"STEWARDS of the Earth", the theme of this year's Sarum College
exhibition in Salisbury, has understandably inspired a wide variety
of thinking and artistic treatment in sculpture, installation,
painting, and photography. As with previous exhibitions, the works,
accompanied by a free catalogue, are placed in various communal
areas of the college, including the front garden.
Some themes show how in past times we worked more closely with
nature, and how we still can; others show how self-aggrandisement
and greed has led to the destruction and imbalance of the natural
world, but also how amazing and beautiful creation is from its
Chris Drury has been weaving nature and culture together over
many years, travelling the world to create pure and beautiful
art-forms from natural resources. His striking ink-jet print
The Carbon Sinkis constructed from beetle-killed pine logs
and coal, portraying how when the coal was burnt locally it killed
off the pine beetle who would have devastated the pine forests; but
when the coal was exported elsewhere for profit, the beetles
thrived at the expense of the forests.
The original was installed at the University of Wyoming, and
caused enormous controversy, as the University receives funding
from the energy industry.
Laurence Dube-Rushby is also passionate about art arising from
the environment, and guides community groups of all ages to create
art from the land around them. For A Thousand Sheep, they
collected, washed and spun the fleeces of 1000 sheep, using the
locally grown red madder plant, which was once used for the army's
red coats, to dye the wool. She says that farming the land and the
sacrifice of life to defend it is part of our life. For practical
reasons, the huge installation is shown in a dramatic photograph,
but it has been on tour and will shortly go on tour again.
Asking whether we are doing the right thing for the earth is Ben
Crayshaw's three large oil-on-canvas paintings hung on the far wall
of the restaurant. Gleeman is a series of small black
waves over partly obscured human and animal shapes. "In the Middle
Ages," he says, "Gleemen were jugglers and performers in village
squares, but were also accused of base morals and witchcraft.
Perhaps we are juggling unwisely with the earth's resources." Next
to it, however, is Amor Fati, showing a boat on the high
seas, which suggests that everything that happens in life,
including loss or suffering, is good.
In the same pattern of thought, Tracy Sheppard has engraved a
lead crystal platter In Whose Hand (". . . is the soul of
every living thing, and the breath of all mankind", Job 22.10),
partly as a question. The hand in the middle of the platter
transforms into a dandelion clock, and the seeds are dispersing,
suggesting time is running out. But it can also be interpreted so
that the hand is cradling creation and keeping it safe. Sheppard
has worked as a glass engraver for many years and always brings a
subtle but penetrating message to her work.
A sad, gentle sculpture is the Whale's Eye by the stone
sculptor Roger Stephens. A small, unblinking eye and shape of a
whale head are carved in a block of polished Cornish Polyphant
soapstone, as a memorial to the whales that have been killed for
Benita Kevill Davies recalls the Bronze Age in her oil-on-canvas
Barrow. She says that "Their builders expressed in them a
profound sense of connection with their surroundings, their smooth
roundnesses encapsulating the forms of the downland on which they
Going back even further, she imagines in Genesis 1, 2 and
3 how earth was without form, while two paintings both titled
And the Trees of the Field Shall Know I am the Lordlink
respect for nature with the need for God's justice.
Using modern techniques of digital photography to explore
spiritual meaning, Sheona Beaumont incorporates aerial and
landscape photographs in 6 Days of Uncreation to create
six colourful photographic prints showing the beauty, variety, and
instability of the planet, inspired by the opening chapters of
Genesis. This was part of her thesis on biblical themes in
contemporary photography for her Ph.D., and the essay on her
website is also well worth a read.
Another young photographer was George Smith, who combined his
love of plants, gardening, and photography to portray Order out
of Chaos, The Absence of Darkness, and The Colour
of Light in three colourful pieces. Sadly, he died a year ago,
at the age of 17, before he could develop his gifts further.
Sophie Hacker's unusual cross in a focal position on the
staircase is made from the Cedar of Lebanon tree that fell in
Salisbury Cathedral Close a decade ago, and was used by the
cathedral stonemasons as a cutting-wheel chuck. The incisions and
gouges were made as a result of preliminary shaping of stone used
on the cathedral. She has used pigments and ground gold, silver,
copper, and lead softly to enhance its shape.
An artist who abhors computers and machinery to design and carve
memorials and epitaphs is Robyn Golden-Hann, who has contributed
two small carved blocks glorifying creation in a very simple and
beautiful way, placed by the restaurant door. Tim Harrisson, who
sculpts exterior pieces that blend with the natural environment of
landscape, parks, or gardens, finds that the almost ideal position
for his two The Recumbent Stones is the college's front
lawn rather than anywhere inside the building. "For me," he says,
"an experience of landscape is about seeing what I call the root -
that is, the landscape stripped bare with its essential physical
qualities of structure and material revealed."
This is the fourth and last ex-hibition of artists responding to
a biblical brief to be organised at Sarum College by the Revd
Maggie Guillebaud. The previous titles were "The Word", "The Art of
Healing", and "Through a Glass Darkly". As the college firmly
believes in the arts as a means of exploring and expressing
religious truths, there will be further programmes in the
The exhibition runs at Sarum College, 19 The Close,
Salisbury, until 6 December.