White Chalk


“White chalk hills are all I’ve known
White chalk hills will rot my bones
White chalk sticking to my shoes
White chalk playing as a child with you

White chalk sat against time
White chalk cutting down the sea line
I know Mary’s by the surf
On a path cut 1500 years ago

And I know these chalk hills will rot my bones

Dorset’s cliffs meet at the sea
Where I walked
(Our unborn child in me)
White chalk
(Poor scattered land)

Scratch my palms
There’s blood on my hands”

From “White Chalk” by PJ Harvey

Someone whom I respect and admire enormously sent me an email link this week.  I think it speaks a lot of truth of how we engage with culture and art (in whatever medium).  I think it maybe captures a little bit of what we are trying to facilitate and achieve as a small group (albeit our attempt will be to a much more meagre extent) with our idea for creating a gallery space next month for which you can find more details here.

Connecting with culture – It’s Just a Big White Horse?


Mark Wallinger’s proposal to erect a 50 metre-tall horse on the Kent
marshland has understandably attracted widespread media attention.

The work draws on a very English pastoral tradition in art – from the
white figures in the Chalk Downs to the lithe racehorses of Stubbs.
The sponsors hope that it will repeat the popular success of Antony
Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’. Both share a character far from hushed
reverence in tidy drawing rooms. They are industrial-scale objects,
forged and fettled from steel plate, that the common man is allowed to
like, free of intellectual pretensions.

Yet for all its scale and technical ambition, Wallinger’s new
sculpture is disappointingly conservative. If the ‘Angel’ is about the
machine age, the ‘Horse’ is about our agricultural heritage. Its
origins lie in a romantic idea of England – a country of ‘long shadows
on cricket grounds and warm beer’, as John Major once had it. Despite
being a winner of the Turner Prize – the cutting edge of bad-boy art –
we seem to be lacking the artist’s unblinking critical eye on his

For the Christian, artistic expression offers at least two
possibilities for cultural engagement. Firstly, authentic art stems
from having a committed worldview. God makes it clear to us in the
Bible that the church is a nation set apart, with a higher king, and a
different mission. This should lead Christians to hold a distinctive
critique on their cultural surroundings.

Secondly, we have a particular insight into the nature of beauty
because of our restored relationship to God. Art and beauty could be
said to exist in order to provide a foretaste of our eternal home with
the Father. When we look out at creation, or consider the place of
craft in the biblical accounts of the tabernacle and temple, there is
little doubt that our God has an aesthetic sensibility, and a regard
for beauty, that we inherit.

‘Art’, wrote HR Rookmaaker, ‘has meaning as art because God thought it
good to give art and beauty to humanity.’ As humans, we can appreciate
beauty in art, but we need to apply our minds in unpacking the
worldview that underpins it.

And perhaps the ‘White Horse’ – whilst striking and beautiful – merely
laments a lost identity without offering a commentary on why this
might be important now. Art’s role is to speak in intangibles,
ambiguities and essences, and allow the viewer to join the dots.
Whether it will be a vision of England that resonates with the public
remains to be seen, but, as with all art, we would do well to think
through its origins.

John Lee


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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