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Rough justice

21 March 2014

IT STANDS seven feet high in the sanctuary of Bath Abbey, and looks as though it was hurriedly assembled from off-cuts. And that was the intention of the late Michael Kenny, described as one of the most influential of British sculptors of the 20th century. The Vicar Theologian at Bath Abbey, the Revd Alan Garrow, explains why the piece, Crucifixx, is is so special at this time of the year.

It looks as though it was assembled from scraps of wood on a workshop floor. Mr Garrow says: "To the soldiers who executed Jesus, his death was not something that required thought or care - it was just an ugly 'everyday' event.

"Set in the sanctuary of Bath Abbey, this 'ordinary' object becomes part of a richer and more expansive story. Here, that which was thrown away has become central; that which was temporary has become permanent; that by which humans are torn apart has become the means by which they are restored to wholeness, says Mr Garrow.

"But it is too easy to jump to the end ofthe story. This sculpture holds us in - and makes us wrestle with - a place of desolation and seeming worthlessness."

Crucifixx (1976), which is on loan from the Royal Academy, is a precursor to the artist's Stations of the Cross, a series of drawings completed just before Kenny's death in 1999, and described as "one of the finest examples of genuinely religious art within the Christian tradition made since the Reformation".

Crucifixx is on display in the Abbey until 24 April (bathabbey.org); the Stations of the Cross can be seen at the Quest Gallery, Bath, also until 24 April (questgallery.co.uk)."

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