Saint Paul’s Survives: The burned ink painting of London’s iconic Cathedral

Nicola Anthony, Saint Paul's survives, Incense-burned calligraphy paper with ink drawing, 85cm x 115cm, 2016
Nicola Anthony, Saint Paul’s survives, Incense-burned calligraphy paper with ink drawing, 85cm x 115cm, 2016

Today I will share with you an interesting historical fact (plus a couple of interesting tangents). It’s not a religious post but this happens to be about a Saint – St. Paul, whose feast day is today: 29th June.

Earlier this year I exhibited this artwork which features St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The artwork is a symbol of human survival, resilience and courage, as well as making a stand, and having faith in ourselves and others. As a point of intersection between Singapore and London, the former Supreme Court of Singapore which is now National Gallery Singapore is said to take inspiration from Christopher Wren’s dome design for St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Entitled Saint Pauls Survives (Ghosts of the past), this artwork is inspired by the photograph (also captioned ‘St. Pauls Survives’) published in newspapers after the night raid of 29/30 December 1940, the 114th night of the London Blitz of World War II.

The photograph has become a symbol of British resilience and courage. In the artwork I wanted to combine the darkness of the aftermath of a battle, with the hope of picking ourselves up and looking to the future. I also included some little human figures who could have been the people of the time (from my Grandparent’s generation), the people there today, or perhaps ghosts from further back in the past – London’s history is so rich that many stories can be spotted in the shimmering dust which floats around the Cathedral’s dome. Looking into Saint Paul himself a few other symbolisms come to light in the artwork – he is the patron saint of missionaries, evangelists, writers, journalists, authors, public workers, rope and saddle makers, and tent makers. His feast day is on June 29 when he is honoured with Saint Peter, although he is also honoured on other days throughout the year.

As another side tangent, but also rather important to this artwork… if you look up close you will notice that the circular dots which trace the image’s outlines and textures are not drawn on. The drawing is ink on paper situated on a layer below, and a pure white sheet of fine paper is suspended above the whole drawing. Then, I painstakingly burned in all the holes and perforations on the top layer which reveal the depiction of the cathedral. To burn the paper, I used frankincense incense. The real cathedral survived the Blitz although struck by bombs on 10 October 1940 and 17 April 1941. The first strike destroyed the high altar, while the second strike on the north transept left a hole in the floor above the crypt. The latter bomb is believed to have detonated in the upper interior above the north transept and the force was sufficient to shift the entire dome laterally by a small amount.

Have a courageous day, Nicola


More details of this artwork by Nicola Anthony:

Nicola Anthony, Saint Paul’s survives, Incense-burned calligraphy paper suspended over ink drawing, 85cm x 115cm, 2016

This artwork is part of a body of work entitled Intersectioncreated as a collaboration between poet Marc Nair and artist Nicola Anthony. See the full catalogue of visual artworks here. Artworks from the series available for purchase at Intersections Gallery.

 

Nicola Anthony, Saint Paul's survives, Incense-burned calligraphy paper with ink drawing, 85cm x 115cm, 2016
Nicola Anthony, Saint Paul’s survives, Incense-burned calligraphy paper with ink drawing, 85cm x 115cm, 2016

 

 


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