Four unusual new art works that interpret our Magna Carta | Salisbury Cathedral

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Four unusual new art works that interpret our Magna Carta

Four unusual works of art that reflect on the values and legacy of Magna Carta will be on display at Salisbury...

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Four unusual new art works that interpret our Magna Carta

Posted By : Roz Mitchell Tuesday 19th May 2015

Four unusual works of art that reflect on the values and legacy of Magna Carta will be on display at Salisbury Cathedral over the summer. All of the art focuses on community, inclusion and interaction but in very different ways. From fabulous lighting installations to a prison project led by the Cathedral, and community-made banners and flags, this year’s art is about collaboration and our relationship to the work as visitors and creators.


Canon Dame Sarah Mullally, Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral said: “In a year when we are examining the contemporary meaning of Magna Carta, the art we are showing has to reflect our values as a Christian community and a living church. The range and quality of the work is uplifting and we are grateful to all those who have shared their creativity with us. Above all we hope that visitors to the Cathedral share our joy in the artists’ imagination and innovation.”


'Enlightenment and 'Power of Words'

Artists: Squidsoup (Anthony Rowe, Liam Birtles, Gaz Bushell, Chris Bennewith and Ollie Bown)

On public display from Saturday 13 June, Enlightenment, a work created by international digital arts/design group Squidsoup, will be installed in the North Porch. A walk-through 3D array of thousands of individually controllable lights used to suggest presence and movement, Enlightenment surrounds viewers, submerging them in an ephemeral space filled with constantly changing colours and forms. This piece, which has evolved from installations recently exhibited in Mexico and Australia, explores the creative and immersive possibilities of light-based visualisation in physical space. Due to its location it will be best viewed after dusk.


Described by Squidsoup founder and lead creative Anthony Rowe as  ‘a virtual world, where pixels on a screen are replaced by thousands of points of light floating in space that create environments, atmospheres and physical spaces that you can enter, affect and immerse yourself in’, Enlightenment is the culmination of several years’ research and practice. Anthony Rowe, who recently returned from displaying related pieces at the Adelaide Festival and the Museo Jumex, Mexico City, said: “We had over 16,000 paying visitors in five days in Mexico. There were times when people became so engaged with the work that we actually had to send people in to get them out! There is something totally hypnotic about beautiful light you can relate to so intimately. At the Adelaide Festival in Australia, where it was installed in a bandstand in the city centre park, it was equally successful and we have high hopes for Salisbury Cathedral, which has a long tradition of working with installation artists.”


Enlightenment’s companion piece in the Morning Chapel, Power of Words, allows visitors to manipulate large projections of words taken from Magna Carta's text. Both will be exhibited until September.


Jacquiline Creswell, Curator and Visual Arts Advisor at Salisbury Cathedral said: “'Enlightenment' allows us to explore the symbolic and thematic power of Magna Carta, using the architecture of the Cathedral in a sympathetic and challenging way and employing a new visual language and new technologies to do so. In the same way, 'Power of Words' reintroduces visitors to the Charter’s text, encouraging them to engage with it not just as historical artefact but as a contemporary symbol of power. The installation will consist of a wall projection of emotive words, with a theme of society and justice, which when touched will move and shudder, and then turn into other words. The idea behind this is to allow the audience to reflect on the consequences of their actions.”


Alternative Perspectives - The Erlestoke Prison Project

Curator and creative lead: Jacquiline Cresswell
From 19 May

From 19 May a tile project entitled Alternative Perspectives which explores Magna Carta from the perspective of offenders, will be on display in the Cloisters. Along with volunteers Jacquiline Creswell, Salisbury Cathedral's Curator and Visual Arts Advisor, has been conducting a series of workshops with offenders at Erlestoke Prison, exploring their interpretation of Magna Carta themes – justice, law, power – and working towards creating a montage of tiles, which will combine terracotta with black and white slip in a process inspired by the original medieval tiles found in the Cathedral. 


