Street art inside St Paul’s Cathedral. Shock, horror! A bold image of a mother and child, a 21st century interpretation of Mary, mother of Jesus, catches visitors by surprise in one of the transepts. It is perhaps unexpected to find modern and contemporary artworks within the majestic historic architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral, this most recent being by CBloxx, the female street artist Joy Gilleard. Part of an ongoing programme, these works explore the relationship between art and religious faith and stand apart from the sculptural richness of the many monuments within the church such as those to Admiral Lord Nelson and to the Duke of Wellington, a recent external sculpture being Mark Wallinger’s statue of Christ awaiting his death sentence, ”Ecco Homo” which stood outside the Cathedral entrance for Holy Week and Easter, having previously stood on top of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.
On permanent display is Henry Moore’s interpretation of ”Mother and Child Hood” in white marble, which sits near one of two video works by Bill Viola, “Mary” and “Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water)” installed symmetrically in the Quire Aisle of the cathedral and the first large scale moving artworks to be installed in a British cathedral.
Towards the west end, on four of the massive stone columns are four works “Tides” by Pablo Genoves, showing the cathedral flooded under the impact of rising tides and inadequate flood defences, commissioned as part of the Cathedral’s commitment to JustWater 2017 to reinforce the message of the importance of water, something that we in the UK take for granted, but in may parts of the world is a precious and scarce resource, and to reflect on the extreme characteristics of water from supporting of life to destroying it through flooding and other natural events such as tsunami.
At the heart of the Cathedral, at the crossing, Gerry Judah’s eerie white “Commemorative Crosses” reflect on the First World War by recalling the many, many, white crosses in war cemeteries, here having the addition of ruined buildings and barren landscapes destroyed by war, reminding us on how war impacts on individuals, their families and on communities., and speaks also about conflicts across the world today in places like Syria. Why do we never learn?
The works are bold and well-placed so they relate to Wren’s architecture and change over time, providing an excellent opportunity for contemporary artists to raise questions about art, religion and the world in which we live today.
(Illustrations are copyright due to the Cathedral’s photography policy)