‘Angels’, an exhibition about the artistic motif of the angel and how it is reinterpreted by contemporary artists today. Together with artworks that are centuries old, the exhibition will feature new works from Iain Andrews, Andy Harper, Liane Lang, Kate MccGwire, and Carolein Smit.

Two medieval works of stained glass provide the initial frame of reference for the traditional angelic motif. One is a roundel from the Duchy of Brabant from 1530 and depicts an angel as a  divine agent, holding the coat of arms of a local family. A second fragment from Northern France in c. 1520 shows an angel holding a scroll. These are the familiar angels of the Western Christian tradition: divine, protective, and benevolent.

This archetype of the angel as a winged, feathered being is reputedly based on the classical sculpture of Nike of Samothrace, currently in the Louvre. This appears in Liane Lang’s photographic print on marble, albeit in the grip of interfering hands, as is typical of Lang’s subversion of ‘Establishment’ monuments. A second work from Lang suggests how these grand ideals can become degraded through use, showing us angels becoming little more than Victorian candelabra simply to lend a sense of pomp to a chapel.

How such imagery changes shape through reinterpretation is also the focus of Iain Andrews’s paintings, in particular with reference to the role of grand belief systems in a secular era. His works in this exhibition look at Old Testament stories such as the prophecies of Ezekiel and Elijah, some of the earliest narrative appearances of angels. Andrews’s paintings playfully distort his source material till they retain merely an echo of their origin, reflecting the vulnerability of the concept of a higher power in a time when every form of belief is questioned.

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Featured image: Kate MccGwire