Jacquiline Cresswell said: “'Alternative Perspectives' explores rights and justice from the point of view of offenders, who have had their freedom and rights curtailed for a period time. It has produced some thoughtful and exciting work from a fresh perspective. The actual process has been rewarding for offenders and volunteers alike and hopefully, through this work, we have helped the offenders discover new skills and talents that have enabled them to engage with issues of justice and society in a different way. This project has also proved the offenders’ creativity is boundless and I would like to thank everyone – staff, volunteers and offenders - for their contribution to our discussion of Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral.”


Alongside the tile montage, the offenders’ sketchbooks will be exhibited, showing the development of their ideas and response to the Magna Carta workshops. Elizabeth Williams, Learning & Skills Manager, HMP Erlestoke said: “This isn’t just an art project, its implications are far broader with the art sessions functioning as a forum in which we managed to get the prisoners to really think about issues such as human rights and wrongs - and the justice system. The feedback we have got has been powerful and the men have engaged wholeheartedly. It has been a learning experience for them and for us.”


Alternative Perspectives will be installed in the South Cloisters, a unique exploration of Magna Carta looking from the inside out.


Community Banner Project

Artist: David Podger
From Thursday 21 May

Artist David Podger from the NewRED Artist Studios in Salisbury has been working with local groups in Bemerton to create ten huge Magna Carta inspired banners for the Cathedral interior. The 4m x 1m banners celebrate Magna Carta values using mixed media, paint, collage, gold leaf, embroidery and collaged imagery. The community groups and schools involved adorned the banners with words that articulate the importance of Magna Carta alongside pictures of their families and local area to illustrate the freedoms Magna Carta has allowed them to enjoy.

Working across the generations, David Podger’s groups included a senior citizens’ group, a families group, Sarum students, children from Woodlands Primary School and members of Elizabeth House Social Centre. The banners will be installed on Thursday 21 May and will remain throughout the summer festivities David Podger said: “This project has been a great opportunity to work with my community, celebrating 800 years of Magna Carta in what is itself such a significant year for democracy.”

Each aspect of the banner’s composition relates to the Magna Carta. The banners are in pairs, each pair dominated by a colour. These colours have significance in relation to the Christian faith: 

Orange:        Courage, Endurance and Strength
Green:          Nature, Hope and Bountifulness
Red:             Power and Importance
Blue:            Heavenly Grace, the colour associated with Virgin Mary and Hope
Purple:         Royalty        
Gold:            Wealth and Importance

The dates on each of the banners that sit over original extracts from the 1215 document relate to key dates in the evolution of democracy from the sealing of Magna Carta. The crosses along the top replicate the shape of the font in the Cathedral. The shape of each banner echoes the medieval standard, with the images and text as an immediate and contemporary response to the Magna Carta from all those involved in the project.

This is not the first time David Podger has done a project like this for Salisbury Cathedral. In 2012 he worked with five Wiltshire schools creating 10 x 3m x 1m canvass banners based on Magna Carta and conveying the importance of democracy to youth. 


Worlds Eye


Artists: Toozalii Community Arts (Alex and Jan Grant)

To be put up in Close 11.30 on Thursday 25 June until 6 July

International community artists Alex and Jan Grant are bringing their colourful Batik Flag installation to the Cathedral Close. Begun in 2011 in response to the Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster, the project started out as a collaboration with community groups in Northern Japan, designed to stimulate the rebuilding of communities and promote the engagement of issued people of all ages.

The artists then decided to broaden the project to promote the awareness of these catastrophic events across the South of England, allowing local people to support the Japanese people in an unusual and extremely visual way, by colouring and printing banners drawn and created in Japan. Alex Grant, project artist and artistic director of Toozalii said: “To engage one community into the benefits of artistic creation is a positive outcome. To engage two communities into artistically supporting each other across a 12,000 mile gap, with such a visually exciting and publically accessible outcome, is just amazing!”


The installation has been shown all over the UK and can be seen at Salisbury Cathedral from 25 June until 6 July after which it will be shown Tokyo, Hiroshima and Hakodate.