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/ 5 September 2017

Artistic visions in a stunning city church

Passion by Maurizio Galia in Visions at St Stephen Walbrook.

Sited in the heart of the Square Mile, St Stephen’s Walbrook is steadily becoming one of the many City churches that are exhibiting quality and thought-provoking works of art, to stimulate ideas on faith and discover new ways to interpret the nature of God.

This is certainly true of their latest exhibition, Vision, run by the commission4mission group, of which the Priest in Charge, the Revd Jonathan Evens is the secretary. The varied exhibition, which was launched on 4 September, is intended as a broad theme but is open to wide interpretation. It explores sight, visions, and revelations by the 27 artists who engage with Christian imagery, which is still often a central point of mainstream art.

The exhibition is varied with some inspirational items and some which seemed pointless. If the show had an accompanying catalogue or notes, it might help people understand the works on view. Despite this, there are three pictures which, to me, illustrated biblical scenes giving me an insight into the nature of God.

Firstly, Passion by Maurizio Galia. Meeting Galia himself, he described the picture as highlighting the indifference to pain in the world. In this modern work, we see Christ crucified, with an unknown fortified city in grey, behind a large wall. Christ’s cross is outside the city walls and he is surrounded by bald men in smart suits with dark eye sockets, in uniform lines. It is as if Jesus himself is surrounded by suited city workers looking straight at the viewer. None of them registering the horror of crucifixion in their midst. Could it be that the suited men are also in pain of their existence, and are numb to the Roman torture above their heads? It is not made clear.

Secondly, a smaller work next to the high altar entitled, Three Cranes in Sunrise, by Rob Floyd. The scene shows a vast pink sky of early morning, with shades of blue, crossed by vapour trails of many aeroplanes. Floyd, I suggest is showing the modern world sacrificing the environment for its continuing expansion, erecting buildings and increasing air travel. The size of the cranes on the horizon that look like crucifixes is roughly one-eighth of the picture. Their size in relation to the sky suggests that sacrifices must be made of God’s creation, in order for modern society to progress, allowing commerce to see another day.

Lastly, two favourite works for me are by the Priest of St Stephen’s himself. Firstly, a square canvas, A Mark of the Cross II showing a green-faced human. It is surrounded by a green atmosphere with a large red cross painted across the eyes and nose. It could be depicting Christ himself sick with fear, realising his destiny in the dark green garden of Gethsemane.

He could be praying, as noted in Luke 22:42:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will, but yours be done.”

We are not sure to whom this picture is referring, however, its juxtaposition directly below a small picture, Life Vision could give a clue. This shows a sunrise above a mountain, which may show a Vision of the New Jerusalem which can only be created after Christ has suffered on the cross.

All in all, this exhibition offers some interesting work, which upon greater reflection allows the viewer to discover a vision of faith through the eyes of its craftsperson. There are some highly competent artists showing work on display, and the exhibition will entertain anyone in need of an escape from the hectic City outside.

Commenting on the exhibition, the Revd Jonathan Evens, commission4mission’s secretary, said:

“Classical, modern and contemporary art and architecture beautifully combine for commission4mission’s fifth group exhibition in the setting of St Stephen Walbrook. The theme of the show is ‘Vision’ and, as in previous years, will feature a wide variety of work from long-standing and new members.”

commission4mission’s Chair, Peter Webb, says:

“We are very fortunate to be able to exhibit regularly at this church. The exhibition always attracts a great deal of attention in the City. As before, interpretation of the theme is up to individual artists, and no doubt we will have the usual amazing variety and originality in the work submitted.”

Using ceramics, collage, digital prints, etchings, film, icons, installations, paintings, photography, poetry and sculpture, the 27 commission4mission artists include Ally AshworthHayley BowenHarvey BradleyIrina BradleyChristopher ClackMary DaveyJonathan EvensTerence FfyffeRob FloydMaurizio Galia (Italy), Michael GarawayJohn GentryClorinda GoodmanJudy GoringLaura Grenci (Italy), Barbara Harris, Deborah HarrisonTim HarroldDavid HawkinsJacek KulikowskiMark LewisAdeliza MoleColin RichesJanet RobertsHenry SheltonMonica Thornton and Peter Webb.

The exhibition is on display from today, 5th until the 15th September. For more details on the opening times and other upcoming exhibitions see the new St Stephen Walbrook website.

About Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall is a Communications Assistant. He writes for and manages the Parish Communications Network, the Creatives Network, and the Sports and Physical Activity Network. He also manages the diocesan social media accounts. In his spare time, he is a Cathedral Warden, helps run a homeless charity, loves hiking and all outdoor adrenaline sports, including biking, and rugby. He dreams of hiking to Rome and Jerusalem.

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