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Art review: Illuminations at Salisbury Cathedral

18 January 2019

Katy Hounsell-Robert sees the illuminations at Salisbury Cathedral

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Lumen by David Ogle at Salisbury Cathedral

Lumen by David Ogle at Salisbury Cathedral

IN ISAIAH (42.16), we read the promise: “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

Jacquiline Creswell, visual-arts adviser and curator at Salisbury Cathedral, has taken this theme of promise and hope and curated an inspiring and contrasting group of light-and-sound installations, both inside and outside the cathedral itself, since Advent.

Although block capitals placed over entrances may remind us of Dante’s “Abandon all hope, you who enter here,” at Salisbury, part of Isaiah’s message, “I will turn the darkness into Light”, has been used very strikingly in multi-coloured neon lights over the north porch and the first entrance one sees coming from the city.

In a gentler vein, over the path leading to the west doors is Light Wave, a 20-metre moving canopy composed of 500 small globes of light, each one emitting from its own loudspeaker soothing and hypnotic sounds. Created by Quidsoup with Ollie Bown, it is an amazing composition, for which Eve Klein recorded a variety of vowel sounds on different octaves at different durations. These were then combined to create a series of melodies and chords, and then recorded again. It sounds surreal and angelic, and was very popular.

ash millsThe Light by Richard McLester at Salisbury Cathedral

Moving into the cloister garth, one hears traditional hymns sung beautifully by the cathedral choir, and following the theme of new life is Lumen, by David Ogle. Among the cedar trees planted at Queen Victoria’s accession, he has installed five tree shapes, three metres high, made of pink, green, and yellow neon light. The new and old trees seem in harmony together as “a symbol of renewed energy, wisdom and hope”.

The Light by Richard McLester and his team is the only piece within the cathedral. A four-metre illuminated globe suspended in the spire crossing, it is used as a focal point for music, song, and dance.

It was all well worth turning out in the cold and dark to experience.

The installations remain in place until 3 February.

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