STONE is the most enduring stuff on which to record the history of people and events. The artist Michele Griffiths, whose grandfather and paternal ancestors were stonemasons, has a warm affiliation with it, and has replicated a collection of graffiti left in Chichester Cathedral and its cloisters over 900 years which are relevant to the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of us all, especially during the recent pandemic.
On a roughened surface of plaster of Paris representing the hand-hewn walls of the cathedral, she has scored in a variety of ancient marks, some honouring St Richard, Bishop there from 1244, to whom many miracles were attributed. Many pilgrims left prayers for help and healing, or crosses. Some were made by departing crusaders with only the vertical beam there, still, sadly, awaiting the horizontal piece to be placed on their return. There are names, initials, and idle doodlings saying: “I was here.”
Each piece has then been washed with a bright-coloured acrylic, followed by many layers of transparent and opaque acrylic. Chalks, crayons, and charcoal have been used to build a complex surface.
Griffiths says: “I aim to engage the viewer in slow looking,” and feels that “Darkness into Light” may, gently and gradually, help to lead people experiencing isolation and depression into a more hopeful and sharing state of mind.
Chichester Wall Fragment is flooded with bright red and gives a more imaginative interpretation. Griffiths sees the red stains on the Cathedral floor as representing the blood of life and also as the blood shed by martyrs in the history of the Church and the scuffs and scars in the original stone as the suffering and trials of life. It is a work associated with healing.
Griffiths has been a frequent visitor to the Greek islands, not least to admire the great stone edifices from the past. In Sanctuary, small geometric doodles suggest to her a small dark door in the thick stone walls of an old house in a Greek village, where you can enter and be safe and cool in the heat of day.
This sensitive and moving exhibition runs until 8 August.
“Darkness into Light”, an exhibition inspired by graffiti left by pilgrims, in Chichester Cathedral.