3 good reasons for hanging artwork in a corridor

The New Passage and The Parting of the Severn Sea at Trinity College
The New Passage and The Parting of the Severn Sea at Trinity College

1. Everyone’s going somewhere, so the work is given a chance to join in, and to be part of people’s journeys. This corridor is a central Trinity funnel: everyone passes through this space, from lectures to mealtimes to offices to common rooms. As such, the corridor is a special space for highlighting movement, transition, transformation, change. I’ve always felt this particular space is like a culvert – the stream of people passes in a tighter and more enclosed channel.

2. Corridors focus people’s sight lines on a horizontal plane and accentuate direction or end-points, so even though movement is emphasised, so is, paradoxically, the end of that line. At Trinity, people spend a significant amount of time asking questions about all the movement going on – about the point of the transitions and transformations. And it’s not just that there’s a metaphor in a physical corridor for spiritual change – it’s that geography really is spiritual, that people who come here and pass through here are working out their geography at bigger levels of parish placements and future directions.

3. What you lose in psychological framing and distance (‘Oh there’s an art work I’m looking at), you gain in holistic encounter (‘Something’s following me’). Here, my lenticular piece, The New Passage, does literally change as the viewer walks past – see here for the technique in its creation, when it was shown at the Royal Academy. Both my pieces show the tide changing in the Severn Estuary, and reference the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus – a life-changing crossing in so many ways. Corridors, ultimately, point up the multi-dimensional spaces in which transformation occurs by way of their limitations. That seems an apt reflection of God’s working too.

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


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