A guide and explanation to ceramics in the Church
The moving and powerful work of two artists, husband and wife Norman and Anna Adams, illuminates our Church.
Much of the flavour of the Adams' work now stems from the beautiful country around their cottage and studio at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Yorkshire. But their early background was in London, where both studied at Harrow School of Art. They married in 1947, a year after Norman, a conscientious objector, had served a prison sentence for contempt of court. He worked for two years as a farm labourer and prison and farm life influenced his early painting and drawing. During a distinguished career he has exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and has had many exhibitions of his work at the London Gallery of Roland, Browse and Delbanco's. His interest in the art is widespread. He has designed decor and costumes for the Royal Ballet and Sadlers Wells. Norman Adams has taught extensively in art school. In 1962 he became head of the painting school at Manchester College of Art, leaving in 1971 when it was merged with Manchester Polytechnic. The Milton Keynes work was begun in 1975 and completed in the following year.
Anna Adams works in ceramics and watercolours and has exhibited her work at Manchester and Settle. She had various jobs in her early career, part-time teaching and working as a modeller in a pottery while selling her personal work in London.
Work by Norman Adams
The Lectern Panel shows a sea of faces staring upward at a great bird in flight. The people are inspired by the splendour of the bird. The Eagle is the traditional symbol for St. John, (the Word), and often used on the Lectern.
The Tabernacle Pedestal Stand is about life and love and quite sensuous in its spiralling design of fruits and flowers and faces.
The Painting of The Vision of Bernardette is about a simple vision of a peasant child. There is a stream running among trees, and the Madonna is seen high up in the trees in the top right of the painting, and her reflection is seen in the stream beneath. Bernardette is seen in the bottom left. The whole design has a seesawing effect, the Madonna being projected high out of the right top, whilst Bernadette sinks low to the left. There is a playful quality. The painting is about innocence.
Studies for the setting were made near my home in Yorkshire, at Douk Ghyll where a strea, flows from the rocks and runs down into the village. The scale is rather more modest than that of the actual site at Lourdes, but it is more like Lourdes in Bernardette's day than it is today.
The reliefs are all made in ceramic stoneware, and the painting is an oil painting.
Ceramics by Anna Adams
The idea of the Font panel design is "Living Water". Visually, it is based on some waterfalls near our home in Yorkshire, where a spring pours out of a cave and descends by irregular steps of layered stone. The other motifs - the Waterlilies, Campanula and Scabious flowers, the Wheatear and the Dipper - are simply living forms springing from the water, composed largely of water, as all life is. The White Dove hovers and blesses.
The Tabernacle Door panels simply represent grass, which is corn, which is bread, which is flesh, which is grass.
Our Lady, as seen by the child Bernardette' was white, though the Madonna's traditional colour is blue. White is a marvellous colour in that, as light, it contains all colours, just as water, though colourless, reflects all colours.
The idea of whiteness of itself suggests the nature of the Virgin Mother - that which selflessly welcomes and contains all, and makes all possible - the matrix of life. And whiteness also makes me think of water: white fountains, white sea foam, white threads of hillside becks in spate; and I imagined Bernardette's Lady rising out of the Spring earth like a mist, and hovering - as clear yet as insubstantial as falling water, expressing infinite kindness and motherliness to the afflicted yet blessed child.