Journey (Aran Islands), 1986
Rigby Graham, MBE (1931-2015)
This painting is a monotype composed of several elements pressed into one piece of paper. The composition is a rare excursion by Rigby Graham into abstract act but unusually for that form incorporates a figurative watercolour painting.
What unites Rigby Graham’s work is an ability to tease extraordinary qualities out of ordinary subjects. In his words, ‘I found ordinary buildings, vistas, streets, canals, railways, warehouses and allotments of enormous interest. The more I wandered about and spoke to people, the more I drew, painted and wondered, and the more interested I became. It was not the aesthetic, nor the historical, geographical, social or economic patterns, it was not religious, the commercial, the industrial or the residential which interested me, but perhaps something of all of these, for I became increasingly aware of the passage of time and the way in which its passing had left its mark on everything’.
The ruined building in this composition is on the Isle of Aran. The ‘journey’ of the title of the painting is perhaps a reference to the actual journeys Graham made to Scotland and to Ireland. The squares of colour however, the eye and the arrow, point more obviously to the journey of perception and representation in the mind of the artist, selecting the colours and textures with which to paint his relationship with the subject.
Like all journeys this one represents both a journey outwards and a journey inwards.
The work was purchased by the College in 2017 from Terry Sole, a friend of the artist.
Rigby Graham, MBE (1931-2015)
The imposing twin towers of the medieval church at Reculver dominate the skyline of Herne Bay on the North Kent coast. This was the site of one of the earliest Roman forts built against Saxon raids on the Thames Estuary in the first century AD.
A Saxon church was built here in 669 AD after the Roman fort had fallen into disuse, reusing the existing defences, and the church of St Mary was built near the centre of the earlier fort. Documentary evidence suggests that the site had ceased to function as a monastic house by the 10th century, after which time the church became the parish church of Reculver. Remodelling of the church in the 12th century included the addition of the twin towers that remain.
Rigby Graham’s topographical subjects, like John Piper’s, often included ruined churches. Unlike John Piper, however, Rigby Graham often included contemporary references such as the fighter jets included here on their way to Iraq to take part in the First Gulf War (Jan-Feb 1991)
The painting offers a poignant image of the passage of time. The way in which successive civilisations build one upon another is present in the re-use of Roman tiles to build the medieval church, itself now redundant. The community once served by this church has moved to a higher site and the whole site is subject to coastal erosion, a reminder of the forces of nature.
In some ways the painting is an image of an old civilisation succumbing to the march of time but the fighter jets are a reminder of the continuing impact of decisions made in these islands upon other civilisations and raise uncomfortable moral questions about the use of force, about the motives for war and about the consequences of Allied interventions in the Middle East in the 1990s that helped to shape the current political context.
The vibrant colours and strong lines of this painting, however, still speak of life and definition and hope even in the context of decay, chaos and destruction.
The work is on loan to the college.
Newcomen’s Engine, 1991
Rigby Graham, MBE (1931-2015)
In 1712 Thomas Newcomen built the first successful steam engine in the world which was used for pumping water from coal mines on Lord Dudley’s estates.
The ‘fire engine’ as it was known, is an impressive brick building from which a wooden beam projects through one wall. Rods hang from the outer end of the beam and operate pumps at the bottom of the mine shaft which raise the water to the surface. The engine itself is simple, with only a boiler, a cylinder and piston and operating valves. A coal fire heats the water in the boiler which is little more than a covered pan and the steam generated then passes through a valve into the brass cylinder above the boiler. The cylinder is more than 2m long and 52cm in diameter. The steam in the cylinder is condensed by injecting cold water and the vacuum beneath the piston pulls the inner end of the beam down and causes the pump to move.
Thomas Newcomen was an ironmonger by trade and a Baptist lay preacher by calling. After 1710 he became the pastor of a local group of Baptists. He was born in Dartmouth, Devon, England, to a merchant family and baptised at St. Saviour’s Church on 24 February 1664. In those days flooding in coal and tin mines was a major problem, and Newcomen was soon engaged in trying to improve ways to pump out the water from such mines. Newcomen died at Wallin’s house in 1729, and was buried at Bunhill Fields burial ground on the outskirts of the City of London near to where Susanna Wesley is buried.
Rigby Graham was one of the twentieth century’s most skilful exponent of woodcuts. In this scene a sense of the passage of time is conveyed through the cutting down of trees to fire the boiler. The technology leaves a mark also on the social landscape. Those who own the means of production are depicted in detail whereas the labourers are described only in anonymous silhouettes.
The work was given to the College by the Goldmark Gallery in 2017.
Passion du Christ, 1954
Bernard Buffet (1928-1999)
These two images are part of a series of twenty-one engravings created to illustrate excerpts from the Bible entitled La Passion du Christ and published by Creuzevault Editeur in Paris in 1954.
The first image shows a deposition scene. Christ has been removed from the cross and the nails used to crucify him are lying on the ground together with the pliers used to extract them. Also lying around him are other traditional symbols of the passion: the dice thrown by the soldiers to decide who would get his purple robe; the bowl of sour wine into which hyssop was dipped to give Jesus a drink; the ladder used to reach him – but also a symbol of Christ himself as a bridge between earth and heaven. In the background the railway tracks offer a sinister echo of the deportation of French Jews from France to their deaths.
The image is unusual in that most deposition scenes involve others. Christ’s aloneness here is absolute, evoking another of Buffet’s early images, ‘Horrors of War’.
