Wednesday, 23 March 2011


            ST JOHNS CHURCH, WATERLOO 23.3.11

‘Can incendiary thought-provoking art bring an end to poverty, from the dust towns of Afghanistan to the forgotten tenements of Liverpool and London’s East End?
If Mel Howse has anything to do with it, the answer is yes’. This is the opening sentence from a recent blog by Alison Jane Reid on world_593.html

This glorious pair of bowls, reduced by the image to look like finger bowls, is in fact big enough for a small child to bathe in. It’s made of enamel on steel. Christian Aid, an international development charity working with all faiths and none in over 50 countries, commissioned it as part of their POVERTY OVER campaign. It’ll be on tour for the next two years. Presently it’s at St Johns Waterloo and moves to Ely Cathedral on May 7th (2011). 

Like Ian Davenport’s Poured Lines, it’s another example of a dynamic collaboration between great, innovative art, this time from a master glass painter, and manufacturing excellence, this time British, not German. The giant kilns she used at the firm of AJ Wells in Newport on the Isle of Wight. are the same as those used make London Underground’s iconic signage. Howse says she ‘likes working in industrial environments because it allows me to achieve results I could never attain in a studio’.

She also says that she is ‘very drawn to surrealism’. One of her cousins was Paul Nash, probably best known as a war artist, but also the person who organised the first international surrealist art exhibition in London in 1936:, So we have two giant all-seeing human eyes, a surrealist motif. According to the campaign publicity, the one at the top 'stares challengingly at us. This eye is society’s conscience’. The one below is partly hidden but as you move towards the sculpture  you see it looking up at you from the base. ‘The eye of the poor – unseen from a distance and lost as we walk away.’
It looks as though one bowl has power over the other – but essentially they're the same. ‘Poverty is staring at us and we are uncomfortable’.

POVERTY OVER is a bold campaign slogan. (Alas I didn’t even see pOVERty OVER at first).  But one good piece of news at the moment is that poverty worldwide  has fallen faster in the last 50 years than in the previous 500.

And it was an encouraging moment when the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon  ventured recently into a cautiously optimistic frame of mind. He said there was ‘no question but that poverty could be ended’. It would, he said, require ‘an unswerving, collective long-term effort’. This art work is a piece of Christian Aid's world wide involvement. 

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