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Exhibitions in the Ante-Chapel

Past exhibitions

Three sculptures from the Bible

Tuesday 5 November 2013 - Tuesday 26 November 2013


Artist's Statement
These three sculptures explore some stories and statements made by Jesus Christ, and one that is written about him. I have often been struck by the poetic power of the Scriptures as well as by their meaning and truth, and so, as a Christian myself, I have set out to make objects that will inspire the viewer to consider these texts for themselves.

Paul Hobbs studied Social & Political Science at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and Fine Art at The Byam Shaw School of Art in London. He now lives and works in Gloucester. He has exhibited widely in the UK in galleries, art centres, schools, churches and cathedrals. He frequently leads talks and discussions about his artwork, its themes and his methods of working.



The Darkness Has Not Understood It takes its title from St John’s Gospel Ch 1 v.5, which reads, ‘The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.’ In the context of the opening of St John’s Gospel, the light refers to Jesus Christ, who later in the gospel calls himself ‘the light of the world’ (John 8 v.12). The sculpture, made from flat pieces of plywood that slot together, comprises one central yellow form that dominates six small dark shapes that seem to wriggle and squirm around it.

The yellow shape covered in layered swirls has some of the resonance of the pulsating stars and moon in Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’. Torch-like and fiery, it pushes back the darkness. The dark shapes, variously black, blue, muddy brown and green, are lizard-, snake- or slug-like, slithering around the yellow form. If you follow their forms you will see that each has turned and tried to move towards the ‘light’ but has been forced back and has turned away. They are covered with numerical calculations and writing. Look carefully and you will see that the numbers do not add up – they are miscalculations. The scribbled words have no coherent meaning, except for one on each of the six pieces. Together these six words, though deliberately disordered, will form the sentence ‘The darkness has not understood it’. The darkness is continually seeking to comprehend the light (symbol of Christ) but cannot. It cannot understand what God is doing by sending his Son into the world, ultimately to die on the cross, to save sinners.

A footnote in my Bible offers an alternative translation to the text of the title. It says, ‘the darkness has not overcome it’. The association of the words ‘understanding’ and ‘overcoming’ resonates deeply for me. It is hard, if not impossible, to overcome something if you cannot first understand it. So, for me, it is wonderful to know that the darkness that opposes Christ in this world will never overcome him, because it cannot understand what he is doing.

The Sower quite obviously refers to the Parable of the Sower spoken by Jesus as recorded in St Matthew’s Gospel Ch 13 v 3-9. The figure of the man striding out has more than a nod to the Van Gogh’s images of ‘The Sower’ 1888, with the sun behind his head, and another of ‘The Sower (Sower with setting sun)’ also from his 1888 series.

In my sculpture, the sower strides out across the field, with the sun above his hat, throwing out the corn with his right hand. The billowing, baggy robes of the figure are coloured in a rich heavenly blue, patterned with reds, yellows, whites and blacks. (The lines and blocked areas of colour take much of their energy and fluency from paintings of Joan Miro, such as ‘Morning Star’ 1940 and ‘Figures On A Red Ground’ 1938.) The coloured shapes cascade, as would the seeds from the hand of the sower. His left arm is raised either in blessing or in warning, depending on the choices taken by the listener upon hearing the word of God.

Here is the parable:

‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.’ (Matthew Ch 13 v.3-9)

Gate explores several quotations of Jesus’ regarding gates and entrances. These are wonderful literary analogies, but would they work in 3D? What you see here is a brightly coloured gate, painted in a similar style to The Sower, and set into plain wooden posts. I wanted the gate to be lively - when I showed it once in Kunming, China, people repeatedly told me it had the colours of paradise. The colours here are also reminiscent of the gold, blue, purple and scarlet colours used to decorate the Old Testament tabernacle.


The gate is narrower than the conventional garden gate. The decoration uses a lot of primary colours, which associate it with children. The sculpture relates to four things that Jesus said:

I am the Gate; whoever enters through me will saved.’ John Ch 10 v.9

‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’ Matthew Ch 7 v.13-14

‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’ John Ch 10 v.10.

Whoever will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Luke Ch 18 v.17

You are welcome to go through the Gate, which stands as a visible metaphor of whether we are really wanting to choose God’s way or our own.


The exhibition is currently on display in the Ante-chapel of St John’s College. Everyone is welcome to see it during chapel opening hours.

