I am very pleased to share a preview of a few of my pictures from my forthcoming solo show ‘Nobly Bright’ at Southwark cathedral. The show will be open from 26th September till 7th November at the Refectory (Monday – Friday 9am-6pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am -6pm) and everything will be for sale conveniently in good time for Christmas!
Regulars will know that I have had an interest in Gothic architecture for many years. When the chance to show at the Refectory came up it seemed the ideal excuse to indulge in the subject, visiting some of London’s best Medieval goodies and a few offerings from further away. Drawing a cathedral or church is not a spiritual business to me, but a process of wonder at human ambition, vision, and sheer pleasure in beauty, symmetry, detail. I previously described this pleasure in drawing the Gothic at York Minster, and I hope the pleasure is appropriate under the title ‘Nobly Bright’. I was struggling to think of a name for the show, when I revisited the words of Abbot Suger, who commissioned and took personal pride in the design of St Denis in Paris – the first Gothic cathedral. Describing the entry to his new church he recorded:
All you who seek to honour these doors, Marvel not at the gold and expense but at the craftsmanship of the work. The noble work is bright, but, being nobly bright, the work should brighten the minds, allowing them to travel through the lights…’
In this collection of pictures I’ve used my on-site drawings as food for thought, fuel for my memories and lasting impressions, looking for a graphic language as strong but as varied as the feelings that the architecture invokes in me. I’ve been helped by my new little baby of a printing press, allowing me to beaver away at making monotypes. Most the pictures on show are monotypes that have been worked further with other materials such as conté, pencil, charcoal or watercolour. This gives them more depth and allows me to fiddle with the details I so love. I’ll give you a step-by-step guide next time. It also means that every picture is unique, and it makes me pleased to think that potential buyers will be taking away something that no-one else has. Many are quite small, as I’ve enjoyed trying to squeeze the beauty of the building into a plate the size of a postcard, playing with colour so that an entire cathedral becomes a jewel-like entity.
The show will also have some larger-scale drawings. All done on site, these brooding charcoal and pencil images are a drama to make, wrestling with perspective that never seems to want to line up, fiddly structure and detail. Sketched, smudged, rubbed-away, re-worked, these large drawings have a charge to them that is distilled from the buildings’ scale and structure. All this architecture is balanced by a further indulgence: pictures of sculpture, so integral to Gothic design, and yet an entirely different joy to see and draw. Expect knights, angels, and the odd saintly character in the mix.
As if this wasn’t enough, I am very excited to have the privilege to launch the show on Sunday 3oth September with a special organ recital by Philip Berg (Master of the Music at The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy) which will include music by Handel, Bach and Widor. It commences at 4.30pm in the cathedral (details below) and promises to be a wonderful combination of beautiful music in a stunning setting. All are welcome. I’ll also be having at least one artist’s discussion of the show during the six weeks, so stay tuned for further details.
Westminster Angel at the V&A, Monotype