also on show is my piece The New Passage. This time, it’s an animation sequence of 14 shots showing half-hour intervals of the tide’s progression up the Severn Estuary. You have to walk past the piece to see the change, which reveals the pronounced difference between high and low tide – the second-highest in the world in fact. From this point on the Estuary, after which the piece is named, the Wesley brothers first set out to Wales & Ireland in the 18th century. It’s about walking through water to see massive physical and spiritual change – like the exodus through the Red Sea.

Big heaps of thanks to Ulf-Mark Pedersen and Jake Purches at Base2 Studio. One inspired the challenge, the other made it happen…

The New Passage