Artists

Subodh Gupta’s vision turns village mementoes into works of art

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Subodh Gupta, Chanda Mama door ke (From Far Away Uncle Moon Calls), 2015, found aluminium utensils, fish strings, steel. Photo Ken Adlard, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Once on holiday in San Gimignano, I wandered down the crowded, sweltering hot street, and caught a glimpse that made me stop, and slip into a cool, unknown space. Hundreds of silver cooking pans and tiffin pots were arranged in a beautiful, tumbling art work. On the floor were rows of low metal stools arranged as if ready to seat 45 for a traditional Indian meal in front of round silver trays full of bowls.

There were other items too, but it was those two which took my breath away.

I made a note of the name of the artist and felt entranced by the contrast between the shiny but utilitarian Indian utensils turned into art works, and the expensive designer shops in the Tuscan tourist mecca outside. It was 2008 and I didn’t think I’d ever see his works again

Since then I’ve accidentally come across an enormous nuclear explosion of his stainless steel utensils filling a huge space at the Tate in London – and now he has a solo exhibition in Coventry until March.

Subodh Gupta – the name copied down several years ago – even visited the Mead Gallery at the University of Warwick for an In Conversation with Curator of the Mead Sarah Shalgosky before the official opening.

The exhibition itself shows relatively few pieces in the large space. One of the larger pieces, which I had seen in Italy, is School, a work showing five rows of nine low stools, with a table in front set with a sparkling thali dish ready for a meal. Each brass stool is cast from that of the artist’s father, with patterns and initials clear to see on it.

This combination of homely items and mass-produced pieces is typical of Gupta’s work. In the In Conversation he ran through more of his art works from over the years that reflect that.

He showed an image of 29 Mornings, from 1996, which consisted of wooden stools with items from everyday life placed on top; they were memories of life in the village he grew up in, when he had moved away to the city. Similarly, small bundles of sticks used to brush teeth in the village, then discarded, are turned into an artwork. He said: “When it’s been cast in aluminium it becomes closer to me and further away from the people who are now not going to use it.”

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Subodh Gupta, There is always cinema (v), 2008, Three elements – found object, (wood, cement, paint), brass casting nickel painted, brass casting coated. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photograph Zurich. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

There Is Always Cinema (V), which was also made specially for the show I saw at Galleria Continua in San Gamignano, consists of three ‘sack trolleys’ used to transport goods around. One is in its natural state, one cast in bronze and one nickel plated apparently suggest the idea of worn items being able to move things around to a brighter part of the city.

Another piece that is in the Mead show is Two Cows, a pair of bicycles cast in bronze and hung with chrome milk pails. As he said before the opening, in the village he would get milk from the cow, but in the city it was carried in pails on bikes, hence the name.

The attention-grabbing work is clearly Chanda Mama door ke, or Far Away Uncle Moon Calls, which is a reference to a Hindi children’s nursery rhyme in which the child is talking to the moon as though her uncle. The work consists of dozens of used cooking pots, some very used, burned and bent, hanging from the ceiling on fishing line, looking from some distance like a re-imagined moon. It’s spectacular but in a way simple too.

Gupta trained as a painter and there are three paintings in the show, close ups of used pans or plates.

One of his themes in his work he explained is the cosmic and the everyday, and “I can see the universe in my plate.”

Some of his new works include two Pressed for Space exhibits, consisting of old cooking pots crushed into rectangles, with bits of cloth mixed in with them.

He explained that in some larger pieces eyes look out at the unexpected viewer; was he trying to shock Sarah asked. No, he said, he didn’t want to do that, but he liked to mix performance and sculpture and had a strong sense of the audience looking at his works: “We live in shock, we don’t know where we are going.”

Other topics and works covered in the talk included God Hungry, a huge work in Lille featuring cooking pots seemingly cascading through three windows of the church, and This Is Not a Fountain, a mixture of pans with taps poking through, focusing on, Gupta said, the big issue of taps being left running in India parks.

