Inessential views of art and photography.
Last December, Brighton media students, my colleagues Dr. Theodore Kolouris, Dr. Kevin Reynols and myself took a field trip to Berwick in order to visit St. Michael and All Angels church, a hidden gem very well worth a visit for anyone interested in history and religion, as well as in nature and art.
Located on elevated terrain, the church offers incredible views of the South Downs, which may have been attracting human activity to the site well before the current structure was built in the 12th century. And although these two are very good reasons on their own to do the 30 min drive from Brighton to Berwick, “Audiovisual Professional Practice” level 6 students engaged with much more than that, as the walls of St. Michael and All Angels church feature remarkable work painted during WWII by Duncan Grant, Vanesa Bell and Quentin Bell, all artists of the Bloomsbury group.
In preparation for the field trip, Dr. Theodore Koulouris delivered a guest lecture on the wider socio-cultural significance of the murals, thereby highlighting the strong links between the church and the artist group, which in fact caused certain upheaval in the 1940s but also helps explaining the non-religious motifs featured in much of the work by the Bloomsbury group. Students also prepared by watching an interview with Peter Blee, current Parish of the church, in which he explains some of the negotiations and dialogues between the artists and the commissioner of the work, as well as the links between the murals, scripture and the very architecture of the church.
Once at St. Michael and All Angels church, students worked with dedication, passion and great comradeship to document – in video and photography – the most salient features of the church and the murals in particular. Over the next six weeks, the students will edit that material in order to produce short videos and photographic narratives that transmit the tremendous relevance of these work and the stories of resilience it encapsulates. Beyond the opportunity for students to engage with stakeholders during their studies, this collaboration with Peter Blee is framed within the urgent need to restoration of the murals. In the meantime, we have gathered students’ first impressions of the church and invite you to watch.