For further information see: www.arthobbs.com


Scenes from Creation

Friday 24 May 2013 - Tuesday 18 June 2013

Mark was a Research Fellow at St John's following his PhD and BA in Physics at Christ's College. Since 2007, has been the Director of the Auto-ID Lab in the Institute for Manufacturing within the university.

Mark enjoys photographing landscapes and nature and is particularly drawn to islands and coastlines, including New Zealand, Iceland, the Shetland Islands, Scilly Isles, Skomer Island and Corsica, as well as the alpine landscapes of northern Italy and the Pyrénées.

Waterfalls and rainbows inspire him through colour and movement; although rainbows are transient in nature, they have an impressive scale, reaching high above the horizon. When Mark visited the spectacular Iguazu Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina last June, he took the walkway into the middle of the falls and was surrounded by a panorama of cascading water and big bold spectral arcs.

Mark said 'Photography gives me the chance to capture these precious moments, whether using a long exposure to transform rushing water into silky threads, or a short exposure, to suspend every individual droplet in mid-air. Sometimes the journey will involve a steep ascent of a mountain, hiking through woodland, crossing streams and clambering over boulders.

Sometimes we have to wait days for the weather to clear, especially when planning to hike along narrow mountain paths that fall away steeply at both sides. The sighting of a chamois in a clearing in the woodland can stop hikers in their tracks. People fall silent and move slowly, just to observe a wild animal in its natural surroundings, not wanting to disturb it.

These moments remind us that we are all part of nature and that wild animals also have curiosity, intelligence, playfulness and the ability to communicate and that these characteristics are not solely human. Being surrounded by nature and wildlife is particularly joyful and an excellent way to stay positive, relax and let go of any of life's worries. 'I find human time loses its significance and each day is a new day, with new places to explore and discover, between the rising and setting of the sun the whole landscape acts as a giant sundial, as the sun illuminates different facets of the landscape in its daily journey across the sky. When I'm hiking in beautiful landscapes, I remember that many of these landscapes existed millennia before we were born and hopefully will continue to be as pristine and inspirational to future generations, long after our own brief time on this planet.

I hope that this exhibition, celebrating the beauty of nature will inspire you to re-connect with nature, whether it's a walk through local woodland or travels to a remote island or mountain peak'.

Mark has his own website which can be found here.

Mark's photographs will be on display in the Ante-chapel between 10am - 5pm everyday, until Tuesday 18 June. This exhibition is free to all members of college.

The First Design for the Chapel of St John’s College, by George Gilbert Scott

Friday 15 February 2013 - Sunday 17 March 2013
chapel designs exhibition

George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878) was the most famous and successful architect of mid-Victorian Britain, responsible for many landmark structures such as the Albert Memorial (1863) and the Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras Station (1865) in London, and churches and universities all over the former British Empire, including in Newfoundland, Shanghai, Christchurch and Mumbai. The 1860s were the apogee of his popularity and his creative output, and it was in this decade that St John’s College approached Scott to design a new Chapel and Master’s Lodge, as well as other buildings for the College. Scott was a ‘super-star’ of his time, akin to Richard Rogers or Norman Foster today.

In May 1861, on the feast day of St John at the Latin Gate, William Selwyn (1806-75), a former Fellow of St John’s, gave a sermon in the College’s thirteenth-century Chapel. With a characteristic flurry of Old Testament rhetoric, he called for the construction of a ‘more worthy’ place for worship, and partially on account of his efforts, the College decided to embark on one of its most important architectural projects. Scott was, in many ways, the obvious choice for the commission: in the mid-1850s he had built the wonderful Chapel at Exeter College, Oxford, and had a reputation for meeting deadlines and budgets. To the Oxbridge world of the 1850s and 60s he was a reliable, safe choice.

He arrived in St John’s in February 1862 to carry out his initial survey, and presented two options to the College: either the medieval Chapel could be enlarged, which would have retained much of the character and fabric of First Court, or an entirely new structure could be put up. These two alternatives were only evolved to a very basic degree, and we have no clear indication what the extension to the original Chapel would have entailed (Scott only made plans, not elevations, at this stage). The College Council decided on 2 May 1862 to push ahead with the ambitious plan to build an entirely new Chapel, immediately to the north of the existing structure; the old Chapel would in time be razed. Throughout the summer of 1862 Scott worked on his design, and regularly communicated with the College. By December the College Council was able to approve his designs, which we have before us in this exhibition.

