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God didn’t create us in order to abandon us! Michelangelo

Caroline Bugby and Maureen Jordan: Confluence

ArtWay Visual Meditation 4 October 2020

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Caroline Bugby and Maureen Jordan: Confluence

Water Miracles

by Jonathan Evens

A confluence is an act of merging that also describes the junction of two rivers. ‘Confluence’ was an art installation in the beautiful 12th-century St Mary Burham church, inspired by a recent archaeological project ‘Finding Eanswythe’ which explored the life of St Eanswythe, the Anglo-Saxon, Kentish royal saint and granddaughter of Ethelbert, the first English king to convert to Christianity under Augustine. The installation was a collaborative project by two artists – Maureen Jordan and Caroline Bugby – who met – who met while both attending Vermont Studio Center in Johnson VT, where each came to see connections in the other’s work.

St Eanswythe is believed to have founded one of the earliest monastic communities in England on the Bayle, the historic centre of Folkestone in Kent. One of the miracles attributed to the princess was that she made water ‘run up-hill’ from the Downs to the Bayle, thereby providing fresh water for the nunnery. A collection of coincidences had originally channelled the attention of the ‘Finding Eanswythe’ team towards her story; beginning with a mysterious local feature, the buried course of an ancient aqueduct built to carry water from the down-lands to Eanswythe’s minster.

That story captured the imaginations of both artists and, seeing the effort people made all those years ago to move water to their settlement, reminded them of how critical water is to us all. Using reclaimed materials, including glass pantiles and sea-glass, Maureen Jordan took the theme of water as a source of life and played with the ideas of the miraculous and transformative. Caroline Bugby created a series of fragmented and crumbling vessels that speak of the actions of containing and drinking water, exploring our connection to the past through this most essential resource.

There is much that merged in the making of this installation: the interests of the ‘Finding Eanswythe’ team; the meeting of the two artists; and their shared responses to the ‘Finding Eanswythe’ project. The installation itself brought contemporary art and ancient architecture together.

Jesus connected water and the Spirit when he spoke of rivers of living water flowing out of the hearts of those who would believe in him. The writer of John’s Gospel says that he spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in him would receive. Water is essential for life carrying nutrients to all cells in our body and oxygen to our brain, allowing our bodies to absorb and assimilate minerals, vitamins, amino acids, glucose and other substances, and flushing out toxins and waste. Similarly, the Spirit flowing in and through us brings the life of Christ and cleanses us from sin.

We also need to recognise the work of the Spirit in confluence (the act of merging), coinherence (the coming together of things) and coincidence (the unexpected coming together of things in a providential way). Recognising and welcoming coincidences is a means of keeping 'in step with the Holy Spirit'. Scott Peck calls this the 'principle of synchronicity' and views it as an expression of God’s grace. In their song entitled ‘Synchronicity’, The Police describe this phenomenon as a connecting principle which is linked to the invisible. If we share this sense of synchronicity, then we are able to dream Spiritus mundi (Spirit of the world – a sense of the interconnection of all things).

The true miracles in life – the work of the Spirit – involve the coming together of people and ideas and images in ways that merge to form something more than the sum of their parts. The artist Makoto Fujimura likens a thriving culture to an estuary where salt and fresh water meet to form a complex, diverse, and challenging environment where everything works together for mutual flourishing. ‘Confluence’ was just such a coming together of waters.

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Caroline Bugby and Maureen Jordan: Confluence, 2019, installation, papier-mâché, chicken wire, brick, mirror, lights, earth, rope. Photographs by artist Caroline Bugby, http://carolinebugby.co.uk/  1. An uphill struggle - installation view; 2. View from Front - installation view; 3. La Piscina - installation view.

Caroline Bugby is a sculptor and installation artist who works and exhibits in both the USA and the UK and has public artwork on permanent display in New York and Vermont, USA. Currently she lives in England and has just finished a year-long residency at Tonbridge School in Kent, during which she researched the archaeology of the local area, joining a community archaeology team excavating an ancient Roman villa and drawing from this experience in her practice. She makes sculpture and installation art that renders the familiar strange and encourages contemplation of the richness of reality. http://carolinebugby.co.uk

Maureen Jordan is a Northern Irish artist now living in Kent, UK. Throughout her career she has worked with many artists in diverse contexts: touring theatre companies, university departments, in EU projects, as a director in the Arts Council of England and currently as a project manager for Folkestone Triennial 2020 in Kent. Since 2009 she has also been developing her own artistic practice, exhibiting and creating site-responsive installations using reclaimed materials and found objects. She likes to work in the ‘contested territory’ of our places and our histories – therein lies the gap between the stories we are told and what we actually experience. https://www.mvjordan.com

Jonathan Evens is Associate Vicar for HeartEdge at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, UK. Through HeartEdge, a network of churches, he encourages congregations to engage with culture, compassion and commerce. He is co-author of ‘The Secret Chord,’ an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life written through the prism of Christian belief. He writes regularly on the Arts for a range of publications and blogs at https://joninbetween.blogspot.com.

