A CAS Artists group exhibition
“A space such as this is never just space. Rather it is saturated with human interaction, with memory, experience and response”
– Susan Francis, Curator
11 – 29 March 2020
The National Trust Property ‘Sandham Memorial Chapel‘ houses an epic series of large-scale murals, by the acclaimed war artist Sir Stanley Spencer. The paintings which uniquely show the everyday activities rather than the horrors of war speak to us of the past, while engaging with the present and the future. John Berger, in his 1972 work, ‘Ways of Seeing’ describes this interaction as having ‘the effect of closing the distance in time, between the painting of the picture and one’s own act of looking at it. In this special sense, all paintings are contemporary. Hence the immediacy of their testimony.’ And so this exhibition of CAS associates brings a further group of artists into this saturated space to respond to Stanley Spencer’s testimony. With them they bring their own life experience, their
own particular lens through which to view and engage with this unique space. All kinds of art works could be found in the adjoining rooms during this CAS Associate Artist group exhibition. Sculptural forms which speak of healing, sacred forms and containment. Personal affects; clothing, domestic objects and maps – altered, reworked, embellished and reformed. Whispers of words, of loss, of ephemeral objects and memory. Footage of re-enactments, of attempts to embody experiences and place. Stanley Spencer may not have recognised the media through which much of this artistic dialogue is realised, but he would recognise the process, the desire to take what is personal and share it with the universal. To connect in some way, to take on, embody and experience, that which is of meaning to us all.
WHEN THIS YOU SEE’*
Through the exploration of a closed set of relevant materials a new series of sculptures are presented as images. The artists’s research has revealed that during difficult times Spencer sought solace in the areas of quiet, between the bathtubs and through the everyday rituals of mundane tasks. Many of the paintings in the chapel reflect these tasks of existence through which the regulatory and familiar aspects of life restore faith and hope when perhaps all around was chaos.
Water plays a leading role in many faith rituals and practices, which is reflected through the choice of ‘vessel’ to show this series of works. The bath is a place not only for cleansing and immersion but of relaxation and contemplation. Utilising commonplace materials, the intention is to elevate and celebrate the mutability of the mundane into a symmetrical visual poetic gesture.
*taken from an antique Edwardian Cowrie Shell  the words are engraved on the shell.
Eight paper starflowers bound in cotton thread and dipped in liquid porcelain, kiln fired. For Maija, granddaughter of Latvian refugees, the starflower is a variation of the Latvian Auseklis, an eight pointed star. When spiritual meaning of symbolic language is obscured by war-torn passages of time there comes a call to put the pieces back together using air, fire, earth, water.
AN OTHER DIMENSION
Where the ethereal touches the metaphysical. Cobwebs and white feathers evoke memories, provoking thoughts of the spiritual.
The cobweb is a physical manifestation of time; time once stood still, well after the spider has gone. A white feather, seemingly appearing from nowhere, a prompt to the unseen; a soul like formation from an ‘other’ dimension.
NOTHING WOULD DISTURB ME
A sculptural sound-installation which responds to a commissioned mural by Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) at Sandham Memorial Chapel, that was painted to commemorate the ‘forgotten dead’ of the First World War. The sculptural form is a geometric Icosahedron, a shape metaphysically associated with the element water, relating to its properties of regeneration, cleansing and healing. Within the sculpture there is a contemplative space where the viewer will not be disturbed. A mysterious other world with reflective mirrored surfaces, symbols of purification and hidden wisdom. As the viewer approaches the work their movement trigger’s the sound of Himalayan singing bowls, that vibrate the sculptural form at the frequencies mathematical related to sacred geometry. The sound is therapeutic and intended to create a feeling of wellbeing.
Susan Merrick is a multi-disciplinary Artist. She is interested in conversations, language and communication, in questioning whose voices are heard, and in the access and spaces that can challenge or facilitate this. Susan is currently investigating how hidden voices can be made visible through performative and socially engaged work in her resident town of Aldershot. For the exhibition at Sandham Merrick shares investigative performance work that looks at the military presence (physical and traces) in Aldershot and Sandham Memorial Chapel and considering links between these two places and the work made by Stanley Spencer.
Pieces of male clothing (a vest, a shirt etc), are adapted by the artist to research embodied experiences of place, and the impact of trauma. Drawing on Spencer’s depiction of English country lanes and gardens, and the Mediterranean landscape of war, Aldridge’s work makes use of botanical and medical imagery as well as found materials, to explore the impact of disconnection from the landscapes we call home.
“Lines are just lines
Lines are just linesuntil crossed
Lines are just lines
Until lives are lost
Maps are just maps
Maps are just mapswith
lines, just lines.
Lines on mapsare just lines
Until lives are lost”
Ash of burned map is framed and mounted. Paired with a constructed image made from ash, maps, glue and acrylic.
The work explores the effect of humanity upon itself, political decisions, especially war and the bi products of war, such as the feminine, disease and migration. The image may not show or reflect, it may only mirror our disregard to what we refuse to see. The Sandham Memorial Chapel, the Great War and the poets and artists we associate with it, ride over my thinking throughout this process, I hope the combined image and text pay homage.
FOR STANLEY, AFTER KUBRICK
Kimvi’s performance on opening night took inspiration from the exhibition title ‘Saturated Space’, and British artist Stanley Spencer’s military paintings based on his experience as a medical orderly and infantryman during the Great War. Spencer’s paintings also depict everyday routine rather than the horror of combat. Kimvi’s response was be a spoken word performance, within the domestic rooms of Sandham Memorial Chapel, reflecting the artist’s personal interpretation of war and her own family war history. Kimvi has grown up as a British Vietnamese female, living in Southampton during the 90’s. The work also references Stanley Kubrick’s film, ‘Full Metal Jacket’.
WORDS FROM THE TANGLE
Though not directly using our contemporary evidence of the words of war, Facey hopes that the relevance of the words of a century ago will be recognised as significant to us. After all, the awfulness of war sadly marks human experience. Each corner of the room boasts a word-torn black paper chasm with words associated emerging or half hidden within. Each piece articulates its own message, the first anticipating war, with the concentration of the military conduct and battle lines, these then feed into the second piece, while reflection and thanksgiving are significant in the final piece.
Visitors on opening night were also treated to a reading from Peter Driver’s artist book, A Walk For Stanley, read by the artist himself.
The ‘Walk for Stanley’ book includes drawings, woodcut illustrations, photographs, bird sightings and thoughts along Peter’s journey, a 39 mile walk from the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham, in the north-eastern corner of Berkshire to the Sandham Memorial Chapel, south of Newbury – one of Spencer’s master works.
Visitors at the opening night on 11 March were able to experience an live performance by sound artists Tony Spencer and Samantha Britton (both trained sound healers) while the orange-gowned bodies of artists’ Maija Liepins and Christine Dodd weaved and crawled, and flowed around one another and through the space, providing a unique site-specific experience.
“The sacred geometry of the Icosahedron represents water, and it is visiting Sandham has a tribute to the paintings of Stanely Spencer and the solace he found in a safe space lying between two bath tubs.” – Tony Spencer