The group exhibition Sanctuary is to be held in St George’s, an 18th century former German Lutheran Church, in London’s Aldgate. Sanctuary is supported by The Historic Chapel’s Trust and is held in conjunction with the citywide architecture festival Open House London, where outstanding and usually closed-off buildings across the capital open their doors to the public.
John Baldwin, Anika Carpenter, Julie Fagan, Sarah Gladden, Thomas Jacobi, Matthew Krishanu, Maggie Lambert, Tom Palin, Chiz Turnross
The exhibition interprets the phenomenon of sanctuary in a two-fold manner. Firstly, artists’ paintings, prints or sculpture, that figuratively represent motifs of sanctuary, such as journeys of refuge, remote dwellings or private interiors. Secondly, site-specific architectural interventions that engage with and highlight St George’s Church itself and its physical, historical and symbolic role as a sanctuary.
The Open House festival is not simply a platform for the exhibition; it also functions as a context, underpinning the temporal and architectural associations inherent within notions of sanctuary. Furthermore St George’s is itself a spiritual sanctuary, and the result of a refugee influx, in particular during the Nazi period in Germany, the church’s pastor, Julius Rieger, established a relief centre for Jewish refugees from Germany, who were provided with references to travel to England.
Sanctuary is a shifting mental and physical state or place that is defined by its opposition to another. It is often sought but rarely found. The desire for it is born out of both negative and positive drives, a traumatic experience or feeling of restlessness, a longing for isolation or peace. It takes many forms, from a country to a cave, far away or close-by; a host must offer it, a journey must be made, the solace it provides is dependent and the choice to leave or remain is indefinite.
This exhibition seeks out sanctuary, expounding it as twofold and contingent phenomenon: looking inwards, purging and strengthening the interior, but always provided by and in communion with someone other or someplace elsewhere.
St George's German Lutheran Church, 55 Alie St, London E1 8EB
Artists and Artworks
Julie Fagan’s Tales from The Waiting Room series, uncannily pairs a row of beach-huts with a clockwork diving board. Built in layers of muted yet luminous acrylic hues on expansive canvas planes, these paintings are evocative launch pads to moments of contemplation and aplomb.
In Retreating. Revealing. Anika Carpenter has remodelled the rooms of the flat she shares with her partner, stacking them one on top of the other, forming a jenga like tower that stands head height. Two hearts under one roof that can engender in the artists words ‘seemingly conflicting feelings, both secure and exposed’ – a haven found in, but subject to another.
Tom Palin’s jarred and muddy Lynchian oils of perched cabins or nooks under bridges, capture the feelings of disquiet and poignant journeys undertaken, that often accompany quests for sanctuary.
Mathew Krishanu’s in situ portraits of sequestered sitters are hauntingly enigmatic and unaffected studies of introspection and vulnerability.
Photographer Maggie Lambert’s series of other-worldly landscapes ambiguously oscillate between the dystopian and utopian – places to flee or places of refuge. Beside hang the day-glo series Asylum Seekers, eyes obscured, inversely intimating the burka. Alongside this work is a book (cover by Lambert) entitled Mournfully Flows the Tigris by Kurdish writer Diyar Budak, which chronicles the author’s imprisonment and torture by Turkish authorities and eventual fleeing.
Chiz Turnross presents oil paintings on cross sections of tree trunk depicting masked anti-hero loners, from Pierrot to Doctor Doom, wandering in romantic and melancholic landscapes.
Thomas Jacobi’s bold calligraphic works on rice paper were produced by the artist in Fujian, China and are part archaeology, part ritual. He selected stone, brick or clay from soon to be demolished dwellings, some dating back to the Ming period, and laboriously grinded them over days to form a pure pigment to paint with.
John Baldwin will install over a hundreds tiny highly coloured ‘broken’ paintings composed of ‘squirts’ that evoke cosmic constellations or tropical waters.
Sarah Gladden delicately intervenes almost invisibly with some of the unnoticed functional aspects of the church’s interior, inspired by the forms of the stain glass windows and ambience of the space.