Quartet join together for Melbourne Festival

Brother SunA quartet of artists are joining together for what promises to be one of the most striking and thought provoking exhibitions at this year’s Melbourne Festival in September.

Thank You For The Rain is the response of the foursome to the Canticle of the Sun by St Francis of Assisi.

Their art may be diverse yet when linked together the parallels of the work of painters Michael Cook and John Rattigan, contemporary calligrapher Elizabeth Forrest and writer Rosalind O’Melia are clear.

The new images and words inspired by the Canticle are breathtaking and most will be seen for the first time at the St Michael with St Mary Church in the town during the September festival.

Michael is a Derby artist who relishes working with a sequence or theme and admits his work has religious dimensions and that he is trying to reinvigorate a tradition of romantic/spiritual art. His paintings are semi-abstract symbolic representations of his thoughts. (See picture above).

“I like to keep a kind of ambiguity to it but my aim is to try to engage with people in a different way. I am asking them to look at something in a way they haven’t before,” he said.

It was his idea to use the Canticle, thought to have been composed in 1224, as inspiration for a new collection of work.

He had no trouble in persuading his Belper-based friend Rosalind to write the poetry as she had worked with him before – most notably on Twelve Mysteries where she responded in writing to his depictions of characters from the four gospels.

It was that 2009 exhibition at the same church in Melbourne that caught the eye of John.

“I was returning to my car a little tired, having already been around the festival, when I decided to go into the church which I didn’t think was even a venue. I was instantly drawn to the work of Michael. It was serious art by a talented artist and I couldn’t believe I had left it until last,” he explained.

The two men have since become firm friends and admire each other’s work. Both have paintings by the other in their personal collections.

John spent many years teaching, 26 of them at Abbotsholme School, and he thinks it may be his work with young people that has influenced his opinion that paintings should be able to appeal to the art aficionado and the uninitiated, the young and the old.

“I like to produce images that can be both playful and serious, abstract and figurative. This means that they usually have a strong decorative element and my most recent work has been very anthropomorphic.”

The Doveridge-based artist is renowned for his monkey and owl series where the birds and animals take on human characteristics all with different moods and expressions.

For the Canticle project he has created a series of circular paintings in his trademark style with birds and his take on references in the lyrics to the moon and the sun.

The fourth artist collaborating with Thank You For The Rain – is like John a member of the Peak District Artisans and she says he introduced her to the work of the others.

She has a love of words combined with a passion for colour and texture and specialises in painting lettering on to her own hand made paper.

Clearly the words from the Canticle offer up the perfect imagery for her visual interpretation as part of her art.

“John had seen my work and knew what I did and felt Michael and I would be interested in one another’s work,” said Elizabeth who lives in Chesterfield.

“I have taken seven verses from the Canticle and produced seven pieces of lettering with the text.”

Elizabeth is also exhibited the seven A1 sized pieces at the Sir Richard Morris Lounge in Derby Cathedral Centre throughout July.

For more information on Michael Cook go to http://www.hallowed-art.co.uk, for John it is http://www.johnrattigan.co.uk and Elizabeth can be found among the http://www.peakdistrictartisans.co.uk. For more details about the Melbourne Festival go to http://www.melbournefestival.co.uk

The work of Elizabeth Forrest
John Rattigan
John Rattigan