When artist Eleanor Bartlett visited the Cathedral Cloisters she was struck by the spirit of the place, the feeling of absence, as well as residue and endurance. These are the themes that inform her site specific installation, Requiem, which opens here on 10 March.
Requiem comprises of eighteen wax covered canvases supported on a hidden metal structure, arranged at varying angles in a line along the floor of the South Cloister, reminiscent of memorial slabs against a wall in a mason’s yard. Two large and powerful tar panels complete the narrative.
The installation exudes an atmosphere of spiritual intensity, pure, severe and stark, appropriate for a period of abstinence and reflection during the Lent season. The wax tablets create a pleasing, rhythmic flowing sequence, perhaps suggestive of music. The white candle wax is applied carefully, layer upon layer, as in the layers of meanings, alluding to toil, patience and endurance. Some of the wax used comes from the lost wax of our cathedral candles used during the Darkness to Light services.
Jacquiline Creswell, Salisbury Cathedral Arts Advisor and curator said:
“Eleanor’s installation addresses the poignancy of human effort and endurance over time, which results in eventual subsidence, melting into a residue of absence and loss. It also reflects the solace and austerity present in the cloister and seeks to engage the visitor on a contemplative level
“Whilst we associate candles with light, hope and warmth, this installation speaks to us of something lost, perhaps striving to be remembered, as in the title, Requiem, a mass or musical composition for a deceased person. The wax tablets possess a purity. They are soft and yielding to the touch, in contrast with the two large tar reliefs. Tar by distinction has an industrial beauty, suggestive of fire, heavy hot work. Thick and sticky with darker connotations of ‘tar and feather’.”
Artist Eleanor Bartlett, who lives and works in Bradford on Avon, said:
“When I visited the Cathedral Cloisters I was overwhelmed by a sense of absence and stillness. It is as though it is a holding place. In response to the space, my work explores our human struggle and individual fortitude through the tension between form and material. The wax on the tablets conveys the idea of life melting away. In solidified form it creates a suggestive surface, an illusiveness. By contrast the tar is enduring, a material that commands respect and works better without too much intervention, suggesting boldness and longevity”
Canon Dr Robert Titley, Salisbury Cathedral Canon Treasurer and Chair of the Cathedral’s Arts Advisory Committee said:
“By naming the installation Requiem, Eleanor signals that these works are an act of Remembrance, exploring those lives that have preceded us and placing our own lives within a context. The tablets and panels stand in moving proximity to the Cathedral’s wooden First World War crosses within the Cloisters, which enclose our sacred Garth or burial ground. The timing of the installation is significant for us, coming at the point when we are considering Christ’s time in the Wilderness and anticipating his death and resurrection.”
Requiem by Eleanor Bartlett opens on 10 March and runs until 23 April.
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