The Art Diary July 2024 – Revd Jonathan Evens

Art Diary July 2024

The July Art Diary includes exhibitions at Fitzrovia Chapel, Ingleby, The Gallery of Everything, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Cristea Roberts Gallery, The Parsonage Gallery, Wellhouse Gallery, The Fry Art Gallery, Focal Point Gallery, Newlands House Gallery and the Holt Festival which include work by Hayley Barker, Anna Zemánková, Bharti Kher, Miriam de Búrca, Leonora Carrington and Michael Petry, among others. These exhibitions engage with an extensive range of spiritualities, some seeking to reverse long-held perceptions.

The forgotten gods, which have been left for dead in the dust heap of history, are the ones that interest Michael Petry. He says, “I feel like an archaeologist sifting through the sands of time to uncover the old stories, the old myths, the old beliefs on which modern believers act”:

“I have bathed in the spirit of the ancients. Marduk and Thor, Brigit and Ra, and Janus and Seth are only a few of the now-mythologised gods of old. They are no longer held in the respect they were, but does that stop them from being gods? Is it simply time that morphs a god into a myth, and if so, what of the current gods and devils? Will they, too, just become stories told around a campfire?”

Petry’s 2023 exhibition ‘In League with Devils’ at The Dadian Gallery (Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion, Wesley Theological Seminary Washington DC) travels north and east to Maine and New York this summer. The main body of the exhibition is at the Parsonage Gallery in Maine which has several bodies of works dealing with historic and current belief systems. For the main work, a large-scale installation, ‘At the Foot of the Gods’, Petry cast nearly 100 bronze human toes from life from contemporary cultural icons, including British comedy legend Stephen Fry. With ‘Piercing the Barrier’, Petry inserts patinated bronze arrows into the centuries-old beams of the Parsonage, evoking the Catholic saint (and latter-day queer icon) Saint Sebastian as well as the erotic tools of Cupid. Individual works called ‘Gifts of Apollo’ are solid bronze, which are then silver plated before being 24k gold plated. They are Olympian, as they are bronze, silver and gold in one piece.

Petry also presents a series of bronze mirrors. In the ancient world, only the rich could afford to see themselves, as mirrors were expensive and needed daily polishing, usually by enslaved people. Medusa’s mirror will be shown in Maine, and Apollo’s in New York at St Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church. There, his large mirror will engage in a visual conversation with the Christian iconography as it did in the Wesley Chapel (Washington). Apollo was the Greek god of light, and Christ is said to be the light of the world.

These projects are all included in a hardback book, ‘In League with Devils,’ which looks at Petry’s work from 2012 to 2023. The book includes a foreword by Fry, who writes that: “Petry celebrates the ceremonial, memorialises the mythical and acknowledges, honours, and explores the deeper spirits within us whom we all feel and hear yet have always found hard to name—our gods and our devils.”

To many, witches have been associated with evil and persecution for almost 1,000 years. However, a counterview giving rise to an understanding of witches as symbols of power and feminine resistance has been growing for some time. ‘The Witch Burns’ is an exhibition that shows how contemporary art is currently challenging and redefining concepts of power, persecution and piety.

The work of artists such as Sara Berman, Radiohead & Chris Hopewell, Malene Hartmann-Rasmussen, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Zach Toppin and Nooka Shepherd delves into a continuing obsession with witches, female power and proto-religious imagery. By inverting religious iconography and classic Christian imagery, modern feminist thought is brought to the concept of the witch, deconstructing the myth into something different for the 21st century. These approaches help re-evaluate the role and representation of women and anyone deemed ‘other’ in society.

July Art Diary 2024
Sarah Berman. Untitled, 2024, The Witch Burns, Fitzrovia Chapel

This exhibition is being hosted in London’s Fitzrovia Chapel, a Grade II-listed Gothic revival building originally built as a place for reflection and contemplation for staff and patients at the former Middlesex Hospital. Never fully consecrated, it has, over the last decade—after a £2 million restoration—become a key spot in London’s contemporary art scene.  

Director of exhibition curators TIN MAN ART, James Elwes, says: “Centuries of persecution have led to a variety of social fears, informing the artistic expression and representation of women. With this show, we wanted to play with long-standing witch myths to challenge the inherent female stereotypes that still pervade. It’s one of the most exciting shows we’ve organised, and I think has resulted in a playful multi-disciplinary celebration of women and witchcraft that re-appropriates the religious and societal strictures that so often subjugated its practices. It’s an honour to be working with such distinguished and talented artists in this rich and unusual space.”

