Eloise Hopkins the project artist writes about each piece of artwork created for Spaces.
St Mary De Crypt
As the project artist, I was given an open brief. Sitting in the cool, ancient space of the very first building a plan began to appear. I would work on creating 8 art tiles - one for each space. I sat in a pew as it happened around me, tea lights and voices swirling in that ancient space, sacred. By the end of the project, the tiles have emerged into a pleasing patchwork of colour and images, echoing the collaborations happening all around me and infused by the music being made in Spaces.
Back at home I played that first track on repeat, the sound of voices and strings weaving into my work. I was taken with the shadows in that ancient space. The shadows that have emerged through centuries and the shadows that we cast. I painted a watercolour background, inspired by the old stone and the words sung out by the choir. I sketched patterns of high stone arches letting the light in and they became silhouette.
Inspired by the intricate wooden detailing. Swirls of metal covering an old door in lino print
St Michael’s Tower
The track is an ode to Æthelflaed, 11th century warrior queen. JPDL’s lyrics and my painting began to feed into each other. A symbiosis that became characteristic of working on the Spaces project. George’s collaboration of artists inspiring each other to go further. The tile is a section of my larger, icon inspired painting of Æthelflaed.
It started with darkness, black gesso splashed onto the blank canvas. I plotted some dots in white pencil to guide me, the canvas now looked like its own private constellation.
The negative image began to appear, white marks on the dark background. Æthelflaed stepping out through history.
She is framed in an archway taken from St. Oswald’s Priory – her Priory. The rolling hills behind her are made from maps, both of how the country and Gloucester would have looked in her time and how it looks today - the ‘Long Now’. Above the archway are extracts from her Father, Alfred the Great’s, will. The small design at the top of the arch and the large halo behind her are inspired by 10th century jewellery.
Her elongated features echo the ‘icon’ style. She is holding a sword in her left hand, indicating her triumphs in battle. Her right hand is making the shape of a ‘Christogram’ – the original sign of the cross. The fingers form the Greek letters ICXC, an abbreviation of Christ. This sign can be seen in renaissance art and is still used today by priests in the Eastern Orthodox church as a gesture of blessing. I read that this gesture is also seen in Hindu and Buddhist traditions as a symbol of healing.
At the bottom of the canvas is the word ‘Spaces’ picked out in Anglo-Saxon runes.
Detailing from the tower ceiling on copper paper and silhouette.
This is the youngest of the 8 Spaces. It’s almost a blank space, waiting for performers to shape it. The song here speaks of love remaining when all else fades away.
The circles are inspired by the spotlights converging on the stage. But they’re apt for talk of God (which can be read as Love) too (‘God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference is nowhere’). The pinpricks round the edge let the light through.
Clay tile, a star for the performers.
Alternative circle colour combinations.
This track is all about one of Gloucester’s historical figures – Jemmy Wood, owner of Gloucester Old Bank in the 18th Century. He was known as the Gloucester Miser and may have inspired the character of Scrooge.
This is based on an 18th century print. I drew him using charcoal and then smudged it, as he fades into history.
George’s vision for this Space was of monks working in the Scriptorium, scratching on velum with ink and feathers. It reminded me of a story my Dad told me as a child – of a 9th century monk working hard but stopping to write a poem, an ode to his cat Pangur Ban, in the margins of his manuscript.
I played the track on repeat and the words, “Through corridors of stained glass light…”, echoed through my work. This tile is taken from a larger painting I produced.
The stained glass blocks reference books in a library. The manuscript the monk is working on contains the actual Pangur Ban poem and the top corners have rubbings from Blackfriars stonework. Around the top are words from a translation of the original poem, "so in peace our tasks we ply... turning darkness into light”.
The original painting.
Focus on Pangur Ban
The track recorded in the Cathedral Chapter House is instrumental, the strings do the talking. After listening to the rehearsals, I wandered out to St. Oswald’s Priory with the music playing through my mind. The view of the Cathedral from the Priory caught my attention.
I thought back to Æthelflaed’s time, before the Cathedral was built. As I created the artwork, a translucent image of the Cathedral emerged. Like a reverse echo, a premonition of what was to come, as if Æthelflaed could be looking through time. The Long Now.
The original larger artwork followed by variations
This track issues challenges to us around our welcome of the stranger. The Space has its own challenges. The building’s construction has resulted in a slant. I took lots of photos and one stuck with me as I listened again to the track.
I liked the darkness of the space. The waiting chairs. And the light spilling through. I started this artwork by covering the page in graphite and then erasing sections to bring the light in. I see connections with this and what George has done with the Spaces project, bringing a new way of seeing and being in these spaces...
St. Mary De Lode
The final Space. All my other tiles have been inspired by the building, the spaces themselves and the stories they have to tell. This track is about home and welcome and I wanted it to have people at the heart of the it...
This tile is a close up of a larger artwork. The stained glass is made up of fingerprints from Spaces collaborators. The figures I made using the shape of light cast through a window in the church, so that they are people and light, all at the same time. A silhouette of George’s hands frames them all, which feels right as he pulled this project together. You can see through the figures to the stained glass and on to the silhouette of the hands. It captures something of the light and spirit of the Spaces project and honours the ancient space we were part of for a time.
Various distortions of the patterns of light cast through the window.
Two versions of the larger artwork framed by George’s hands.