Thursday, 24 December 2015



Instead of the holly, the ivy, and the mistletoe - and the Christmas tree ablaze with lights  -  the birth of the Christ child  is marked in this beautiful Wren church by an abandoned rubber dinghy and a handful of life jackets slung from the roof.

 It's the work of the  war artist and portrait painter Arabella Dorman. She  has  worked in Afghanistan and Iraq, and went to the Greek island of Lesbos this summer. She knew that the crossing was being used by refugees from the conflict zones she had visited and found it "overwhelming”.  

This relic of  a rough crossing - salvaged from a beach scattered with life jackets - is her attempt to bring the crisis home.  In fact, the people who crossed the sea in this particular boat were very fortunate. 62 people set out from Assos in Turkey to cross six miles of turbulent sea in this boat made for just 15, and they arrived safely.  The title of her work Flight  has a special resonance with Christians, recalling the word Exodus  and the story in the New Testament of the flight of the Christ child to Egypt to escape the Massacre of the Innocents by King Herod.

Arabella Dorman writes 'My interest lies in the men, women and children behind the headlines. The individual stories behind the politics.  I attempt to illuminate and reveal  the human face of conflict, in essence I seek to find God in the darkest corners of evidence'.

Jonathan Jones writes very powerfully about this image in the Guardian.

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