It wasn’t just the Beatles that came out of Liverpool in the Swinging Sixties. That explosion of creative energy also produced artist Michael Kenny – one of the most influential sculptors of his generation. One of his most poignant pieces is currently on display in Bath Abbey.
Born in 1941- Michael did have a passing connection with at least one of the Fab Four – having studied at Liverpool College of Art with fellow student John Lennon.
He went on to study at the Slade in London and had his first solo show in Oxford in 1964 when he was only 23 years old.
Michael was elected a Royal Academician in 1986 and today his work in held in museums all over the world including the British Museum, The Tate Gallery and the V&A.
The piece on display at Bath Abbey is called The Crucifixx (1976) and is a large wooden sculpture located in the Abbey Sanctuary until April 24th.
The sculpture is owned by the Royal Academy of Arts and is lent to the Abbey at the special request of Michael Kenny’s widow Susan.
Michael died in 1999 shortly after completing ‘The Station of the Cross’, a series of drawings which has been described as one of the finest examples of genuinely religious art within the Christian tradition made since the Reformation. Kenny’s ‘The Crucifixx’ was a precursor to this series but both works are on view simultaneously in Bath.
Of the sculpture in the Abbey Vicar Theologian Alan Garrow explains: ‘We are privileged to show Michael Kenny’s Crucifixx in Bath Abbey this Lent. It is a work that draws the viewer into the profound private meditations of the sculptor and it is impossible not to be touched by the simple honesty of this remarkable sculpture.
Crucifixx looks hurriedly assembled from off-cuts – the scraps of wood remaindered on a workshop floor. To the soldiers who executed Jesus his death was not something that required throughout or care – it was just an ugly ‘everyday’ event.
Set in the sanctuary of Bath Abbey this ‘ordinary’ object becomes part of a richer and more expansive story.
Here, that which was thrown away has become central; that which was temporary has become permanent; that by which humans are torn apart has become the means by which they are restored to wholeness.
But, it is too easy to jump to the end of the story. This sculpture holds us in, and makes us wrestle with, a place of desolation and seeming worthlessness.’
Meanwhile Michael Kenny’s last major series of doings ‘The Stations of the Cross, 1998-99’ can be seen at Quest Gallery, Margarets Buildings, Bath BA1 2LP.