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The Word Beyond Words


For a period of four weeks around Easter this year, St Helen's Church will house an exhibition of four major art works by our own minister, Revd Ian Griffiths.

Part of a sequence called The Word Beyond Words, they explore a different approach to thinking about God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The works are large – around 4 metres by 3 metres – and will be displayed in St Helen's South Aisle, so the exhibition will be in two parts: from 27 March to 8 April Wil and Hinri, and from 10 April to 22 April Fawkes and Ed.

Ian writes:
The hangings have been given names rather than titles because they encompass more than simple Gospel episodes. Indeed, when they have been exhibited, people have sometimes seen ideas and connections I could never have guessed at. Looking at images can free the viewer from liturgical wordiness to explore what the Gospel means to them.

Wil is short for wilderness. This picture may be a starting point when thinking about wilderness experiences in life and faith, but it can also be an introduction to the idea of retreat into the wilderness ... Like the other hangings it contains contradictions: the desert is inviting, yet stark; it holds life and death, activity and solitude.

Hinri's graphic novel style was selected to portray the graphic violence of the crucifixion. Everyday life in the West – news stories of war zones excepted – is tame and sanitised by comparison with first-century Palestine. This hanging attempts to portray something of Jesus' suffering, and as such it should be disturbing.

'Christ is alive, and the universe must celebrate.' ... Fawkes doesn't attempt a representation of the human form, but indicates a springing up of life, showering blessing. The arms are spread wide to embrace the world. The shape is the Celtic triquetra: it has no beginning and no end, it recalls the fish shape of the ichthus symbol, and reminds us of the essential unity of the Trinity.

Ed is an attempt to wrest back some power and 'otherness' for the image of the Holy Spirit. Often the gentle, safe, sweet dove has replaced all other aspects of the third person of the Trinity. Here we restore the fire and strength, the unpredictability ... So Ed is both Eagle and Dove.

Although the visual imagery transcends language, each hanging will be accompanied by notes providing background, questions to prompt reflection and suggestions for other linked resources.

Everyone is invited to visit St Helen's Church in this Lent and Easter season, and to encounter this artist's meditative approach to the Gospel.

  • The church is open between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm.

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