Love it or loathe it – you can’t miss it. If you’ve been past the Cathedral in recent days, you will have noticed collections of large stones that have sprung up in the Close. Some rough-hewn looking as if they have come straight out of a quarry. Others smoothly and intricately carved. Some clustered together, carefully arranged one with another – others standing apart on their own in stark contrast to the elegant, impressive and well-ordered local stone of the Cathedral. The exhibition continues inside the building with more carved pieces and then over at Sarum College – with photos of the artist’s other, very large scale landscaped works. And even in the Young Gallery above the library – with more sketches and models. The Cathedral exhibition is entitled Sanctuary and its by local sculptor, Royal Academician, John Maine.
It’s provoking quite a reaction. “Looks like the Works Yard has moved into the Close,” said one visitor – completely unconvinced that any of it was art. “Best exhibition yet!” commented another. “World class! Well done!” “I can’t bear it,” said one of our vergers. “I just want to tidy them up and put them in order…..”
Saturday was a glorious afternoon. The first proper day of Spring. The sun shone. Hardly a cloud in the sky. Visitors to the private view mingled with local families, children in push chairs, tourists en route to Stonehenge, teenagers passing the time of day and Close residents taking a stroll. The arrangements were admired, they were sat on, jumped off, clambered over. They were viewed from afar, they were inspected close up. The smiles were self-evident. Amusement, intrigue, exuberance and challenge (certainly on the part of one small child who was trying to clamber around one arrangement from stone to stone without touching the ground). It felt like a party – everyone out to to enjoy themselves. Opinions flowed as freely as the gentle breeze. A combination of good weather and an exhibition that draws you in so you can’t but help to explore, feel, touch and become a part of it.
So appropriate for the Close – which can accommodate big sculptures and big exhibitions. And for the Cathedral – which also is not simply a heritage artefact – but has a life and passion and invites residents, visitors and worshippers alike to come and explore and become a part of it.
John’s sculptures are new – but the stones, like those of the Cathedral against which they are set, are literally as old as the hills. And on Saturday, in the sunshine, in their own way, they were both saying the same thing. Here is a space created apart from the transient concerns and hurly burly of everyday life – here is something timeless you can come and enjoy and explore and discover. And as you do so – you may just discover something about yourself that is also timeless.
Sanctuary. What an appropriate exhibition for a place that has been a sanctuary for over 750 years!