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Nathan Coley - Black Tent

1196, 1693, 1939, 1991, 2003

Nathan Coley developed the sculpture Black Tent as a response to the 800 years of architectural growth of Portsmouth Cathedral.

Project: Coley's sculpture recalled the original Tabernacle, built by the Hebrews some time around the 14th century BC. The Tabernacle was a tent; a portable sanctuary specifically designed for a nomadic people and is the ancestor, infinitely removed, of every synagogue ever built.

Black Tent acted as a new stage in the Cathedral's architectural development questioning faith through a portable and adaptable manifestation. Coley's sculpture presented itself as an abstract form, existing outside the "Christian story", as it moved through the Cathedral. The sculpture was produced utilising high tech sail fabric and began its own story by demarcating space within the Nave of the Cathedral before moving out to inhabit various sites around the city.

Comments: The Very Revd David Brindley, Dean of Portsmouth Cathedral, fascinated by the beauty of the work and the functional way in which it had been constructed for ease of movement, spoke of the God of the Israelites who was always ahead of where they pitched their tents. In the current unsettled times, of huge change, it was important for the Church not to stand still or it would lose its purpose. Churches, with a fast God going ahead, should talk about the important aspects of their faith.

Coley's work was part of the Art and Sacred Places 2003/4 Programme when three artists were invited to make new works for three major churches in the south of England. The works arose from the response of the artists to these historic buildings and the communities that inhabit and visit them.

Each project had its individual character, but all three investigated the connections between art, spirituality and faith today. In each venue there were activities and events designed to encourage debate and appreciation of the artworks and opportunities to explore the issues raised by them.

Exhibitions for Black Tent from 16th August to 14th September 2003 included:

16th August Black Tent in the Nave of Portsmouth Cathedral
3rd September Black Tent moved from the Nave to St. Thomas's Chapel, Portsmouth Cathedral
7th September 12.00 to 4.00 pm Black Tent was on Castle Field, Southsea
2nd and 3rd October Black Tent was at the School of Architecture of the University of Portsmouth, Portland Building, Portland Street
11th October from 10.00 to 4.00 pm Black Tent returned to Portsmouth Cathedral for the book launch.

The Catalogue for Black Tent is available from Art and Sacred Places - Price 7.50

Project funders and supporters included: Arts Council England South East, Arts Council England London, Visiting Arts, Fondation de France, Henry Moore Foundation, London Institute, The Jerusalem Trust, Abbey Harris Mural Fund, Poplar Harca.


Art and Sacred Places - MMXVI-MMXVII