Resilience in Clay: Reflecting on a Legacy at Chichester Cathedral - a guest blog by Artist Kate Viner

30th Aug 2023
News category
Art and Music

Sussex based sculptor, Kate Viner is a figurative artist. Her practice revolves around shared human concerns with themes of religion, women and war, and the relationship between them. She works with a diverse range of materials and techniques, casting in bronze, clay, glass and acrylics. Kate is the artist behind our summer exhibition, Resilience in Clay, a collection of sculptural works that celebrate human diversity and strength.

“Reflecting on the legacy of my exhibition, I'm filled with gratitude and hope. This artistic journey has etched an indelible mark on my career as an artist and sculptor, weaving a tapestry of transformation and connection across all involved – from those who sat for my sculptures to the sacred walls of Chichester Cathedral.

Legacy for the Sitters

The legacy for the seven people who graced my studio will be different for each of them, but I hope they feel pride in what we have achieved together. Sculpting their forms, they were not just models but active participants, contributing words etched into the clay expressions as well as the plaques below the sculptures. 

“It’s a completely original project, something that teaches us an important lesson, that no matter where we came from or what kind of background we carry, in the end we are all human. Instead of misjudging a person based on skin colour or place of birth, it is better to first see that person as a human being and let them introduce themselves by what they have to say, by their thoughts and talents.

“In my country we have a famous poem which is always a good reminder for me, it says: 'Human beings are members of a whole, in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members' unease will remain.” Feedback from one of the sitters. 

Integrating into a new community is about legacy, not just survival. Embracing diversity in our community means rediscovering forgotten aspects of our humanity. This was immortalised in the Zine, created by sculpture subject Donya with contributions from Sanctuary in Chichester community members. You can read more about Donya’s experience here.

Legacy for Chichester Cathedral

Throughout its history, Chichester Cathedral has embraced its role as a physical sanctuary as well as a sacred place of intellectual and emotional solace. This enduring commitment is interwoven into the Seeking Sanctuary trail that accompanied the exhibition. Notable examples, including a concert in support of Sanctuary in Chichester with the University of Chichesteras well as adult and family workshops and symposium event, stand as powerful demonstrations of the Cathedral's dedication to inclusivity and active community engagement.

In harmony with the Cathedral’s Vision (which responds to the Four Dominican Pillars of Prayer, Study, Mission and Community), this exhibition is a testament to the boundless love of our local community, a vibrant celebration of diversity and inclusion, and an embodiment of the joy that stems from fulfilling the Cathedral’s mission. This legacy echoes the vision of Bishop George Bell and Dean Walter Hussey, where art becomes a vehicle to welcome people from all faiths and backgrounds to contemplate, reflect, and gain a deeper understanding of our place in the world.

Legacy for Sanctuary in Chichester

Resilience in Clay echoes Sanctuary in Chichester's aspirations of highlighting the incredible strength, perseverance, skills, knowledge, lessons and love that people feeling adversity of all kinds bring to our area. From amplifying voices to raising awareness, this exhibit distils Sanctuary’s message.

The charity’s Women's Group left a special legacy with A Common Thread, a collection of artworks on display in the Cathedral that express personal and cultural values through words and imagery. Every week, relationships strengthened, communication elevated, and new members joined. A Common Thread encouraged mutual growth and respect among everyone involved in the group, including me. 

As Sanctuary in Chichester empowers those seeking refuge from persecution based on conflict and religious, social and or ethnic discrimination, Resilience in Clay's impact will hopefully inspire visitors to volunteer, advocate, and ally on the broader issues of displacement and the refugee crisis.

Legacy for Visitors

Witnessing the overwhelming response from the public was truly wonderful. From long-time refugees finding belonging to individuals in quiet reflection, Resilience in Clay fostered great empathy. Each sculpture allowed visitors to meet another's gaze and recognise common desires: a yearning for safety, freedom, and community.

This exhibit has connected diverse lives, invited conversation, and unearthed shared experiences. Noted by me and the Cathedral team, visitors spent time captivated by the narratives and their own emotions. Returning visitors, often bringing someone along with them, highlighted the enduring impact. Among comments left, one sentiment stands out: “If life was a ball of clay, we could remould the world.” This summarises the legacy – an invitation to shape an empathetic world.

Final Thoughts 

Resilience in Clay demonstrates the power of art, faith, and human connection. Through its legacy, it testifies to our shared ability to shape a brighter future. My hope is to expand the exhibition, welcoming subjects from the expanding number of cities of Sanctuary. As Resilience in Clay journeys to other locations, its message will reach more hearts and minds across diverse communities.” 

Resilience in Clay on Film

We are delighted to present a short video about the stunning and powerful Resilience in Clay sculptures that graced our Cathedral this summer. The exhibition left a lasting legacy on all those involved including the artist Kate Viner, the sitters and our Cathedral team, whose voices are all featured in this film.

Supported using public funding from Arts Council England

30th Aug 2023
News category
Art and Music