New contemporary altarpiece by internationally renowned artist unveiled
Internationally renowned artist Graeme Mortimer Evelyn has unveiled the new altarpiece, or Reredos, at St Francis at the Engine Room after a year of living and working in Hale Village to create the altarpiece for the new church in Tottenham Hale. The Reredos, the largest contemporary altarpiece in the UK, was unveiled at the Grand Opening of St Francis at the Engine Room attended by David Lammy MP with leaders and members of the Tottenham Hale community.
St Francis at the Engine Room is a community centre and the first new purpose-built Anglican Church in London in almost 40 years. Spearheaded by the Diocese of London working in partnership with Lee Valley Estates, Newlon Housing Trust and London City Mission, it has been created to put a community resource and place of worship at the heart of the new housing development in the Hale Village.
Graeme Mortimer Evelyn was appointed to create the Reredos, entitled The Eternal Engine, in November 2016 and spent nine months living in the Lock Keeper’s cottage on the canal in Hale Village in order to hand carve the large wood panels of the altarpiece and gain inspiration from the local community, history and environment.
Whilst working on the piece he was asked to mentor and advise a number of local artists. One of these, aged only 18 years went on to work as the project apprentice and, in a rare decision by an artist of this level, Evelyn allowed the congregation from St Francis to paint brushstrokes in the centerpiece, signifying the Creator, as a way to connect with a significant public artwork that will be a permanent reflection of their community.
St Francis at the Engine Room is currently applying for a licence for the use and protection of the Church space. Once the licence is approved, Faculty will permanently protect the Sanctuary Hall, Chapel and Altarpiece.
The Eternal Engine will be the largest contemporary altarpiece in the UK and potentially within Europe. To complete just one altarpiece in a modern artist’s lifetime is a very rare occurrence and this piece will be the second permanent contemporary altarpiece Evelyn has created.
The Diocese of London has also expanded the original commission to the artist. The large installation of the Stations of the Cross has been temporarily loaned by Evelyn to accompany The Eternal Engine altarpiece in the main Sanctuary Hall, and the principal study artwork for the commission, Voyager – Pillars of Creation, is currently earmarked to be the permanent work for the Chapel area. This represents an unprecedented opportunity, that a contemporary artist has been afforded singular vision for all artwork in a modern church setting and for the first Church built in London for over 40 years.
Graeme Mortimer Evelyn, the artist commissioned to create the Reredos, said:
“The inclusion that I’ve experienced in Hale Village for me is what London is all about – the fact that, as a Buddhist, I was commissioned to complete the first major permanent contemporary altarpiece (Reredos) in a new London church in over 40 years demonstrates the commitment here to welcome the whole community, irrespective of culture, ideology, race, class and diversity of thought.
“The Eternal Engine represents the unifying wonder of our vast Universe and the mystery of its Creator, together with Christian Trinity Theology of Redeemer, Creator, and Sustainer. It is very important to me therefore, and for the function of this work, to engage and involve in some way the people who live here in the creation of The Eternal Engine, as they should have ownership over it as a permanent reflection of their community, their unique history and their creative legacy.”
The Revd Andrew Williams, Priest Missioner at St Francis at the Engine Room, said:
“The opening of St Francis Church marks the first new, purpose-built church in the Diocese of London in 40 years. We are so grateful to Graeme for creating such a striking piece of art for the Reredos that reflects the inclusive and creative nature of our community here. As the church and centre community grows and develops, we are looking forward to providing a dynamic communal space in Tottenham for generations to come.”
Apart from the inspiration of the mysteries of Creator, Space, Time and The Theology of the Trinity – the colours of The Eternal Engine have been directly informed by the Church’s close proximity to the Hale Village low-income social housing area. The dimensions for the Altarpiece are approximately 5m x 3.5m and the artwork in total weighs over half a tonne.
The opening of St Francis Church will mark the first new, purpose-built church in the Diocese of London in 40 years. The opening will provide the Diocese with an opportunity to showcase its role in the capital, highlight the close partnerships it has built with other organisations, as well as the strength of engagement in a young and growing community. The Church and Community centre will provide a café, nursery, learning workshop, community space and permanent chapel. There are already over 300 people accessing the centre’s activities each week.