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Subodh Gupta, Two Cows, 2003-2008, bronze, chrome. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photograph Zurich. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

He has also been a performer, and showed a clip from a video which was engrossing and also gross; he was he said “showering in cow shit”, and he’s last seen in it, naked and coated in the brown stuff walking out of a room. He said it related to the importance in India of cow dung, used wet for painting and rituals, and dried and used as fuel or for building. His work My Mother and Me from 1997 was a creation of a cow dung tiled house.

There was some discussion too about the relationship between his works and that of Duchamp, though he reiterated there was no connection, as he said Duchamp made an object into an art work, but he, Gupta, made an object into a material and in that form becomes the art work. It was an interesting discussion and one that could go on.

It felt like there could have been more at this exhibition, but I have been spoilt by seeing some of his largest, most spectacular works before. The exhibition – on until March 11 – is still definitely worth seeing and a breath of fresh air in he 2017 exhibition scene.

 

Deasil decides to Begin with Beauty

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Machir Storm by Rachel Weston

In the bleakness of January, Deasil gallery in Leamington is trying to cheer us all up with an exhibition called Begin with Beauty.

It consists of work by a number of their regular artists, plus the back room is taken over for the first exhibition there held by Rachel Weston, who lives near Leamington.

Rachel explained: “It’s the first time for a long time I’ve shown my work. I did a fine art degree at Exeter School of Art and carried on painting for a while and then got into the games industry for a long time, and carried on with the art as a sideline.”

All her works on show are land or seascapes, some local, such as Great Alne, with beautiful browns and earthy colours in an autumn view, and others featuring the dramatic countryside and skies of Scotland, which Rachel visited last year

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Sligo Bay by Rachel Weston

She said: “I do photos and sketches and I have to have been somewhere. I used to be far more abstract and I am now looking for primary symbols within a landscape.”

Her pastel works include Machir Storm, with dark skies heavy over some small white cottages, and a large sweep of beach, and Saligo Bay, a beach with dramatic sharp rocks, and a different cloudy sky.

Other artists featured in the exhibition include Cult Zero, who had his own show last year. There are several large digital prints of his strange creatures, and some smaller animal-focused one.

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Spectrum by Caitlin Burton, Minds Eye by Sonia Bublaitis and Poseidon’s Kingdom by Nancy Upshall.

Sonia Bublaitis is showing several brightly-coloured paint on Perspex pieces including Serendipity and Blue Waves, and Coventry-based Nancy Upshall has some of her familiar colourful abstract paintings such as Poseidon’s Kingdom, a look into an underwater world.

Jenny Clark has several mixed media works featured, including The Joy of Farthingstone, an attractive if rather idealised-looking village, and Hakeshead, churches and houses on a hill.

It’s a colourful, cheering exhibition to start the new year, and a good introduction to Rachel Weston’s work.

The exhibition is on until January 26.

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Cupid by Caitlin Burton  

Blurred lines and bold colours shape Hichmough retrospective

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Colin Hitchmough, Dictionary of Silences (Aurora Bognorealis), 2015, acrylic on canvas

A display of bold and sometimes baffling works fills a Warwickshire gallery, showing many work’s from an artist’s long career.
Dictionary of Silences is a retrospective of paintings by Colin Hichmough, who lived in Leamington for many years, and whose works are now being shown in the Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum until January 8.

Hitchmough studied fine art at Liverpool College of Art in the late 1960s, and then Birmingham College of Art. He then worked in Rugby for three years, before moving to Leamington where he lived until 2009, most of the time teaching at Warwickshire College. He also taught on the Fine Art Degree Course at Leamington Warwickshire College and the University of Central England. He is married with two sons, and now lives with his wife on the West Sussex coast.

This exhibition shows works dating from the 1970s to the present day.

In a well-written and attractive brochure to go with the exhibition, senior curator Chloe Johnson writes that “the ideas underpinning Hitchmough’s works are varied, but they deal with one single, complex concern: the notion of painting”.

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Colin Hitchmough, Flag, 1982, acrylic on canvas, collection: Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum

He was also exploring the physical materials used in painting, and began to suspend canvases like banners or flags rather than stretching them. In the 1980s the focus switched apparently to the surface of paintings and fluid brush work, and in the 1990s to box-like shapes, or “containers for ideas”.

