I was grateful, to be asked in April, to think about the potential for an artwork to contribute to wall-space in a local church’s community space.
In Leicestershire, Birstall village’s Methodist Church buildings are used by many different groups, making them a valuable community space that sees all ages and a variety of activities. A foundation to the many activities and different lives that pass through the space, is an idea of Christian faith. The Christian faith can be multifaceted, the understandings within it can be diverse, but certain ideas are perhaps universal if we look past specific doctrines, ritual, and habits.
- the value of community
- the wonder of growth
- the potential of interactions
- the nurture of seeds
- the beauty of all differing ages
- the blooming of fruit
- the essence of water
- the strength of the cedar
- the core value of parent and child,
- the strength of light and dark
- the power of colour and sensation
I worked on this artwork throughout May. Over that time it grew out of initial ideas, it changed, it needed reconsideration and significant reworking until the current final form was reached.
I came to Leicestershire in 1996. I initially found myself living in Birstall and indeed socialised on the fringe of the Birstall Methodist Church community. Over 20 years I moved in to Leicester and back out to Syston. I still recognise and I’m grateful for the part that Birstall and Birstall people have played in my life.
I find the sense of ‘the natural’ is strong in Birstall. Although Birstall sits on the edge of Leicester’s urban creep, it has its roots in the countryside surrounding it. The Grand Union Canal runs along the edge of the village with Watermead Country Park and lakes. The symbol of Birstall is a Cedar tree – a remarkable 350-year-old cedar tree, standing 100ft tall, can be found in Roman Road which was originally in the grounds of the now demolished Birstall Hall. Incidentally, the Cedar of Lebanon was an important foundational building and lifestyle material in many ancient communities. I notice that the central streets in Birstall are named Beechfiled, Firfield, Oakfield, Elmfield. We also have Poplar, Walnut, and Orchard. These names, and various cultures in Birstall as well as many other English villages and towns, help to remind us of our essential natural roots in this world.
My artwork started with the idea that we are called to share in the ‘abundant life’ available to us. The piece attempts to celebrate the natural ‘way’ in and around us, as well as reflect on the idea of interaction within the world around us. Many people are seeking their place and a way forward amidst life’s confusions. The wisdom of age and the potential of youth, and all the stages in between are essential to making life work. Life comes alive when we commune in community with others. The natural growth from darkness to light is empowering. The journey from our past through hope to a fruitful future and recognition of the gift of ‘abundant life’, is what I hope we wish and pray for all.
The artwork is complete, and I hope for it to be delivered at some point in July.
‘Abundant Life’ Jules Richards, May 2016
Mixed digital composition.
Print reproduction, 906 x 1189mm, (2.9 x 3.9feet)