For the Advent and Christmas period, Chichester Cathedral has commissioned a major art installation which heralds the heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The artwork, created by Visual Arts Advisor and Curator Jacquiline Creswell, and Artist and Photographer Ash Mills, is an immersive photographic installation, sharing the familiar story of the Nativity in the style of a renaissance tableau.
The Nativity Scene
Characters in the scene have been drawn from local organisations, charities and medical services and paired symbolically to the roles within the Nativity, with angels acting as guardians of health and wellbeing; shepherds as providers of food and resources; the Magi as people who have learned from experience and are now leaders of their community. Each participant was photographed individually, before being edited into the composite image. Participating organisations include BBC Radio Sussex, the Bell Tower Drop-In, Chichester District Foodbank, Chichester Festival Theatre, Heart, Sanctuary in Chichester, Stagecoach, Stonepillow, Wellington Grange and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Further information about the participants can be found here and by using the link below.
The photographic artwork is printed onto sheer voile banners and hung principally above the Cathedral’s historic Arundel Screen, leading into the Nave and Baptistry.
We invite visitors to take a journey; the first voile banner is situated over the Cathedral’s John Skelton font in the Baptistry, welcoming visitors with their first glimpse of the biblical story of Christmas, depicting angels in heaven leading the way.
An 11-meter-long voile banner will then come into view, vaulted above the Nave, directing the viewer to the Arundel Screen, but also providing uplifting images of heaven as we raise our eyes to meet it.
In the arches on either side of the Arundel Screen we see a traditional scene of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus surrounded by shepherds; the arch on the opposite side of the Screen is filled with scenes and characters in the story. One large banner is located above the Arundel Screen, with characters in the story pointing to the new born child. The Star of Bethlehem is represented with an image of the recent Neowise comet which visited close by the earth during lockdown.
The Chichester Nativity will remain on display until the 3rd February 2021. Updates on guidance for visiting safely can be found here on the Cathedral’s website.
As you discover each of these banners, you are invited to scan QR codes on the floor and listen to the story of the Nativity on your own device, narrated by the photographed participants. This will lead through to the Lady Chapel where the Cathedral’s traditional Nativity scene, recently repaired at West Dean College, will be situated.
The installation forms part of the Cathedral’s Advent and Christmas campaign Drop Down, Ye Heavens – referring to the ancient Advent antiphon Roratecaeli: ‘Drop down ye heavens, and let the skies pour down righteousness’.This features a pre-recorded carol service available through the Cathedral website, live-streamed services and online spiritual resources to access from home, which include activities for children and families.
Jacquiline Creswell, Visual Arts Advisor and Curator
Jacquiline was raised in South Africa in a Jewish family, she has an arts background, having trained and practised as a sculptor. Earlier in her career she worked as an Art Director for JWT advertising agency, following on as a Director of a textile design company. She is now a freelance Visual Arts Advisor focusing on curating in Cathedrals. Since 2009, Jacquiline has been responsible for developing Salisbury Cathedral’s pioneering Arts Programme, curating over 45 exhibitions and working with over 70 artists, galleries, foundations and estates including, Antony Gormley, Henry Moore Foundation, Lynn Chadwick Estate, Barbara Hepworth Estate, Hauser&Wirth, Mark Wallinger, David Mach, Bruce Munro and Ana Maria Pacheco among others. She is a trustee of the charity, Art + Christianity, assisting with curating visual art in sacred spaces.
Ash Mills, Artist and Photographer
Ash was introduced to image making by his grandmother, who was an accomplished Dutch painter. He attended Salisbury College of Art, then spent 10 years in film and TV behind cameras, before becoming a photographer. He is a regular at Chichester Cathedral with a great love of capturing the architecture, events and installations. He has also spent many hours designing and painting theatrical scenery so this wonderful project has combined several passions!
Image: Ash Mills