Miriam de Búrca’s first solo exhibition in the UK, ‘Noblesse Oblige’, features work that explores the legacies of systems of coercion, exploitation and extraction in Europe and the US. The exhibition includes a series of new drawings about burial sites in Ireland designated for those considered ‘unsuitable’ for consecrated ground and glass works made using a historic art form of etching into gilded gold leaf, depicting contemporary landscapes devastated by ecological disasters and recently toppled imperial statues. These themes raise questions about our need, as individuals and nations, to confront the consequences of unhindered institutional power that is now more destructive than ever.

Noblesse Oblige, a nineteenth-century French expression, refers to the obligation of the upper classes to perform duties that the disadvantaged could not. In a contemporary context, de Búrca uses this title to highlight the responsibility of those born into privilege to examine the lineage of their social and economic advantage over others, calling them to action to restore balance.

For her glass works, de Búrca uses a technique called verre églomisé, an art form once popular among the upper and ruling classes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It involves the application of gold leaf onto the rear face of glass. Traditionally intended to produce a perfect mirror finish image, de Búrca allows the gold to crumple, fold and tear, creating unpredictable marks and textures. The warm, otherworldly material of gold does not degenerate or tarnish. It is at once representative of eternity and transcendence and a status symbol that displays wealth, power and opulence.

Working from imagery found in news reports, in small intricate glass works such as ‘German Flashflood and Norwegian Mudslide’, de Búrca depicts homes and landscapes destroyed by fires, uprooted by tornados, flooded or swept away by mudslides, the result of colonisers’ contributions to the current warming of our planet. She states: “I take inspiration from reportage that bears witness to events signifying the current state of systemic and ecological turmoil. Representing these moments from within the aesthetic and material confines of verre églomisé – an art form that harks back to the very power structures that have brought us to this point of existential reckoning – I am joining in the call to confront this legacy and ultimately prompt discussion about where we want to take things from here.”

The exhibition also includes fifteen new drawings from her ongoing series, which responds to burial sites in Ireland called cillíní. These were used for interring unbaptised babies and others considered ‘unsuitable’ for consecrated ground, exiled to eternal ‘limbo’. Unmarried mothers, the mentally ill, unknown strangers, disabled children and suicides were also buried in these unmarked sites. There are at least two thousand unmarked burial sites dotted throughout Ireland, dating from the 1500s to as recently as the 1980s. De Búrca selects samples of plant life that grow from these grounds, which include geographic, territorial or spiritual boundaries, corners of familiar fields, on hilltops, in bogs and forests, in valleys, on cliff edges, on the outskirts of villages, by the side of a road, under rubble, in car parks, farm sheds and front gardens. She makes delicate, detailed studies of each small sample of earth.

By drawing attention to these scenes, she aims to affect the viewer’s understanding. She says: “They say that change can only come when hurt is made public. Once knowledge and awareness are added to the act of looking, so much more can become visible; the hidden story in the picture begins to appear. Metaphorically, I want to bring the viewer to a cillín and tell them what they are looking at until they can no longer unsee it.”

By contrast to De Búrca’s challenges to those with privilege, ‘After the End of History: British Working Class Photography 1989–2024 at Focal Point Gallery explores contemporary British working class photography since 1989. Instead of looking at working-class people, the exhibition explores life through the lenses of working-class practitioners, who have not only turned their gaze towards their own communities but also out towards the world.

2024 marks 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the symbolic end of Communism. The weakening of the Soviet Union in the 1980s prompted economist Francis Fukuyama to announce the triumph of Western Liberal Democracy as the only viable future for global politics. The counter-cultural energies of the 1980s, very often powered up by the alternative ideologies embodied by Communism, produced a collective, coherent, politically engaged generation of working-class artists. But after the so-called ‘End of History’, what became of working-class culture? Who identifies as such, and why? What of the working class creative? What kind of images has working-class life produced in the last 35 years?

‘After the End of History ‘offers a counterintuitive picture of working-class life today, from Rene Matić’s portrait of growing up mixed race in a white working-class community in Peterborough to Elaine Constantine’s documentation of the Northern Soul scene, to Kavi Pujara ode to Leicester’s Hindu community, and JA Mortram’s documentation throughout his life as a caregiver. ‘After the End of History’ explores the challenges and beauty of contemporary working-class life in all its diversity today.

