Artist's response to warmth and welcome of Chichester Cathedral

Diane Maclean (photo by Jim Holden)
Diane Maclean (photo by Jim Holden)

Artist Diane Maclean instantly felt the warmth and the welcome when she first visited Chichester Cathedral.

She is hoping the qualities are reflected in Thresholds, her new exhibition of large-scale sculptures in the cathedral, on show until Sunday, September 30 with free entry.

A Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, Diane’s work is a partnership between art and engineering that incorporates light, colour and a sense of motion to draw the spectator in. Created as a direct response to its location at Chichester Cathedral, the exhibition consists of five separate steel structures placed in, and around, the Cathedral – taking visitors on an inspirational journey around the 900-year-old place of worship. The idea is to explore powerful themes of transformation. The majority of the pieces have never been seen before and have been made specially for the free exhibition.

Among the pieces on display is Circle of Light, located in the North Transept, where over-six-feet-tall steel columns bathe the onlooker in a sanctuary of light. Paradise – the sacred central area of the Cathedral’s Cloisters – is host to the Road Untravelled, a thirty-metre slim river of gleaming stainless steel that visitors will be able to walk alongside.

Other pieces in the exhibition include: Resting Wing, a single wing resting on a stone tomb in the South Aisle; Trinity, three circles carefully suspended above the Arundel Screen; and the exhibition title piece, Thresholds – three large portals, or doorways, positioned on the South West Lawn, gesturing the viewer towards a mysterious personal journey.

“I made the sculptures for the cathedral, which was quite an undertaking,” Diane said: “I went to the cathedral and walked around it. I had never been there before, and I loved the feeling that it was so ancient and a sense of belonging to the past, that people have been worshiping there for more than 900 years. The buildings have changed, and things in the interior have accumulated, but you get this whole feeling of antiquity. You get a warm feeling. I live near St Albans Abbey which is sterner and more huge. I think the space in Chichester is very welcoming in a way.

“And I think people have reacted very enthusiastically to the exhibition. I think they feel that the sculptures fit into the cathedral and that they belong in the spaces. People particularly like seeing the changing light in the suspended sculpture, Trinity.

“I was guided by suggestions. I had proposed to make a sculpture hanging above the screen. That looked to me like a lovely empty space, and that was agreed, and I made a sculpture for the top of one of the tombs, and in the North Transept I made a sculpture that you can walk into. I wanted to have a feeling of participation. Two of the sculptures you can walk into. The Road Untravelled on the ground in Paradise is pieces of stainless steel that I have used before, but in different formations. I had to transform them to make them right for the cathedral. I think people do feel ownership of the cathedral. People come to visit it from other countries. I don’t really feel privilege so much as honour. It has been wonderful to be offered this chance. When you are doing an exhibition in a gallery, it is all about you. When you are doing an exhibition in a cathedral, it is all about the cathedral. I have enjoyed using the light. Most of the sculptures have light incorporated into them.”

Open daily and entry is free.

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