Where the sacred inhabits the ordinary
Manchester's residents and visitors are being encouraged to seek silence and stillness in their busy city through a stunning art trail this Lent
The PassionArt "Be Still" festival features key Lent themes such as stillness, temptation, prayer, mindfulness, compassion, solitude and grief in six of the city's most iconic sacred and secular venues.
The exhibits are a mix of contemporary installations, paintings, sculpture and live performances by internationally-renowned and local artists.
'Seeking silence and stillness in a busy city is a spiritual exercise that all can explore,' said curator Lesley Sutton, who has served in ministry in the city of Manchester for the past 28 years and is a member of LifeChurch in Sale.
'The season of Lent has much to offer contemporary society as a space to pause, reflect mindfully and learn to live more simply and compassionately within the stresses and activities of everyday city life.
'The selected and commissioned art works highlight themes common to the human condition, loss and bereavement, compassion, solitude, and our longing for peace and stillness.'
One of the world’s most acclaimed ceramicists Julian Stair exhibits his major exhibition ‘Quietus Revisited: The vessel, death and the human body’ in the historic setting of Manchester Cathedral, exploring rituals around death and burial through his monumental life-size body urns and contemporary sarcophagi.
St Ann’s Church hosts Manchester’s first digital altar piece entitled Veneration Bell by Welsh artist Adam Buick; a 16 minute video projection of hand thrown ceramic church bells suspended in sea caves around the coast of Pembrokeshire chiming at different states of the tide as the sea crashes against the cave walls.
Bells are a universal symbol of the sacred and Buick’s placing of them acts as a homage to nature, drawing attention to the beauty of the surrounding landscape. St Anns will ring their Angelus Bell at midday throughout the season of Lent, a call to stillness for the city.
Other works include:
• Paintings by Ghislaine Howard, Woman of the Year 2008 at The John Rylands Library examining being present and compassionate to the moment,
• Norman Adams’ much admired Stations of the Cross at the Hidden Gem,
• Works by Antony Gormley, Edmund de Waal, Gwen John and GF Watts at Manchester Art Gallery exploring stillness and solitude
• And a series of newly commissioned conceptual word art by local artist Micah Purnell critiquing contemporary culture in relation to the temptations of Jesus in the stillness of the wilderness will be on display at Ziferblat in the Northern Quarter.
The art trail can be walked as a full day's pilgrimage or each venue discovered as a single reflection in a lunch hour. Each art work in the trail is accompanied by a reflection and a praxis to help visitors engage spiritually and practically with stillness, prayer and mindfulness.
Lesley curated a similar trail in 2014 that saw more than 7000 visitors engage with the Easter story. Her husband Roger Sutton led Altrincham Baptist Church for 22 years and now has an itinerant ministry leading the Gather network for the Evangelical Alliance. He is also a nominee for the President of the Baptist Union.
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