Modern art in a medieval world

Mermaid

Had a fun afternoon at the church today. Artist Emily Tracy is making an installation for St Andrews, as part of the Altered project (new art in rural churches). She and her art historian father, Charles Tracy put on a tour of the church and talked about her work, Screen, being shown on 11th/12th May

St Andrews was built in the early fourteenth century and has amazing carvings both inside and out (see earlier post). Gargoyles outside are weathered, intriguing and appealing. But my favourites are the indoor carvings: the intricate decoration, the tiny cameos, sometimes comic, beautifully portrayed. The little mermaid above is one and the man eating fruit below is another.

The mermaid is on the Easter Sepulchre, where in the past the host was put to rest on Good Friday before, as was described to us, being brought out on Easter Sunday and placed on the altar in a triumphant ceremony.

Along with mermaids, the Easter Sepulchre is decorated with carvings of abundant, cheerful foliage, making me think of the triumph, the victory that is Spring when life and warmth and growth return. There is little triumph in this spring of 2013, when all over the country farmers are looking at brown fields where there should be fresh green grass for animals to eat. It was bitterly cold again, still, as we walked round the churchyard today.

But the stone carvings, with their leaves and flowers and human faces from almost seven hundred years ago, are irrepressibly cheerful, even, to me, the grimacing gargoyles pointing the way to hell. I hope some of them find their way onto Emily’s Screen.

Man and fruit

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