The People’s Flag from 1982 is a big mostly black canvas with white stripes, and another from 1972 is blue and textured, looking like denim, with an almost tie-dye look to it. Untitled from 1971 is the earliest work in this show, and takes up one wall of the gallery, a T-shaped work with bits pulled up and held there, subverting the idea of the flat canvas.

New York House from 2001 is very different, mostly black with a six dark grey and white, sharp-sided rectangles painted in the bottom.

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Colin Hitchmough, NY House, 2001, acrylic on canvas

Terrapins and some similar works combine wood and canvas with sticky substances to create things that look organic and wholly fake at the same time.

Small silences from 2014 is a series of small works with parallel hand-drawn black lines stacked up like papers, or further apart to change the unity of the work. This is one of the works inspired by a holiday visit where Hitchmough misheard a guide talking about what he thought was a Dictionary of Silences, and the lines represent piled up canvases. The Dictionary of Silences painting is large and black, with imposing white blurred lines across it.

It’s an interesting exhibition which in many ways I struggled with at face value, but Chloe’s writing and the useful information on the gallery walls brought more knowledge and understanding to what is a large body of work, in more ways than one.

Exhibition finally shows Val’s pottery talents to wider audience

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A potter who has left behind a large collection of works never shown in public before is amongst artists whose work is on display at an exhibition in Birmingham.

Val Gill was originally from Smethwick, but had lived in Birmingham for many years. She died on October 11, aged 63, leaving many of her creations in her flat.

She had studied at Liverpool Art College in the early 1970s and later worked behind the scenes at Birmingham Repertory Company and Birmingham Hippodrome. In more recent decades she had enjoyed working on her pottery skills in classes and then in the studios at the mac in Birmingham.

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Some of her work had been seen in a students’ show at the mac back in 2006, but she had always declined being exhibited more generally; however friends, some of whom worked alongside her at the mac, have put a number of her creations on show in the Midlands Potters open exhibition at Woodbridge Gallery in Moseley until 3pm on Sunday, December 4. Visitors can take one of her works away with them for a donation of a least £10 which will go to a cancer charity.

The works are in her very recognisable style, including some small, symmetrical raku works and others with a shiny glaze. There are also larger, typically asymmetrical, pieces, some of which look like different pots works merged together to create one. They are in a range of colours but nothing too dramatic, mostly blues and aqua, or sandy or grey earth colours. Some which look like vases are larger at the top than the bottom, and others have a Moorish look to them.

The exhibition over the two floors of the gallery also features works by other Midlands Potters members. Karen James, one of the friends behind displaying Val’s works, is showing attractive bowls and vessels with swirly, attractive internal glazes.

Sally White’s practical creations including jugs feature ship motifs, and Jennie Howe, who had a MA in fashion and textiles has created ceramics with a frilly look to them. Graham Taylor’s works are ornamental chunks depicting the sea with boats sailing on them, and in the room upstairs Mirta Vargas’s works are influenced by pre-Columbian art, with small bobbles of clay and layers built up defining the shape.

Apart from Val Gill’s works being offered to raise money for charity, all other works are for sale. It’s an interesting exhibition showing the variety of work being done by potters from across the Midlands.

Cult Zero’s sketches become strange creatures in Deasil exhibition

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An exhibition of work created as a therapeutic “hobby” is currently filling a Leamington gallery.

Chris Putt, who lives in the town, creates most of his pieces under the name of Cult Zero. He hand sketches them, mostly strange cartoon-like or robotic creatures, then scans them and finishes off the work on computer, adding in the colour as he goes. There are also some works which are like living collages, built up in layers

Chris showed his work as part of a joint exhibition at Gallery 150 in Leamington three years ago, and is now showing in a solo show at Deasil in Oxford Street.

He said he had studied graphic design at the then Mid-Warwickshire College some years ago, but has worked in the transport business.

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Chris said, of his original sketches and inspiration: “It’s my hobby and it’s just taken off. It’s what’s in my imagination and it just comes out of my head. I doodle – it’s my own therapy. I had all these sketch books piling up. I put a couple of things in the exhibition at Gallery 15 and they sold.”

That was several years ago and this exhibition represents his body of work since.

