Monday, 6 December 2010


Victoria  Rance has been involved for some years on works of art for St Andrews, a community and worship space opened in 2006 by Princess Alexandra. It’s on the site of one of several Waterloo churches destroyed by the blitz in World War II. Last week I heard Rance say that in some ways a church is better than a gallery for an artist. Why? Because in church you are expected to respond to what you see. But unlike traditional church art, contemporary art doesn’t force itself on you.

In setting up the commission the vicar, Richard Truss, had stipulated that any art work had to be free standing and movable, as every space would have many uses - worship, community activities, orchestra rehearsals, parties, youth work and theatre rehearsals (the church is in Southbank).  He visited Vance’s studio with Rosa, the oldest member of the congregation, who noticed a sculpture woven from fishing line which she liked. You can see the end result: an upturned boat made of forged steel which has been sprayed with hot copper to add warmth. Blue glass balls are woven into the pattern, hinting at fishing floats and the sea itself (St Andrew was a fisherman). The upturned ‘boat’ also echoes a mandorla, a niche found in church walls which frames figures of Christ, the Virgin Mary and saints in traditional Christian art. The window is Rance's too.
These are the drawings for the other outstanding work: the baptismal font placed in a small walled courtyard outside the worship space. It is mysterious,  neither flower nor fruit nor seed pod, but that curve is tactile, warm and mysterious. The fluted top is at arms’ level – just right for handing a baby over. It’s unusual to have christenings outside. ‘What happens if it’s raining?’ ‘We get wet, which seems not inappropriate for a baptism’. Everyone files out and in that intimate space each person, even the children, get to see both the font and the action. 

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