Hayley Barker’s exhibition ‘The Ringing Stone’, like that of De Búrca, features work with environmental and spiritual concerns, only this time with a Scottish inspiration:

“My husband and I visited the Ringing Stone of Tiree last summer. The Ringing Stone was brought to Tiree once upon a time. It has pockmarks carved into it from the Bronze Age, which were used for ritual, but what kind of ritual is unknown. Trekking to this stone across sheep-filled fields along the stunning coast of Tiree, simply visiting this stone was a pilgrimage. But meeting it was arresting! Taking a stone to strike the boulder, then standing back to hear the resonant ringing sound – this took my breath away. I felt myself in the company of countless people before me who honoured this stone being and met to perform some kind of marking of time with word or action. Communion with the natural world, moving through time with rituals to mark our shared physical and energetic lives! – this is what I live for. I wanted to paint the Ringing Stone immediately.”

Barker celebrates the cycle of the seasons in response to the play of light across the four walls of the main space in the old Glasite Meeting House–a building that was designed in the 1830s as a religious space and carefully positioned to channel the shifting light, as if the building were a giant sundial. Her big, bold and beautiful paintings combine apparently prosaic personal details of the artist’s immediate surroundings in her home and studio in LA with an awareness of the time passing and the contradiction of painting as a means of both measuring time’s passage and freezing the moment.

She says: “I tend to experience the subject of my works through a lens of psychology, emotion, dream, and spirituality. I imagine that every hawk, every garden, every moon, and even every craft store has something special to offer on a deeper level. Communion with these things via the painting process allows me to explore the imaginative life of my subject. I believe in the divinity of all things. And I do believe that we are embodied co-creators with the world around us. Time is multi-layered in every single moment, and that moment expands upon closer examination. Delving into this kind of long, slow collaboration with time via the painting process allows me to get to know the already familiar subjects of my work on a spiritual level. It’s a dreamlike place to move into and also an embodied prayer or spell.”

The exhibition is anchored by four majestic paintings of the artist’s garden throughout the year, alongside seasonally specific depictions of other scenes and still lives that play to Barker’s balance of recording intimately personal, often ritualistic subjects that have an invitingly universal frame of reference.

She sums up her practice: “Rituals, to me, are like seasons or cycles; they are a chance to step into a spiritual space, a time apart from time, to mark our places in the cycle of life. Spirals of time and experience are a thread that holds us all in this physical and spiritual world, and we are thus united with all life before and after us. I want to slow down time. I want to take it all in and move with intention. Rituals help with this. I mark time with seasonal mood boards, planting seeds, decorating for holidays, and honouring moon cycles.”

The otherworldly botany of Anna Zemánková is featured in ‘The Secret Lives of Plants’ at The Gallery of Everything, providing a compendium of imagined flora and fauna. For over 30 years, this self-taught Czech artist evolved her voluminous abstracted pastels of a delicate threaded vegetation drawn from the regional histories of folkloric making.

The exhibition reflects the multiple stages of Zemánková’s artistic output and celebrates diversity, discovery and personal identity. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she drew every day before dawn. Inspired by Leoš Janáček and Ludwig van Beethoven, she channelled her energies in a near-devotional style as she sketched, shaded and stitched her botany into being. She called her creations flowers, yet critics today view her work as illustrating an inner life that was replete with psychic symbols and erotic metaphors. She said simply: “I see something, a sort of deep feeling inside. It stays with me, and later, I put it onto paper.”

July Art Diary
Bharti Kher, Six Women 2012-2014. Courtesy the artist, Hauser Wirth Nature Morte and Perrotin. Photo ©Jonty-Wilde-courtesy Yorkshire-Sculpture Park.

Displayed in the Underground Gallery and surrounding gardens at Yorkshire Sculpture Gallery, ‘Alchemies’ is an unmissable, powerful exhibition of sculpture and 2D work by Bharti Kher, one of the world’s leading contemporary artists. The title refers to the ancient practice of alchemy, which included trying to change ordinary metal into gold. Kher’s work has similar ideas of magical transformation at its heart.

Mythology plays an essential role and is a major source of inspiration for Kher, including stories of imagined creatures and spirits who live between worlds, bodies and time. She blurs boundaries between animals, humans, nature, and objects, often resulting in hybrid beings that combine the everyday with the imaginary and the extraordinary. The Underground Gallery houses a powerful group of hybrid figures gathered together – part women, part animals, part goddesses.

Many of Kher’s sculptures were cast from real bodies of women known to the artist. She describes these people as “mythical urban goddesses” who are “part truth, and part fiction, part me, and part you”. ‘Warrior with Cloak and Shield’ conveys the ability to be strong and vulnerable at the same time. Her shield is a huge banana leaf, and her cloak is a shirt hanging from her enormous antlers. Neither appears capable of protecting her. Although her antlers are cumbersome and would impede her movement, they give her an air of magic. She is a contradictory, mysterious, and quietly powerful presence.