In the second image the three crosses are in the background, against the same backdrop. In the foreground are the nails and the crown of thorns. The cloth on which they are spread is suggestive, giving the objects a significance and a place as they have had in Christian devotion through the centuries. The design of the cloth is reminiscent of a Jewish prayer shawl, making the connection between Christ’s suffering as a Jewish man and the suffering of the Holocaust – or perhaps hinting at the table spread in the wilderness at which Christ gives himself to be our food.
Crown of thorns, 2017
Michaela Youngson, (1965- )
This work was commissioned by Wesley House on 23rd March 2017, the day after the terrorist attack in Westminster that left 5 people dead.
Michaela Youngson is an artist who works in glass and a Methodist presbyter serving as Co-Chair of the London Methodist District. She was at work in her office off Parliament Square during the Westminster attack.
Broken glass is often a feature of violence. The sharpness of the glass shards suggests Christ’s solidarity with human suffering; the 4000 year old bog oak pegs on which the piece rests suggests the Lamb of God who was slain even before the foundation of the world (Rev 13.8); the beauty of the piece suggests that goodness is stronger than evil.
The symbols of Christ’s passion have long been objects of devotion and have sometimes been presented encrusted with jewels. Since the fourth century this has been particularly true of depictions of the cross – known as crux gemmata – upon which beads of blood are often represented with precious stones. In making beautiful such instruments of torture it is not violence or suffering that Christians are glorifying but the transfiguration of all that disfigures the image of God through the death-defying love of Christ.
Givemore Mashaya (1982- )
Givemore was born in 1982 in the beautiful mountainous village of Nyanga in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. When he was a boy, he used to see his older brothers sculpting, and this inspired him. At the age of sixteen he began experimenting with sculpting, including making his own chisels by beating nails flat. By 2000, Givemore’s brothers were in Harare and becoming successful sculptors and Givemore decided to join them. Givemore was apprentice to Passmore Mashaya, who became his mentor and was particularly inspirational for the young artist. In Harare, Givemore met established artists Gideon and Agnes Nyanhongo, children of first generation artist Claud Nyanhongo, and he worked with them for some time and learned a great deal from them. From 2003 onwards, he worked on his own pieces and has forged his own reputation.
This sculpture is carved from green serpentine. The majority of stones used in Zimbabwean sculpture are locally sourced and belong to this family. They are sedimentary, having originally been laid down on a sandy seafloor, and metamorphic, since subsequent exposure to intense heat and pressure over hundreds of millions of years has transformed them into hard stone. In Zimbabwe, they occur as part of the Great Dyke, a horseshoe-shaped geological formation stretching through the north and east round to the centre of the country.
In the tradition of Shona Sculpture the subject depicts a mood and invites a relationship. The origin of the word, ‘Goodbye’ is the phrase God be with you. The position of the arms suggests a wave, but also blessing.
The work was purchased by the College in 2017 following a visit by the Principal to Africa University in Zimbabwe.
St Michael and the Devil, Maquette, 1956
Jacob Epstein, KBE (1880-1959)
Jacob Epstein was one of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century, inspired by the non-western art of the British museum and an inspiration to younger sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
This maquette was sculpted in terracotta and cast in bronze for the approval of the Coventry Cathedral Reconstruction Committee before Epstein began work on the major work for the south wall of the St Michael’s Cathedral in 1958. This was his last religious work before his death in 1959.
Both the maquette and the final sculpture depict the scene from Revelation in which St Michael triumphs over the devil. After the founding of Mont St Michel following an apparition of St Michael in the 8th century, depictions of St Michael as victor over the devil and as the angel who weighs souls in the balance at the final judgement became a theme of early medieval piety; many Romanesque churches dedicated to St Michael that are located in high places still survive.
In Epstein’s work the devil is unusual, almost reclining with his elbows supporting his back as he looks up. This position is taken from the well-known Romanesque depiction of Eve at Autun in Burgundy. The head of the devil is coarse and has the features of a medieval demon. By contrast St Michael’s features are smooth, modelled on his son-in-law and Cambridge economist, Wynne Godley.
The maquette and the final work differ in a number of respects. The key difference concerns the amount of contact between the devil and St Michael. Whilst in the final work St Michael’s foot hovers above the devil’s head, in the maquette the connection between the two is more visceral and entangled.
Gates, Stone Carving and Wood Carving
The gates, stone crest and college sign and the carving on the perching bench were commissioned by Wesley house for its rededication after major building works 2014-16.
The pieces were designed by Lida Kindersley who has run the workshop since the death of her husband David in 1995. David had been apprenticed to Eric Gill and continued the revival of letter cutting that the workshop represents today.
The type face was designed by Lida Kindersley and is named Pulle, after her brother Paul who died in 2000. The red of the lettering echoes the colours of the college rest which are sable, red and gold and represent a cross, the Bible and four scallop shells, the symbol of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela adopted by various Methodist bodies from the Wesley/Wellesley family coat of arms.
The college arms were granted in 1926. A carved version from 1930 is displayed in the college chapel. These new works of art that enhance the 2016 gatehouse are a visible marker on Jesus Lane of the college’s location and complement the Eric Gill lettering above Westcott House opposite.
The lettering on the bench inside the gates is a quotation from John Wesley: ‘I look upon all the world as my parish.’ It was chosen by the Stanfield family to commemorate their missionary forebears who served in China and in Africa and to celebrate the international reach of the college.