Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Codes of Faith Exhibition - A closer look at More Than Sparrows

Codes of Faith

My Reflections on ‘More Than Sparrows’

Brown Hair (The Artist’s), Black Hair, Apple Wood, Oak Wood, Wire and Acrylic
38 x 18 x 18 cm

My Sculpture ‘More than Sparrows: Matthew 10: 29-31’ was recently selected for ‘Codes of Faith’ an exhibition at the Laura I Gallery in Barking. A group exhibition displaying artwork on the theme of faith from over 30 artists in order to celebrate diversity and promote world peace. Artists from myriad backgrounds and cultures show works representing their personal beliefs, varying from those who follow traditional religions to ideas about atheism and pagan spirituality. The aim of this multi-discipline exhibition is to inspire people to live in harmony, embrace differences and promote friendship and peace through our common values and wishes for personal peace and autonomy.

As part of this I was invited to take part in a filmed Artists discussion, where the exhibiting artists would have an opportunity to talk about their art and discuss the theme of the exhibition.

As a member of the Salvation Army my faith inevitably has an impact on my work as an artist, leading me to certain subjects and shaping my observations of everyday life. My graphite ‘volunteer’ drawings are one example of this. 

In my opinion art should touch the hearts and minds of people in some way. Whether it makes them laugh, cry, feel, think, question, connect with or be otherwise effected. My works often contain many layers of meaning and a narrative element. It is important to me that my artworks are left a little ambiguous so that viewers are able to construct their own meanings. Therefore I don’t often give too much background behind the artwork but in this case have decided to expound on the story behind my sparrow sculpture in this post.  I hope that this will give insight but still allow for others to make their own interpretations.

The idea for the sculpture was fed from several sources; as a child I had a poster on my wall with a poetic version of this verse on it, which I learnt by heart.   But the idea was really sparked by a sermon from a visiting Salvation Army officer who was talking about two aspects of God; his omnipotence, vastness and supreme power against the fact that he is also a personal God who knows and cares for us as individuals. The officer used Matthew 10: 29-31 as an illustration, where it talks about the hairs on your head being counted.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 29-31 (NIV)

Now, from what I can remember he was a balding, older gentleman and made the joke that his hairs wouldn’t take as much counting as other people’s! He took his illustration further, surmising that if God knew how many hairs are on your head he would know how many you left in your hairbrush that morning and how many lay on the hairdresser’s floor.  This image caught my attention and intrigued me. 

I had previously made an installation that used delicate tissue papier-mâché sculptures and had the idea of using hair in a similar fashion. I began trying out using hair from my hairbrush as a modelling material mixing it with glue and forming shapes. I decided that cut hair might be more pleasing than hair with a root. So on my next trip to the hairdressers I explained that I wanted to keep my cut hair for an artwork. I made a test sparrow first to find the best method and discover how thin I could make it while still being strong enough to stay in one piece. Unfortunately I ran out of hair once I began the second of the final sparrows, so had to take another trip to the hairdresser, who was keen to learn about the progress of my sculpture.

The artwork I hope encapsulates the different aspects of the verse.  Like the Vanitas paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, you can read the sculpture in a symbolic way, the delicate sparrows with their fleeting existence symbolise the transience of life.  Which reminds us of his all-knowing presence that not even a sparrow can fall without his knowledge. The use of my own hair emphasises the personal nature of a God who knows and cares for us even down to counting the hairs on our heads. Unlike a Vanitas painting however I see the sculpture as pointing to last line of the verse, a reminder to not worry or be afraid but to live positively, to have faith.

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