‘Cloud Walker’ is inspired by the Dakinis of Tibetan mythology. Meaning ‘sky dweller’ or ‘sky dancer’, Dakinis inhabit the skies and embody all things feminine. They are manifestations of energy and truth that can be peaceful or wrathful. ‘Cloud Walker’ is a fierce and compassionate divinity that exists between worlds, between sleeping and waking, and between life and death. ‘Ancestor’, a mother figure with the heads of 23 children emerging out of her body, is described by Kher as “a mythical and powerful female force that pays homage to the generations before and after her”.

At the top of the garden, the five-metre-high work ‘Djinn’ stands majestically overlooking the landscape beyond. Kher describes the work as an “energy centre” around which everything revolves. The playful yet powerful figure has an enormous bunch of bananas instead of a head. This sculpture is a new development in Kher’s ‘Intermediaries’ series, made especially for the exhibition at YSP.

Leonora Carrington: Rebel Visionary’ reexamines the artist’s work in light of her posthumous success. In May 2024, she became the most successful female artist in UK history in terms of sales: her painting ‘Les Distractions de Dagobert (1945) was sold at Sotheby’s in New York for USD$28.5 million. 

Carrington was an artist who broke boundaries and created imaginative new worlds. She was ahead of her time in covering themes which included feminism, gender fluidity, and environmental concerns. Strongly influenced by Celtic legends, she constructed her own “mythological universe, including fantasy scenes and mystical creatures linked to her own personal story and inner emotional life. Like all the greats, she was a creator in many different directions.  As her long-time friend and patron Edward James said: “She…never relinquished her love of experimentation; the results being that she [was] able to diversity and explore a hundred or more techniques for expressing her creative powers.

Curator Joanna Moorhead explains that Carrington’s life was as surreal as her paintings, and she drew heavily on her own extraordinary experiences in her work: “For many years, this eventful life story – especially her love affair with Max Ernst, and her spell in a Spanish asylum, which fascinated others in her Surrealist circles – have been central to discussions of her work.  But Carrington was no muse.  As she said: “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse… I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.”

The exhibition brings together a wide range of Carrington’s work to show the span of her output across a wide range of media. Loans include a wall of masks, a series of masks made for a theatrical production of The Tempest in the 1950s, original lithographs, tapestries, sketches, sculptures, jewellery, and paintings.  Together, they show the full range of her prolific and original output across a career that spanned eight decades.

A new exhibition at Horndon-on-the-Hill’s Wellhouse Gallery features bold and colourful work from surrealists Terry Orchard and Max Blake. Both are exhibiting some of their deeply imaginative “automatic paintings”.

From his earliest memories, Orchard has loved to draw and paint. Being severely dyslexic, he combines his passion for art and helping others with the same condition. For him, the most rewarding part of being an artist is the need to create art that makes a difference to people and their lives. He currently runs DIS4U with his wife to help people with dyslexia and other conditions that hinder them in their everyday lives.

Blake is a well-known figure in the village, as the priest for Horndon, Orsett and Bulphan. He trained as a painter of oils at Tooting College before becoming a teacher in mainstream secondary schools for 35 years. He can often be found sketching around the village (usually in the local pubs) or walking with his little dog, Scout, always by his side. Many of his artworks are of religious icons, but he also enjoys drawing or painting the village, its people and its birds. 

Essex-born ceramicist David Millidge and Brighton-based alternative gothic sculptor Sam Jacobs are uniting their contrasting art forms in an exhibition at gallery@oxo, which creates a cohesive experience that is both theatrical and tactile. Their exhibition ‘Theatrical Ceramics & Sculptural String provides viewers with a tactile and sensory journey.

Millidge, known for his distinctive figurative ceramic sculptures, offers his new work, ‘The Precious Orbs Collection,’ a glimpse into a world where each unique, handmade ceramic sculpture boasts intricate patterns and forms, inviting viewers to ponder the delicate balance between beauty and functionality. Jacobs challenges perceptions with her self-supporting sculptures crafted from string and rope through macramé and fisherman’s knotting techniques. Her works are a testament to the strength found in vulnerability, reflecting her personal journey and the environment that shapes her.

‘Charles Mahoney: The Pleasures of Life is the most significant show dedicated to the artist since a touring exhibition at the Fine Art Society in 1999. Interest in his work has since enjoyed a steady rise. He was one of the most prodigiously skilled artists of his generation, with former Director of the Tate Gallery, John Rothenstein, calling him “an artist of very exceptional gifts and “a distinguished successor to the finest of the Pre-Raphaelites”.

This exhibition at the Fry Art Gallery brings together works from throughout Mahoney’s career and demonstrates the full range of his artistic vision. It includes preparatory studies for all his major mural cycles, including those for the Lady Chapel at Campion Hall Oxford, as well as superlative views of Oak Cottage and the gardens he so lovingly cultivated there, which inspired his keen, minutely observed botanical works.

