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Cornish artist paints Last Judgement mural

18 October 2019

Colin Pethick

Detail of the finished mural

Detail of the finished mural

A CORNISH artist has painted a life-sized mural inside the church hall near his home in memory of his late wife.

The artist, Colin Pethick, painted his contemporary take on the Last Judgement in the hall of St Anne’s, Gunnislake, for two days a week between March and September this year. His wife, Zheng Fu, died of cancer in October 2017.

He said on Tuesday: “I was asking myself the big, metaphysical questions: Why are we here? What are we doing? Do we meet our makers? It was a coincidental thing — a combined project to exercise all of that, and cope with it. Doing this painting helped me through that process.”

Mr Pethick is a fine-art painter and freelance art tutor who teaches in the hall and holds open studio events at the church. Last summer, a member of the PCC asked him to paint the mural after seeing some of his sketches for the wall. Mr Pethick donated his time, and the church paid for the materials.

The mural is inspired by Renaissance painters, but a unique design, he said. It depicts a column of people bathed in divine light waiting to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This includes a self-portrait of the artist, who is pictured “hiding” behind his palette, looking over to the other side. Goldfinches represent the blood of Christ, cherry-blossom represents transience, and the ship symbolises the vessel of faith.

Christ is depicted in the centre “in silhouette”, with his back turned.

A battered, stained wooden door is blocking the way to heaven for a group of figures on the opposite side of the painting, who represent the seven sins. Above the door is a floating figure, representing his wife, who is carrying a crystal orb containing the yin and yang symbol.

APEX NEWS & PICTURESThe artist, Colin Pethick, paints the mural in the church-hall of St Anne’s, Gunnislake

“What I am trying to nudge towards is that we are the captains of our own ships. It is almost like a pair of scales: you need a bit of each side to be balanced.”

St Anne’s is one of several churches in the Tamar Valley Benefice. The Rector and Rural Dean, the Revd Chris Painter, said: “Colin is local and well-liked. The congregation love the painting and visitors come in numbers to view it.

“It’s not surprising, as it continues the great tradition of the Church patronising the arts, and the great Renaissance wall paintings, especially in Italy. We don’t see large-scale religious wall paintings very much today. It is very striking.”

The painting also depicts a miner, fish, a boy holding a toy boat, and a Chinese dragon, among other figures. The church is named after St Anne, the patron saint of miners.

Dean Painter explained: “Both fishing and latterly mining have been the main industries here. The village grew with the assorted mines in the late 19th and early 20th century. There were many pubs, chapels, and shops before its decline in the last decades.

“There is still a strong community and pride for the village. This is the first Cornish community you pass through crossing from Tavistock over the Newbridge [which celebrates its 500th anniversary next year]. Many families have ‘always’ lived here.”

The church hall was built as a Baptist chapel, he said. “I gather a previous Rector bought it because he disliked having a non-conformist church in the parish. The church itself was built in the late 1800s, so villagers didn’t have the long walk to the parish church some two miles away. It is dedicated to St Anne, the patron saint of miners, and is unique in that it is built on a slope, so the pews are in tiers, like a lecture theatre.”

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