Saints Alive

Flying solo again, I wandered along to the National Gallery after work this Friday evening.

What did I go to see?

Saints Alive – an exhibition by Michael Landy.

The most interesting exhibition I have seen since Patient as Paper

Why was I drawn to this ? In the dim and distant past the One from Reading and Dulverton, sparked my interest in religious paintings. I became a bit fan of wandering around the National Gallery naming all the saints I could see. Of late, not one of my pastimes but certainly was an enjoyable way to pass the time then!

So I today I stared with my eyes, felt with my hands, pushed with my foot and watched a short documentary to put it all in context.

Did I have a favourite?

Not really…


And what does the National Gallery say about its own exhibition?

A series of large-scale kinetic sculptures bring a contemporary twist to the lives of the saints.

Saints are more often associated with traditional sacred art than with contemporary work, but Michael Landy, current Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist in residence at the National Gallery, has been inspired to revisit the subject for this exhibition.

Landy’s large-scale sculptures consist of fragments of National Gallery paintings cast in three dimensions and assembled with one of his artistic hallmarks – refuse. He has scoured car boot sales and flea markets accumulating old machinery, cogs and wheels to construct the works. Visitors can crank the works into life with a foot pedal mechanism.

Towering over you, the seven sculptures swivel and turn, in movements that evoke the drama of each saint’s life. Saints Apollonia, Catherine, Francis, Jerome, Thomas – and an additional sculpture that takes a number of saints as its inspiration – fill the Sunley Room alongside paper collages.

Totally creative in a way that I have never seen before.

When I walked in, I was greeted by the imposing structure that is Saint Apollinia holding a pair of pliers, tooth in situ, in her hands. Unfortunately this exhibit was not working today so I was unable to see the presumably gruesome sight of said tooth being pulled from it’s roots.

Turning right I went into a little theatre to watch a 20 minute documentary on the story behind the exhibition. Emerging back into the light I felt a little more enlightened went to explore all the other working exhibits.

Donation – in went my five pence piece and Saint Francis of Assisi bashes himself on the forehead with his Crucifix.

Turning right into the main exhibition room

Saint Jerome beats himself with a rock with the touch of afoot pedal

on the wall behind me

Spin the Saint Catherine Wheel and Win the Crown of Martydom – looking much like a giant wheel of fortune we are given the chance to leave our fate with destiny. The wheel is inscribed, in gold, with incidents  from the legend of Saint Catherine e.g.  “mystical marriage to Christ”

Turn around again and I am confronted by

Multi-Saint – a combination of St Michael , Saint Peter Martyr, Saint Catherine, Saint Lawrence and Saint Lucy. I walked around this one a few times. So much to see and take in.

Next to this was

St Francis Lucky Dip – I pressed the red button but I did not win a T-shirt!

Walk a little further and the last exhibit is

Doubting Thomas – use the foot pedal an the finger of Thomas, with a metal tip, punches the side of the torso of the Christ Figure

Amazing – an interesting take on  art and  religious imaginary.


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