Chris does most of his works under the name of Cult Zero but there are some new works out under this own name, some images familiar to anyone who’s been to St Ives. Fore Street and the harbour in the town are shown, with much of the texture missing; the brick walls of building in the street are a bland grey, with the people wandering about in typical seaside style are the only spots of colour.

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It’s an interesting exhibition of works which, in their final state, are hard to imagine as the original therapeutic sketches in a notebook.

The exhibition is on until November 10.

Queen Victoria, Paris and Picasso are unlikely mix of stars for Compton Verney autumn exhibition

 

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Max Berthelin, Royal Visit to Napoleon III, The Grande Galerie des Fetes at the Hotel de Ville, Paris, 23 August 1855, Royal Collection Trust 2016

Two contrasting exhibitions end the year on a high for Compton Verney art gallery in south Warwickshire.

Queen Victoria in Paris features watercolours from the Royal Collection, and Picasso on Paper: Prints from the collection of the Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf, is self explanatory.

The Victoria exhibition is an unexpected joy. It features 44 watercolours which are from three different sources. In 1855 Napoleon III sent Victoria 10 watercolours depicting her visit to Paris from 18-27 August that year, she then commissioned 15 more and the final ones were sent by Baron Haussman. They are seen together in this touring exhibition for the first time – and some have never been seen before in public. The occasion marked the first time Britain and France were fighting on the same side, in the Crimean War, and only 40 years after the Battle of Waterloo.

Compton Verney has done what it does well with this exhibition, presenting them in rooms painted a gorgeous deep blue, and with the low lighting required to protect them.

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Charles Auguste Questel, Royal Visit to-Napoleon II, The Illuminations in the gardens of-Versailles, 25-August 1855, Royal Collection Trust, 2016

This is a collection where the names of the artists are less important than what is shown or represented. Indeed in some of them, the architecture of the buildings, inside and out, is what is particularly impressive – and apparently that was entrusted to architecture students to draw. There are scenes inside from various parties, including at the Hôtel de Ville, where there were 7,000 guests, and the high ceilings and decoration inside is impressively shown; regular artists painted in the people in the bottom part of the frame.

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William Wyld, Chateau de Saint Cloud, Royal Collection Trust, 2016

Victoria’s visit is depicted from her arrival in the Royal Yacht at Boulogne, through to a huge welcome in Paris, through a fake ceremonial arch built temporarily for the occasion. There are landscapes of Saint-Cloud, where she stayed, and which was razed to the ground when Napoleon III fell in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, and some gorgeous interiors of the rooms, with Victoria and Albert shown reading in one. The detail of the rooms and of clothes and hairstyles will delight those interested in the era.

There’s a fantastic nightime painting of Versailles, a packed visit to the opera, and an exaggerated image of Victoria inspecting troops on a massive parade ground. The third room is dedicated to 19 scenes from the Hôtel de Ville ball. It’s an exhibition which is a delight in many different ways.

The Picasso exhibition features 70 works from the Dusseldorf collection, created over a period of 40 years from the 1920s-60s. The exhibition seems to work in phases, marked by Picasso’s changing women, and professional collaborators.

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Pablo Picasso, Head of the Faun, Colour Linocut, Edition 19/50, Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2016. Photo: Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Horst Kolberg, ARTOTHEK and

Pablo Picasso, Françoise, 14.06.1946, Lithography, Edition 4/50, Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2016. Photo: Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Horst Kolberg, ARTOTHEK

There is a portrait of Jacqueline Roque, who featured in more than 400 of his works, and also marked the start of his collaboration with Hidalgo Annéra.

There are some cute images of his young children, Paloma and Claude, the outlines of one created with his fingertips as he didn’t have tools to hand. Motherhood is an etching, with a few simple lines creating perfectly the woman and the young boy she is feeding. The Painter on the Beach from February 3, 1955 is a humorous work of several odd characters posing.

La Tauromaquia is a seires of 16 aquatint and sugar lift works showing simple scenes of bullfighting, and there is another series, Poèmes and Lithographs, featuring portraits and stream-of-consciousness text.

A move from Paris to the south of France resulted in a new collaboration with a potter there, and there are some works loaned from Leicester Arts and Museums Service, including the lovely Yellow Face of 1947, with the sweet face drawn with his fingers again.

