The World Turns To Ice

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Notes on visiting the 'Crucible' exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral

Yesterday I went to Gloucester to see the 'Crucible' , an exhibition of sculpture at the cathedral. I jotted down these notes whilst drinking tea and eating a very good panini:

I feel that there is a certain incongruity about seeing this wonderful exhibition in this setting:

spiritual worship v material worship

the secularisation of sacred space?

art of the past v art of the present

sacred space - God's v mammon

artist worship

is the artist more important than the work? Do we want to see 'a' Damien Hirst/ Anthony Gormley or 'the' work of art itself

this is a cathedral, a house of God, the spectators are viewing architecture and sculpture.  Does this change/diminish the buildings function?

where does spirituality fit in? What definition/s of spirituality are relevant here - religious spirituality? transcendental spirituality? spirituality inspired by beauty, awe...?

does the sculpture change the meaning of the cathedral?

does the cathedral change the meaning of the art? In both cases I think yes, definately.

does the cathedral affect how we view the sculptures physically?  The Anthony Gormley comes to mind as it reminds me, particularly in its setting, of the death of Edward the second.  This is even more relevant as he is buried in the cathedral.

 My overall conclusion is that the display of the sculptures in this setting made it really interesting as an exhibition.  I would like to see it in again in a gallery space in order to compare my own reactions to the pieces of work, especially in terms of their display.  Would the sculptures have a greater potency if they were displayed in isolation?  Wherever they were presented questions of meaning would arise not only in terms of place but also in terms of their relationship with the other works around them.

My particular favourite was a relatively small sculpture of 'Noah and the Raven' probably because it appeals to the storyteller in me.
I also liked this one as there was something quite theatrical about its display in a small chapel but that could also be due to the masklike quality of the heads.
This is the work that I found most fascinating which, as far as I could see, was a collection of fragments of skin (on the left) - I didn't get to see what they were made of.  On the right were words depicting sensory experiences that related to the fragments.  I would have liked to have had more time to have explored this piece.

I would also liked to have been able to buy a copy of the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition but the organisers vastly underestimated the number of people that would visit and quickly sold the 3,000 copies printed.  It would have been nice to read more about the exhibits and to have had arecord of the titles of the works and their artists.


  1. What an amazing blog, I shall have to come and look again when I can find a spare moment or ten! Your questions were very relevant and thought provoking. I am not a religious person, but I too questioned the idea of hosting such an exhibition in the cathedral. Before visiting I was a little dubious about whether it would 'feel' right. However, on seeing the sculptures in their setting, my doubts disappeared. Yes, one could worry about 'God's v mammon' but, in my view, the joy and fascination that I saw on the spectators' faces suggested that this was an inspiration to them. Not only were people interacting with the pieces, but they were viewing the cathedral and its many treasures and also, as did I, pausing for thought and reflection on loss of loved ones or thinking about one's life, hopes, loves etc.,
    Some of the feeling of spirituality entered into my own psyche and I was so uplifted by the experience I am planning my forth visit today, this time taking my teenage daughter. For me, the exhibition was not better or worse than if viewed in a secular setting, just different.
    All of life might be viewed as part of God, if one wishes to think in those terms and the event in that setting was relevant and certainly worked its magic on me!

  2. Thanks for commenting Kathy, my sacred v secular thoughts were quite objective. I wasn't objecting to the exhibition being in the cathedral. I was mainly thinking about how the meaning of an object changes according to where you display it. Also, how a building changes according to what you put in it.

    I thought that it was an inspired idea having the exhibition in the cathedral. It provokes all sorts of questions.

  3. Hello, I was just trying to comment on your view that there was a certain incongruity about holding the exhibition in that setting... Ironically, when I visited the cathedral with my daughter yesterday I met the opposite view to the one I hold I think. I asked an attendant why they were stopping people coming in at 3pm when their website said it was open until 4pm and he said there was evensong and that we could stay for that. He was a bit affronted when I said I didn't want to stay and said that it was a pity that their services 'got in the way'! Perhaps an example of the conflict of holding such an exhibition in a cathedral?! Thanks.