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1CHRISTIAN ART FOR A BIBLICALLY ILLITERATE GENERATION – Holy Smoke: Spectator Podcast. Carmel Thompson and Ben Quash discuss the profound and neglected meaning of Christian art. https://www.spectator.co.uk/podcast/how-a-biblically-illiterate-generation-can-discover-christian-art 

2. MATTHEW’S GOSPEL PAINTING MEDITATIONS – You are invited to reflect on St Matthews Gospel with a weekly meditation by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ on the unique paintings of Catholic artist Peter Clare. https://www.birminghamdiocese.org.uk/pages/category/matthews-gospel-reflections-2020

3. CATHOLIC CREATORS UK ON CREATIVITY AND PRAYER – Join Catholic Creators UK for an Evening of Art & Faith with musician, Joe Wells (One Hope Project) and spiritual director, Iona Reid-Dalgleish (Jesuits in Britain) exploring the links between Creativity & Prayer in their work. Throughout the event, you will be invited to share your thoughts and ideas, too, through group discussions! Sign up for free and we'll send you a Zoom link an hour before the event begins! Do spread the word to other creators and arts-appreciators! Book your ticket

4. NEWS FROM SCHINDELL GALLERY IN VANCOUVER, CANADA – It is with great pleasure that we announce the launch of a refreshed Dal Schindell Gallery website. Pandemic protocols dictated that this autumn’s live exhibitions and gallery openings were not to be. Taking a cue from Dal Schindell, we decided it was time for some out-of-the-box thinking. With the creative, professional, and always gracious work of the Regent College Communications Team, we have built a virtual space for art and conversation at schindellgallery.ca. You’ll find a number of new features on the gallery site:  Exhibitions: Monthly digital shows featuring a range of artists and media. We will be opening with Art in Isolation, a mixed-media show in which a collective of artists explore the practice of art in our current cultural moment. Interviews: Meet the artists and learn more about their creative process. Viewpoints: Intersectional explorations of art and theology. 

5. CRANACH ARTIST AND INNOVATOR – Until 3 January 2021, Compton Verney Art Gallery, Kineton, Warkwickshire: Cranach: Artist and Innovator. Cranach’s paintings of German nobility and the leaders of the Protestant Reformation made him a highly sought after portraitist in his own time, while today he is best known for his seductive paintings of the female nude, which beautifully express temptation and its consequences. Cranach was also a talented entrepreneur, founding a successful publishing business and producing powerful woodcut illustrations for Luther’s translation of the Bible. Featuring some of Cranach’s most beguiling paintings and illustrations, on loan from the National Gallery, the Royal Collection, the British Museum and Waddesdon Manor, the exhibition will also showcase Cranach’s enduring appeal to a range of modern and contemporary artists, including: John Currin, Isabelle Hayman, Michael Landy, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, Andrew McIntosh, Ishbel Myerscough, Claire Partington, Pablo Picasso and Raqib Shaw. Tu – Su, 10 – 17 h. https://www.comptonverney.org.uk/thing-to-do/cranach-artist-and-innovator/

6. ANSELM KIEFER OPUS MAGNUM - 12 July – 21 February 2021, Franz Marc Museum, Besucherparkplatz, Mittenwalder Str. 50, Kochel am See: Anselm Kiefer: Opus Magnum. In 2016 Anselm Kiefer grouped six large-format photographs together with twenty-three glass vitrines under the title Opus Magnum. Like time capsules the contents of these glass cabinets reflect the variety of topoi in his œuvre. The transparent shrines contain a complex ensemble of objects and meanings, rich in associations. They are both clear yet dense, light and heavy simultaneously. Emanating from the wealth of this subject matter the exhibition explores the important role of literary, mythological and biblical motifs in Anselm Kiefer’s work, juxtaposing the glass vitrines with short, associative texts by contemporary writers, including Marion Poschmann, Christoph Ransmayr and Ferdinand von Schirach. Through this literary approach Anselm Kiefer’s motifs – that reappear time and again in ever new variations – are explored in a different light. Along with Georg Baselitz and Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer is one of those German artists who, born during or shortly after the Nazi period and the war in Germany, took a stance against the general silence regarding Germany’s recent past that prevailed: “I was living among people who were all there at that time but who never wanted to talk about it. That time was an empty space” is how Kiefer described this situation himself. His deep rootedness in the Romantic period and history of ideas, as well as the correlation between mythology and modernism that characterise his work, are closely associated with his views on history. Hours: https://franz-marc-museum.de/en/information/ https://franz-marc-museum.de/en/anselmkiefer/

For more exhibitions, lectures, conferences etc. inside and outside your country, click here

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Other recent meditations:
- October 2020: Jan Mankes: Row of Trees
- October 2020: Daozi: The Empty Chair
- September 2020: Rembrandt van Rijn: Belshazzar’s Feast
- September 2020: Neil Tye: Rain on your Land in its Season
- September 2020: Max Weber: Invocation

For more Visual Meditations, see under Artists