So clearly a pair of exhibitions with no connection, but both interesting in their own right – and on until December 11.

Standard ideas of homes and bodies are turned inside out in interesting exhibition

Outside / Inside / Out is the title of a new exhibition by two Coventry-based artists showing their work in Warwickshire.

The works, on show at the Lewis Gallery at Rugby School, only until October 13, are by Mandy Havers, a Senior lecturer in Fine Art at Coventry University, and Andrea Hannon, who completed her PhD at the University in 2014, and was also one of the artists highlighted in New Art West Midlands that year.

They explain the title of the exhibition as “the notion of external and internal space as it is found, negotiated and experienced both physically and psychologically is an interest both artists share”. However their works are very different.

Mandy’s works largely concentrate on the human body, often in its most physical form, but with what should be inside and unseen very much on show. Some of the works appear beautiful but in a gory way; Bloodpool features a doll-like figure sitting on a red shiny ball, but then you realise its guts are spilling out of its middle and making the pretty lines down the ball.

Gold Head is a tightly stuffed leather gold head. Last Supper is a large leather and mixed media work, with a Jesus face looking out, some shiny bling, and then you realise the central body is a large loaf of crusty bread.

Dreamer is a work seeming to feature a foetus attached to a head, and other works show detailed drawings of cut-away people, their internal organs and veins visible. There are also a number of tables showing collected objects, Dreamworld from this year, features odd collections; dolls with outsized gloves suck on their hands, eyeballs, and other items relating to the body. The whole body of work is accomplished, attractive and also disturbing in parts.

Andrea Hannon’s works also vary between some on the wall and others free-standing. Her works concentrate more on the idea of physical spaces and the idea of home.

Postern is two landscape paintings, with her own collaged intervention of what looks like windows and walls.

Cluster I is a set of three 3D collages in Perspex and wood, so you can see inside to tiny figures cut from old books, wearing masks here, and with a city skyline too. In Cluster II people gather around a desk. Shoot features four images of what look like a woman in an attractive dress, but with swirls of pattern around her, distracting from the figure.

In-her is a roughly-made dolls house inhabited by cut-out figures, including one that looks like a woman doing the ironing, and in one part of the house the floor has come up in strips, and the front is completely detached, suggestion traumas and frustrations of home. Two other works feature homely items such as lampshades and wallpaper in unusual settings on the floor.

The very different works seem to complement each other, creating an interesting and thought-provoking exhibition.

*The Lewis Gallery opens weekdays 2-5pm, and the exhibition closes on Thursday, October 13.

Movement is the theme of paintings in latest Deasil exhibition

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If you didn’t get enough of the Olympics …. There’s a chance to see it from a different angle in a new art exhibition.

Deasil gallery in Oxford Street, Leamington, is showing Motion and Emotion, an exhibition of Andy Farr’s paintings, until September 8. Andy is keen on capturing movement on canvas, and the show includes a number of works inspired by the recent Rio Olympics, as well as other works.

Andy said he works partly from photographs, but largely from film, watching and re-watching sportspeople in action to come up with his paintings. Many feature expressions of movement, such as Andy Murray’s swinging arm in a tennis shot, or a cyclist whizzing through the frame. Others are like a video that has been moved on frame by frame, showing a sequence of slow motion movements.

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Pursuit has a single cyclist against a colourful background so you can concentrate on the movement, and Pedal Power has a cyclist in slow motion. Some sailing paintings are slightly different, with a concentration on the different blues and aquamarine colours of the water. Carnival is a painting Andy was unsure about – a celebration of the bright colours of dancing girls in a Rio carnival, a riot of colour as well as movement.

There is also a detailed paintings of a women’s cycle race which came through Warwick earlier this year – for that Andy was there on the street with his camera to capture the riders coming through, and also the spectators lined up opposite with their cameras.

He has previously done a series of works related to dance, saying he wanted to “get a sense of the dance in the painting”. Paso Doble from that series is in this show, a lovely swirl of red dress, embrace and movement.

Andy lives in Leamington, and turned from a career in brand building and marketing to painting a few years ago, and is now studying for an MA at Coventry University’s School of Art and Design, with his degree show coming up shortly. He said some of the sporting works in this exhibition came as light relief compared to paintings of a World War I theme he has done for his MA.

