Saturday 7 November 2015

Art Installation: Voices of the Winter Hearth

Winter is coming - time to sit around the hearthfire's glowing embers and tell tales by candlelight to ward against the cold and the dark and the things that dwell there...

That is the theme of a new art installation called Voices of the Winter Hearth, exploring winter in a time of folklore and superstition. It is set in the belfry of a beautiful and atmospheric London church, St John on Bethnal Green.

As you climb the spiral staircase into the dark tower it is like entering a world of long, long ago, a time of myth and legend, where the Old Gods hold sway and fairytales just might be real.

Using mixed media of art, sounds, poetry and recordings of storytelling, it offers an immersive experience. The long hall at the top of the tower seems old - a gallery of age-blackened bricks over which soars a high arched ceiling.

The hall is decked with art, objects and words, lit by candlelight. In places it feels like walking through a dark wood, in other places it feels more like an ancient sanctuary. Then, at the end, like entering a witch's cottage with a glowing fire upon which sits a cauldron. A bessom and rugs are against the back wall and to the side a bench lets you sit and listen to the tales being told or just rest and contemplate the scene.

I went there on the preview night, where there was a crowd enjoying free ale and mead and good company, but even then people were speaking in hushed tones and whispers up in the tower. Downstairs, in the brightly lit foyer, was where the animated conversations were taking place - and everyone was talking enthusiastically about what they had seen.

One of the fairytales I caught a passage of was the Russian story of Vasilisa the Fair, a young girl sent by her family to fetch candles from the fearsome hag Baba Yaga, because their light has gone out and they are left in darkness, other stories and poems are modern creations by Joanna Vale, who curated the exhibition with Renaud C. Haslan. Other art is by Sarah Turpin, Jane Marie Francis, Asia Schmidt, Samantha Adams, Steve Mitchell and Claire Woolliscroft. Soundscapes are by David Searl.

Voices of the Winter Hearth is on until 3 December at St John on Bethnal Green, London E2 9PA. It is next to Bethnal Green tube station. The opening time are Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm – 6pm and Thursdays from 6pm to 9pm. Entry is free.

On Friday 4 December there is a cello performance by Jo Quail at 7pm. Entry is £5 on the door and includes another chance to see the exhibition.

For more detals, visit
Twitter: @thewinterhearth


Vampire Heart said...

Oh I was there, If I'd known who you were I'd have said hello :) x

Badwitch said...

I was wearing the dress with owls on it!