D:Sign 9

This is the 9th image in the D:Sign series:


I love the way the red leaps out from the green, and it would be a pleasant pastoral scene save for the insipid yellow biohazard sign in the background. I did take some photos without the sign which significantly changes the story of the image:


I think the sign gives the image rather sinister undertones. But this isn’t some eco-warrior propaganda warning about the impact of GM crops or somesuch (In fact, as it happens, I’m fairly pro-GM).

So what is the image about? Not only do I like the juxtaposition of the colours but I love the nonchalant feel of the figure revelling in the beauty around him/her. Maybe they haven’t seen the warning sign. Or perhaps they’ve seen it and ignored it. Sometimes to find and experience beauty we need to push beyond the place where people have warned us that it’s too dangerous to go. When all the fearful people around us tell us to stop because the next step is too risky it is an act of faith to move forward into terrain where we sense the promise of life and joy.

And so I wonder when is it courageous and when is it foolhardy to ignore the signs?

Sole Cité

One of the things I love about my role is working with other artists. Keith Barley has contributed to a couple of exhibitions I’ve been involved with and I was thrilled that he agreed to create an installation piece to accompany Soul of Sheffield. Keith has taken one of the side rooms of the office space where we’re creating the city for his own piece Sole Cité.

Here are some images:


He has layered up sand, coal and grit to form these columns. I was moved when I saw it for the first time; the piece feels both epic in scope as well as achingly fragile. The strata suggest aeons of time with human footprints only on the narrow final layer: the rock and deep history on which the city is built. At the same time I get the feeling that the piece could collapse at any moment, like sandcastles on the beach and as I draw close to it the childish urge to touch or crush the structures wells up from inside, it would be so easy to destroy them.  

One of the aims of this whole project is to explore what it means to make sacred space in an ordinary place and what could be more ordinary than a sterile and anonymous office? This piece and the larger model of the city makes people gasp in wonder, and that sense of awe, amazement and surprise is for me an important aspect of the sacred.

Sacred space should also open up possibilities of experience, of different ways of seeing the world and being in the world. If we have the courage to engage with those possibilities then we will be changed by the experience. Art can do this in very powerful ways and with the Soul of Sheffield project I am excited by the prospect of opening up those possibilities not in church spaces or other places controlled by religious institutions but out in the world where ordinary people live and work.

It’s far from easy though. The whole process has felt, like Keith’s piece of work, both epic, as we touch the deep, soul-full places of creative community, and so fragile as we face practical and logistical issues that could bring the whole thing crashing down at any moment. I will share the story of some of those struggles in a later post.