It’s an interesting exhibition and study of sporting superstars showing off their talent.

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Designer Sheila’s work finally given spotlight it deserves in exhibition

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The dedicated life of a designer who forged a long and successful career away from the spotlight is being celebrated – and her wonderful designs receiving a new audience –  nine years after her death.

Rugby Art Gallery & Museum is showing an exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Sheila Bownas, a fascinating textile designer, whose works show the different trends of several decades, and also the struggle to succeed as a woman in design.

Sheila moved from her home in Yorkshire to study at the Slade in London in 1946, then after returning home to teach she continued to do freelance designs for organisations including Liberty and Marks and Spencer. She returned to the capital towards the end of the 1950s, and produced work for the Natural History Museum and Botanical Society of the British Isles amongst others, but then she went back to her home village of Linton where she continued to work as a freelance artist.

She did not however give up hope of getting a job in a studio, as a 1959 letter in the exhibition tellingly quotes: “With reference to your desire to obtain a position in our studio, the director feels that should an appointment be made at all, a male designer would be preferable.

Bownas (below) was ‘discovered’ by Rugby-based Chelsea Cefai who bought an archive of 210 textile design prints from an auction while looking for items to decorate her home, and then set off on a quest to find out more about Bownas. Her research has discovered lots of letters and pictures, loaned from the artist’s cousins and god-daughter, as well as more of her work.

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Some early design works show her Linton, its buildings depicted without perspective. There are portraits, carried out to make money during the Slade years, still lifes which she excelled in, and one painting of her mother and cousin which made it into the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition.

Early textile designs used plant and fern motifs, and there are some beautiful detailed flower paintings. Some items are also borrowed from the Natural History Museum, where Bownas was commissioned in 1962 to make a series of micro-studies to go with a particular exhibition, and these detailed and delicate works show her skill.

Bownas’s sketch book shows the development of her work which often began as a doodle then got advanced into a sketch on baking parchment paper, then a painting.

There are three large walls of the exhibition showing her works from different decades; the 1950-59 section includes patterns, and lots of floral motifs, plus ‘wally dogs’ designed to show the popular mantelpiece ornaments of the time, with increasing use of abstracts and a bus scene, probably inspired by trips to the capital. The 1960s works include very bright colours, and still floral, with the 1970s introducing more geometric patterns and bold colours, and then a set that were just black and white gouache.

It’s a fascinating and well researched exhibition showing the creativity and talent behind a life full of making items that were seen in public, but with the designer staying in the shadows.

*On until September 3, 2016.

Sculpture in city church is a poignant return for Coventry artist George Wagstaffe

A Coventry artist has returned to a church where two pieces of his work already stand, to create a new sculpture which was blessed today.

George Wagstaffe has made a new water stoup for St Mary Magdalen Church in Chapelfields in Coventry, the ‘church with the blue roof’ on the corner of St Thomas Whites and Hearsall Lane.

An exhibition of his recent work including preliminary drawings for the design of the stoup, plus some older pieces, were put on show at a cheese and wine evening in the church’s Magdalen Centre, where George was also present to talk to parishioners about his work.

His works already in the church are a tall stand for the Paschal Candle, and a Mary Magdalen sculpture, which was dedicated on September 28 2003. George was working on this when the Twin Towers were attacked in New York on September 11 2001, and this influenced his work, with the bronze cast to reflect the light to appear as if she is weeping. A personal tragedy influenced his planning for the stoup, as during the 18 months he was working on it he was caring for his ill wife, and then mourning her loss.

Some of his paintings from this time reflect this, with previous motifs of a woman and horse returning, but now with the waters of separation flowing between them, and a trinity of trees on the hill, in one piece called Atonement.

George said the eventual design for the stoup, which is cast in bronze, represents the wood of the Cross, the sun and the moon which are a constant, and when worshippers dip their fingers in they are touching the thorns of the crown of thorns from the crucifixion. The design includes the constant flow of water, and laurel leaves.

The design is detailed and meaningful, and comes from deep personal feelings and a lifetime of work in Coventry, and fits in well with George’s two other sculptures in the church. It was blessed in a service at 10am today.