THE Friends of East Harling Parish Church, Norfolk, headed by
the then Rector, the Revd Nigel Kinsella, decided in 2007 to
commission an altar frontal to accompany a new set of
The Church of St Peter and St Paul is an East Anglian "wool"
church, built from wealth arising partly from the wool trade and
partly from its proximity to King's Lynn, a major Hanseatic port.
Best-known for its magnificent 15th- century east window, removed
in the early 17th century as a precaution against Cromwell, and
again in 1939 at the onset of war before being returned in the
1950s, the church is a treasure-house of art - a fact not lost on
the painter chosen to carry out the commission.
Maz Jackson (mazjacksonart.com) is an internationally
acclaimed artist who has exhibited at Florence and Venice
Biennales; the Salon des Indépendants, Grand Palais, Paris;
Chetumal Museum, Mexico; the Museum of New Art, Detroit; New York
Arts Beijing; and many others. Recent solo shows include Norwich
Cathedral Hostry Gallery and Basilica Lorenzo, Florence, featuring
St Brendan (2010-11); and the "Censing Angel Project" (2012), in
which she collaborated with the willow sculptor Joy Whiddett, the
jeweller and enameller Sheila McDonald, Norwich Cathedral, two
schools, and the University of East Anglia.
Jackson's chosen medium of egg tempera lends a surreal,
spiritual quality to her work, which may be seen in museums and
galleries worldwide. Born and bred in Norfolk, she remembers being
taken around churches in the county by her father, a grocer and
frustrated scholar, while he translated their Latin inscriptions,
fostering an insight into their materials and craftsmanship which
has never left her.
Excited by her new commission - she sees East Anglian wool
churches as contemporary versions of London's "gherkin" - Jackson,
a prizewinning member of the national drawing society the Society
of Graphic Fine Art (sgfa.org.uk), embarked on a six-month
"drawathon", steeping herself in the church's art and history.
Seen in the rood screen and wall paintings of the church, egg
tempera has a noble lineage. Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Botticelli
cut their teeth in it; Cennino d'Andrea Cennini's 15th-century
manual The Craftsman's Handbook is still in print; and the
glorious Wilton Diptych (c.1395-99) in the National
Gallery is a high point of British medieval art.
Tempera painting is a complex and lengthy process involving
carefully sourced oak; multiple layers of gesso made from whiting
and rabbit-skin glue; and "bole": fine red Armenian clay mixed with
rabbit-skin glue as a base for gilding.
Paint is freshly made each day using mineral pigments from all
over the world, including lapis lazuli; ground with distilled
water, and mixed with egg yolk. Egg-white is, apparently, best
avoided, as it rapidly goes mouldy!
In The Harling Christ, Jesus stands in joyous
resurrection pose, arms outstretched in support of his
soon-to-be-commissioned apostles, while St Peter and St Paul look
up attentively. The basket in the painting refers to "frails":
simple rush baskets used by workmen to carry tools, and depicted
throughout the church on tombs and monuments such as that of Sir
Robert Harling and his wife, Anne.
The lamb is the symbol of East Harling, and recalls the Lamb
Market held there from medieval times - source of the wealth Anne
Harling used to embellish the church in the 15th century. Finally,
the squirrel is the emblem of the Lovell family, whose coat of arms
shows three red squirrels, and one of whose members, Anne, wife of
Francis, is the subject of Hans Holbein's painting Lady with a
Squirrel and a Starling.
According to the Rector, the Revd Sarah Oakland, the reception
of the painting has been "really interesting", attracting comments
such as "Wondrous"; "It does have a presence"; "Draws you in like
an icon". Perhaps the greatest accolade is from the Bishop of
Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, who dedicated it in April, and
who now uses it as an aid to prayer.