Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Flax Bourton, North Somerset

There is a rule of Sculpture Seeking, viz. that if you come to a T junction in a village, you are more likely to take the direction away from the church you're looking for, regardless of how much logic and deliberation you apply. So it was when we finally rolled into Flax Bourton (that we had already been lost was entirely down to my overconfidence in navigating roads out of Bristol).

So when we arrived at the church on this hot day I was already a bit flustered and irritable. The church is right on the main road - probably the closest to a road that we've ever seen. It's got a wall built in front of the door so you can't walk out into the juggernauts (and previously the horses and carriages). Someone has paid for a rather nice glass door to seal the porch off from the noise and pollution. Seeing this, I foolishly thought that it might mean a warm welcome.

No, it didn't. The door was locked. I could lean on the glass and squint under my spread fingers to try and look in without reflections. I could even see the carving. But the door was locked.

I just want to ask, WHY? If you don't want people to steal all the presumed gold candlesticks in the church, why not lock them away like all the other churches we visit? But even if you lock the church itself, why can't people even get into the porch? Is Flax Bourton really the centre of an international crime ring focused on church porches? No-one can even get into the porch to read the noticeboard. I know I'm a heathen and you might only want to let in good members of the congregation that come to services on a Sunday - fair enough. But mightn't Christians want to pop in at other times?

I was disappointed.

We went to the stone circles at Stanton Drew instead. They were fully accessible.

You can see photos on Deborah Harvey's blog. She gets a bit carried away and calls them Saxon - I think as they match so many things we've seen, they're almost certainly Norman. She shows there are more lovely carvings inside the church - not least a cat and a winged legless dragon (these are also misbilled as Saxon). The latter is the first we'd have seen in my recollection. I think it's called an Amphiptere. It would have been an exciting moment. Here's a picture of one to make up for all that disappointment.

From Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art by J Vineycomb.

Bristol cathedral

CC unicorn by Anders Sandberg

After a delicious lunch at the Watershed, B and I hauled ourselves up the slope to the cathedral in Bristol. The square outside is home to two amazing gold unicorns. It's not every day that you get to see even one gold unicorn. But here are two, raising their front legs in a very lively pose.

There's a lot of unicorn imagery about at the moment. They seem very popular. And rightly so. But I'd like to point out something about them that I found out while trying to track down what a winged but legless dragon is called (see Flax Bourton) - it's from the same book, 'Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art'. You can't quite see on the photo above, but look elsewhere (eg on Urbina Vinos) and you will distinctly see the cloven hooves! Oh no, unicorns don't have hooves like horses. They have feet like a stag. Don't ask me why though. It's just how they roll.

But we weren't there to see the unicorns. We were there to view the Romanesque architecture.

Monkton Farleigh, Wiltshire

copyright Rhiannon 2017
Finally, a finished piece of work emerges from a sketch made long ago. This is a lino cut, hand cut and printed on the kitchen table. I'm pleased with it.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Cold Aston, Gloucestershire

We don't often meet people at the churches on our travels, and when we do they're generally welcoming and either we exchange pleasantries or have a little chat about our shared interest in the building. As we stood drawing in the porch at Cold Aston, though, a long trail of tinies from the adjacent school trooped into the church and took their places in the pews. I shouldn't mind this, should I. It's an example of the church Actually Being Used. But I didn't like it. Now I can't say I know much about children, but I do know that I was once one of them. And when I was five I had a soft, receptive, gently forming brain. I seem to remember I liked filling it with dinosaurs and trips to the swings.

It's not that I don't think that children should get a education in Behaving Nicely to their Fellow Man. Of course a bit of moral guidance is the way to encourage a nice society where we all help each other and think about others. But I just thought it was very odd that they were shuffled into the church, as though talking about being helpful or kind or whatever it was, couldn't be done in an ordinary setting. As though by going in the church, God would be watching. The teacher (she was wearing a football strip, bizarrely) seemed to switch between that patronising slow sing-song voice some people use with small children, and then swooping on individuals to berate them for their fidgiting or previous misdemeanours. I thought the whole thing was rather creepy, it didn't sit well with me.

I don't know what I'm trying to say really. But it didn't seem quite right to be moulding such small children's minds using the building in that way. It wasn't the same as going there of a Sunday with one's parents to listen to the vicar.

Anyway. There were some interesting bits of carving at Cold Aston. The tympanum was an all-over repetitive pattern (I admit photoshop has helped me with the above depiction) with some rather familiar style weaving foliage underneath. This was very well preserved and rather nice.

Also there seeemed to be a bit of knotwork in the porch - one assumes Anglo Saxon. You can see the collection of bits and pieces here on Britain Express. I always like to see a bit of Saxon knotwork, and because they're quite a challenge to draw, they're always especially satisfying to have a go at. Various descriptions on the internet mention "entwined serpents" but I fear this is overly optimistic. B and I have seen quite a few serpenty examples and this one wasn't doing it for us. But we both felt that there might be little clasped hands - as we independently came to this conclusion I set some store by it.

There was also a Maperton-esque little head, which B drew.