The Methodist Modern Art Collection is now available on the Art UK website. It can be browsed, tagged and digitally curated alongside 300,000 other artworks that also feature on the website. Having the collection on Art UK brings the artworks to a wider digital audience. Further, it utilises this world class collection of Christian art as a resource to prompt spiritual reflection and conversation.

To mark the launch, the Methodist Modern Art Collection committee invited Professor Ben Quash (Professor of Christianity and the Arts at Kings College London) to curate a selection of works. Under the title ‘Hand to Hand, Quash encourages viewers to reflect on how focusing on the hands of Jesus Christ can guide our looking at the collection.

Quash writes that this is a “theological hang of sorts. It is structured around three pairings of artworks, with one final work to cap things off: seven works in all. The consistent quality of the Methodist Modern Art Collection makes any selection of some works over others very hard. The thread that binds Quash’s choices focuses on the hands of Jesus Christ, which are movingly prominent throughout the collection.

He writes that: “Hands have always played a special role in visual art, partly because they are proof of an artist’s mettle. They are one of the most complexly expressive parts of the body and some of the hardest to draw, paint, or sculpt, which is why, historically, they invariably remained the responsibility of the lead artist in a workshop even while other sections of a commission were devolved to a team of assistants.

Hands are among the most creative parts of the human body, and Jesus’s hands are no exception. Jesus’s hands touch, work, embrace, heal, bless, and share food. Then, they are nailed to a cross.

For Christians, the killing of Christ’s hands – a nail driven into the heart of each of them in turn – does not kill the divinity in work in them: the divinity that made Adam and that raised Lazarus. Even in death, these hands are still making a new world.

Finally, ‘German Expressionists & The Third Reich’, an exhibition for the Holt Festival, follows the story of Hitler’s purge on modernist culture of art, music and literature. In addition to works by the German Expressionists, it will also include those by artists designated Entartete (degenerate) by the Third Reich. Among them Adler, Arp, Bissier, Bloch, Blumenfeld, Delaunay, Dix, van Dongen, Elkan, Ehrlich, Ernst, Feininger, Goldschmidt, Goroncharova, Gotlieb, Grosz, Hartung, Henri, Klimt, Klopfleisch, Kollwitz, Kupka, Lieberman, List, Lomnitz, Marc, Matisse, Meidner, Mondrian, Munch, Nolde, Picasso, Rohlfs, Rosenbaum, Rouault, Savendy, Schiele and Schwitters.

The exhibition includes substantial loans from the Ben Uri Collection and the internationally acclaimed collection at Leicester Museums and Galleries of early 20th-century German art. The story told in the exhibition is also illuminated by original ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s collages and caricatures depicting many of the key political and other figures by Fritz Josefovicz (Joss), who himself escaped to England from Vienna in 1933.


‘In League with Devils’, 14 July – 31 August 2024, The Parsonage Gallery and ‘Apollo’s Mirror’, 19 July – 31 August 2024, St Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, New York –

‘The Witch Burns’, 2 July – 12 July 2024, TIN MAN ART at Fitzrovia Chapel –

‘Miriam de Búrca: Noblesse Oblige’, 21 June – 27 July 2024, Cristea Roberts Gallery –

‘After the End of History: British Working Class Photography 1989 – 2024’, 3 July – 14 September 2024, Focal Point Gallery –

‘Hayley Barker: The Ringing Stone’, 15 June – 31 August 2024, Ingleby –

‘Anna Zemánková: The Secret Life of Plants, 12 May 2024 – 7 July 2024, The Gallery of Everything –

‘Bharti Kher: Alchemies’, 22 June 2024 – 27 April 2025, Yorkshire Sculpture Park –

‘Leonora Carrington: Rebel Visionary’, 12 July – 26 October 2024, Newlands House Gallery –

‘Terry Orchard & Max Blake: The Inner Eye’, 1 July – 30 August 2024, Wellhouse Gallery –

‘David Millidge & Sam Jacobs: Theatrical Ceramics & Sculptural String’, 25 July 2024 – 28 July 2024, gallery@oxo –

‘Charles Mahoney: The Pleasures of Life’, 6 July – 27 October 2024, Fry Art Gallery –

‘Hand to hand: works chosen from the Methodist Modern Art Collection’, from 27 June 2024, Art UK –

‘German Expressionists & The Third Reich’, 13 July 2024 – 27 July 2024, St Andrew’s Holt –

Lead image: Dig Lazarus Dig, Tim Noble & Sue Webster

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