Exhibition at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, 1997
Wooden Splints, White Paint
Each 490 x 250 cm
Two towers from the exhibition Sanctum (1993) were installed in the cathedral and the towers re-named:
TOWERS OF :
HOPE * GEOMETRY * LIGHT * ANONYMITY * MAGIC * QUIET ACHIEVEMENT * SADNESS * NUMBERS * JOY * REMEMBRANCE * LOVE * ATTRACTION * AWE * COURAGE * MIRACLES * SOLEMNITY STRENGTH * CONTEMPLATION * INFINITY * PURITY * SCIENCE * INSPIRATION * TOGETHERNESS * HARMONY * GOOD WILL * RELIGION WONDER * REACHING OUT * NO RELIGION * FAITH * FRAGILITY WOOD * SOULS * BODIES * MEANINGS * MEMORY * TIME * BEAUTY * TRUTH * ENDLESSNESS * COMPLEXITY * MATTER * SPIRIT * HOMAGE * ABSTRACT REALITY * CREATION * PEACE *SYMBOLS * ANGUISH * GOOD * WISDOM
Photographs: Michael Coyne
When I walk into a Gothic style cathedral such as this, I feel a sense of wonder and mystery: Who made this? How did they do it? I love the craft making and designing – of the windows, the woodwork – but above all I love the majesty, the volume, the awesome major spaces and the spaces that are small and wonderful.
When I was invited to exhibit in such a space I thought so many things at once:
- A Jew in a Cathedral?
- How wonderful that this is possible, and what a privilege to participate.
- How art can transcend and unite and teach.
- How so much of my work examines the idea of the Infinite.
- Now what can I offer?
I realised that I had already created the work, two towers that were part of an earlier installation Sanctum. In shape they are similar to the Gothic inspiration, soaring heavenward. Their whiteness compliments the sombre dark colours of the space. Their proportion is analogous with the feeling you get when you enter the cathedral – you are aware of something bigger than life, you do not know where the work starts and ends.
There is a kind of magic with the word art; it makes you believe that things can be transformed. The reason for my choice of splints of wood for the towers was partly that there had to be so many of them. Like grains of sand, cells, they were to make up one big thing. Each splint could represent a person, a soul. Caught within this is the idea of numbers, so many of them, so close, and of their becoming one. From a distance, the shape shimmers. The viewer draws closer and closer: What are they? At last it is possible to recognise little splints, painted white to accent the purity of the image. A white shadow, creating shadows.
Like so many Jews, I lost most of my family in the Holocaust. So the tower is also symbolic of the hell that was the Holocaust, when frenzied people about to be killed in the gas chambers interlocked into a human tower of desperation, one on top of another, and after death had to be unlocked. The tower stands silently in homage to this; it is the ghost of this image.
In the scheme of things, we are everything and nothing. It is our duty to always remember this.
Asher Bilu, 1997