Good to see a new tarmac surface finally going down on the High Street after all the months of inconvenience while pavements have been enlarged and crossings moved to create a safer and larger presence for pedestrians – be they tourists or Bathonians.
It looks like the end is in sight although l am still interested to see exactly how they are going to sort out positioning for the bus stops. Someone told me the concertina buses, which serve the University of Bath, are not going to continue in local service but there were plenty of them creeping around the city this morning.
Some people say they are much too big for the streets especially if – like the High Street area – the roads are going to get smaller and with more bends. incidentally, the new street lamp that has been erected at the Abbey end of Cheap Street is completely out of character for this historic area but maybe it is a temporary feature.
Talking of lamps, in the early 1800’s the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott commissioned Francis Alfred Skidmore of Coventry – the foremost metal worker of his day – to make the wrought iron gas chandeliers which still hang in Bath Abbey.
They were not electrified until 1979 and now – with cost and efficiency being all-important – are in the process of being converted again to carry low-energy but efficient lighting systems.
The slight modification that has been necessary is actually – in my opinion – an improvement on what was done at the time the gas holders were converted.
While we are in the Abbey can l mention Odyssey – the exhibition currently running inside this Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul until May 6th.
It’s an artistic look at life and the inevitability of death by five artists – including Damien Hirst – and came about after Jemma Hickman of the bo.lee gallery in Queen Street approached the Abbey authorities. She has other Odyssey works on display at her gallery.
It is an unusual use of a sacred space, and what is on display will be either liked or loathed, but the Abbey environment presents a unique backdrop.
I have to question though the use of two side chapels as settings for two of the works. This is not because they aren’t artistically provocative in drawing emotions but simply because they rob the Abbey of a quiet corner for Christians who want to be alone in a sheltered and familiar sacred space to pray.
Tessa Farmer’s Voyager – a life-size swan – is suspended in front of the altar within the chantry chapel of William BIrde. It would not be so bad if at least a couple of chairs could have been tucked either side of the doorway as the free welcome leaflet to the Abbey does describe this space as ‘ a place for private prayer and reflection.’
Immediately to the right, in the much larger Gethsemane chapel, the slightly dented porcelain balls of Koji Shiraya’s After the Dream installation are scattered across the floor space. A number of them remain on top the altar itself.
Are they the eggs of birth or departing souls? You decide. All l will say is l think some people may not like the idea of the altar cloth, candles and crucifixion-bearing reredos being eclipsed by giant dented ping-pong balls.
I was hearing whispers about not forgetting the prime purpose of any Christian church as a place for communal or private prayer and a personal closeness with the Almighty. Though I am sure there will be others saying the sculptures just present a new way of doing just that.
I will be interested to hear your points of view on this.
Just before we leave the Abbey l spotted evidence for the oldest piece of graffiti l have seen yet in Bath.
This date – chiselled into the Bath stone of one of the nave’s supporting columns – clearly says 1606
Across the way at the Victoria Art Gallery the new exhibition featuring Henry Moore‘s work opens on Saturday April 13th through to June 23rd. I had to smile at the new sign that has been placed above the front entrance. Art lovers are now expected to pay for special exhibitions.
Only the permanent collection upstairs is still officially ‘free-view’. With that in mind the signs in several windows are also going to have to change as technically – it is no longer the case that admission – to everything – IS free.
Finally down almost to the Podium and another old Bath commercial name looks as if it’s about to disappear behind a new retail branding.
It’s the image left behind by the music shop sign which belonged to Milsom and Son – formerly Duck, Son and Pinker l believe. Any memories amongst you all on that score?