Artist John Rattigan observed that although angels have always been leading lights in Biblical stories, references to their physical appearance are rare.
“That job has been left to artists to resolve,” he said. “Paradoxically, in striving to describe these otherworldly, celestial beings artists have cast them as reflections of human kind, albeit a few steps removed.”
It was his interest in the subject which sparked the idea for The Angel Project for which he invited a group of leading artists from the East Midlands to make a personal response to some aspect of the time-honoured visual conventions or narratives associated with angels.
In addition to personal interpretations, and because of the historical pedigree that surrounds angel iconography – encapsulating everything from medieval stained glass and illuminated scripts, to artists as diverse as Giotto and Fra Angelico, William Blake to Marc Chagall – each exhibiting artist also had the option to use aspects of art history in their work.
Of his own contribution to the exhibition John said: “I couldn’t resist visualising the angels in my work as messengers grappling with the practicalities of being earthbound. Falling angels rather than fallen angels. They sometimes find themselves getting entangled in trees or are seen practising flight manoeuvres (a school for angels). In other versions I envisage them in playful or mischievous moods, dancing or cavorting in their free time or even painting their own halos!”
This project builds on the success of two previous group exhibitions curated by John – A Derbyshire Passion: Stations of the Cross held at Derby Cathedral in 2015, and The Adam & Eve Project which toured the Midlands in 2017/18.
The other artists involved in The Angel Project are Michael Cook, Elizabeth Forrest, Rebecca Mercer (work pictured above), Duncan Pass, Sue Prince, Sarah Sharpe, Anna Thomas and Michelle Holmes.
You may have seen the exhibition at the Melbourne Festival in September but if you missed it or want to see it again it will be at The Manger Gallery, at Kings Newton, near Melbourne from December 1.