Lancing is a small West Sussex town most notable for the grand boys’ college of the same name whose alumni include Tim Rice, Christopher Hampton, David Hare, Jamie Theakston, Tom Driberg, Jan Morris and, most notably, Evelyn Waugh. It’s a part of the country that, if you live in a deprived urban area and believe what politicians tell you about how ‘
This weekend I really wanted to see the reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling at the
The answer is as English as the adornment in the little pebble dash English Martyrs Church in the little pebble dash English village of Goring-by-Sea. Gary Bevans is a signwriter with no formal art training who went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1987 and when he returned home, ‘he was so inspired by what he saw that he returned home with a burning desire to recreate that ceiling in his own Parish Church’, according to the Arundel and Brighton Virtual Diocese. Read the whole story here. It beats sending a post card, even one with
Bevans had already donated a rendering of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper to the church. It’s still there, hanging over the entrance. The presence of a Maltese Terrier at table is somewhat unexpected but not entirely unwelcome from a visitor’s perspective. Parish Priest Fr Enda Naughton, who led the pilgrimage which sparked Bevans’s vocation, at least had that example of the artist’s work as a point of reference when the request came to reproduce a three quarter scale version of easily the planet’s most celebrated piece of Christian iconography in the modest little seaside church.
The decision to allow Bevans a free hand with his visionary quest was made by presiding Bishop Cormac who must have exercised remarkable faith and considerably more restraint than Pope Julius II who dogged Michelangelo all through his grinding commission. For Bevans, it was a labour of love and he was left largely alone to work lying flat on his scaffolding, in between whipping up shingles for the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. It took him five years to complete.
The results are not displeasing. Meticulously faithful to the original in style and content, it lacks only the emotion of Michelangelo. The figures look more like paintings of pictures of people rather than paintings of people. In that respect they recall Bellini rather than Michelangelo. But I’m nit picking. You don’t have to wait in a long queue with Texans the size of Cuba and be jostled through a dimly lit cave where your only sense that you are in the presence of great art is relayed to you via your audio guide as there is a canopy of Stetsons obscuring your view.
I got to thinking, is there anywhere else but
Normally I hate drag which, to me, is the gender equivalent of black face. I know it’s firmly steeped in British theatrical tradition and is cloaked in respectability by its association with Shakespeare, but this is where my ‘foreigneness’ outs big style I’m afraid. Grayson Perry I love because he doesn’t lampoon or trivialise women’s couture and attitudes and play us for laughs. He just looks like he never outgrew the dressing up box. He has no airs, graces, gratuitous feather boas or aqua eye shadow. I love his sassy pots too, my favourite of which is called ‘I’m killing myself and taking the kids with me you bitch.’
Although the call of my new tropical island home gets louder as the days draw in, there are some things I will always miss about
Picture: Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve by Gary Bevans, English Martyrs Church, West Sussex