Oxford-based day and boarding school Rye St Antony is preparing for a creative start to the new year with a huge art project in collaboration with Christ Church Cathedral.
Work is already well under way for the Year 5 pupils under the direction of the school’s Head of Art and Design, Jenny White. For the Week of Prayer for Unity (Wednesday 18 to Wednesday 25 January) and with the help and inspiration of the Oxford-based celebrated artist Nicholas Mynheer, young people from across the city have been invited to participate in an art project which depicts the need to care for creation. It is a way of acknowledging that much division and disunity in our world arises from consumption, greed and wastefulness in contemporary society.
A six-panel art installation (each panel measuring 2.2m x 1.2m) will explore the most basic of the earth’s resources featured in the creation story (light, water, land, air, shelter and sustainability) highlighting how human suffering can be alleviated and disunity between people and nations reconciled by addressing these most basic threats to our planet.
Rye St Antony’s contribution to the installation will follow the theme of shelter. The creation will sit within the six-panel installation and will be displayed at Christ Church Cathedral from 18 to 25 January. The panels will provide a focal point for the Service of Unity on the evening of Sunday 22 January. Children from the groups who have shared in the creation of the panels will also share in the leadership of the service by taking readings and prayers.
Commenting on the school’s contribution to the project, Rye St Antony’s Head of Art and Design Jenny White said, "Each of these panels will seek to draw connections between the story of creation in Genesis and the contemporary challenge to overcome hostility and division by caring for the planet. Here at Rye, we are delighted to be taking on the theme of shelter. The children’s idea to develop a background of harmonious colours was an inspirational starting point, and they also discussed shelter in the form of trees. As the pupils’ ideas progressed, the tallest member of the class laid down on the canvas and her classmates drew around her and her outstretched arms which formed the foundation of our painting.
The other members of the class added their own arching arms and curved hands until it gradually turned into a tree shape, which became shelter for a pair of doves. The doves are in silhouette and the tree is energetic and vibrant. Our Year 5 pupils have thrown themselves into this project and we are absolutely thrilled to be involved. Through their involvement, the children have been thinking about conserving the natural habitat and sheltering the vulnerable, and have enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences.”
St Andrew’s Primary School in Headington, St Margaret’s Church Art Group and St Barnabus Primary School are among the other groups taking on a panel each. Each group was free to choose whatever style they wished to create their panel, but the same white cloth background was provided to each to allow for consistency in the final production. The aim is to capture the beauty and interconnection of life on earth and to imagine, in the face of so many threats to life, how we can cooperate with each other to nurture, restore and reconcile the world.
Jenny White concluded, “Being asked to submit a group painting by Christ Church Cathedral is a wonderful opportunity, and we are delighted be involved in the Service of Unity on the evening of Sunday 22 January. We are also looking forward to finding somewhere big enough to display the painting at school when we get it back in February! The completed panels will be a culmination of lots of hard work by the six participating groups. The artwork expresses the pupils’ reflections, feelings and insights through shape, form and colour and it is a wonderful celebration of the children’s creativity and spirituality through the arts. I am sure that the size, colour and quality of the panels will transform the Cathedral and the overall effect will be striking.”