The seven drawings in this exhibition are an important record of Scott’s first worked-through design for the Chapel of St John’s College. There are several significant differences between these drawings and the Chapel as-built. The design for the tower was changed by Scott probably around late 1864 or early 1865, but before this had been done the original design was well-publicised, appearing in a full-page engraving in The Builder magazine in March 1863 alongside a small editorial, which noted the ‘unusually important scale, both as regards dimensions and proportions’ of the new Chapel. The seven drawings shown here, dating then from c. 1863, offer a detailed guide to what Scott had originally planned. The Chapel, with its square tower, was eventually consecrated in May 1869.

These beautiful drawings along with more detailed information about the seven ground plans will be on display in the Ante Chapel from Friday 15 February- Sunday 17 March 2013

There will be a free talk on the exhibition, given by Dr Frank Salmon, on Wednesday 13 March at 8pm in the Ante-Chapel. More information...

From Truro to Tokat by the way of Cambridge

Sunday 14 October 2012 - Sunday 4 November 2012
Henry Martyn

The Henry Martyn Centre for Mission Studies, with St John's College.

An exhibition to celebrate the life and legacy of Henry Martyn, Fellow of St John’s, Chaplain to the East India Company, Missionary and Bible Translator on the occasion of the bicentenary of his death at Tokat in Turkey on 16 October 1812 aged 31.

For further information about the Henry martyn Centre please click here.

One Thousand Pots, One Thousand Thoughts, by Yozo Hirayama

Thursday 24 May 2012 - Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Installation

This exhibition entitledOne thousand pots, one thousand thoughts’ commemorates the victims of the Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami which happened on the 11th March 2011. The one thousand pots represents all living beings across time and space. The number one thousand has a symbolic meaning in Japan; it represents infinity or eternity.

The Artist

Yozo Hirayama was born in Tokyo. He went to the Byam Show School of Drawing and painting on the Leaver Hume Scholarship.

He began life as a painter, and has worked with clay, his preferred medium, since 1997. His current exhibition ‘One Thousand Pots One Thousand Thoughts’ was last exhibited at the Brunei Gallery in SOAS London, from February – March 2012.

Much like the Art exhibition of the painted skulls in the Antechapel last term for Lent, this exhibition also has an important wider context. It asks us to reflect on the lives lost during the Tohoku earthquake which took place only a year ago. The choir are touring Japan this summer and as part of their preparations they will be singing a number of Japanese folk songs in the Chapel. This exhibition seeks to link the visual with Japanese music to highlight the tragedy that took place in Japan so recently and the hope of the future.

At the end of Term the Chapel Collection will go to  Ashinaga, a Japanese Charity who work to provide practical support for children who have been dislocated by this Japanese Tsunami.

The Exhibition is free to all members of the College and the University.

The Exhibition can also be seen as part of the College tour, tickets for entrance into the College can be purchased at the Main Gate on St John's Street.

The Stations of the Cross, by Patrice Moor

Thursday 23 February 2012 - Monday 19 March 2012
The Stations of the Cross by Patrice Moor

Patrice Moor makes paintings and installations of paintings. The skull has been central to her work for the last five years. Her work initially was focused on portraits and more traditional still life subjects such as fruit, tulips and wooden spoons. Her work always focuses on one subject, which appears alone and isolated. The atmosphere generated by her work is one of peace and contemplation. The paintings vary in size, ranging from very small to large. She works exclusively in oils and mostly on linen.

This exhibition of twelve 18' x 14' paintings of "The Stations of the Cross" and one other "Untitled" painting explores through the symbol of the skull Christ's journey to Golgotha (the place of the skull). The paintings are meditative and a reminder of our own inevitable death. This is intended by Patrice Moor to be a daily reminder of how precious life is. "The Stations of the Cross" took her one and a half year to paint. Her recent work is concerned with our relationship with death and with our bodies.

Patrice Moor was born in 1959 in Luxembourg and works in London. Her dutch mother has had a great deal of influence on her work. She has exhibited in numerous group exhibitions as well as solo shows. Patrice Moor has been involved with works for charities such as Elephants Parade in London in 2010. She has recently completed a piece of work for the new UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre opening in April 2012. She is currently Artist in Residence at the British Optical Association Museum.