Friday, October 03, 2008

Anthony Caro's Le Choeur de Lumière (Chapel of Light)

Over a period of several years, Anthony Caro has been working on a major series of sculptures and architectural features to form part of the restoration of a chapel at Bourbourg in Northern France, about 12 miles east of Calais. The Chapel of Light is situated in the choir of the Church of St Jean Baptiste. During World War II, a damaged English aircraft crash-landed on the roof of the church in order to avoid the houses in the town, and set it on fire. The church itself was restored, but the choir was separated by a wall from the body of the church and left in ruins until ten years ago. Caro was commissioned by the French Ministry for Culture and Communication to make a sculptural installation that would bring new life to the redundant choir.

Here we see the chapel and the concrete immersion font in the centre. The Chapel of Light opens on October 11, 2008.

Did he have any hesitation about being asked to make a Catholic chapel? ‘Not in the least. I’m not practising anyway, and I wanted the chapel to be non-denominational, for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, anybody who goes in there …They agreed with that, just made one stipulation, to have a lamb in it, which I’ve done, but it’s just a lamb among other animals. Works of art are contemplative things but with a chapel I think you have to go a little bit closer to people’s everyday lives. So in the niches, for example, although they’re fairly abstract, I’ve always got an animal or fish in each sculpture: that’s to make connections for people so they see something more than just shapes.’ Caro has also created ecclesiastical fittings for the church, including a stone altar with a door for a reliquary, a tabernacle, two candelabra and two lecterns. ‘It’s not an art gallery, it’s a place for trying to get on the road to truth or to God. Are artists all priests trying to say something spiritual in a very material world? I think we probably are. I think that is what religion is about, and what art is about.’

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