Sep 7, 2012

Curator interview - Steven Saxby

We have all seen the amazing exhibitions at St. Barnabas and St. Saviour's churches over the past few Art Trails so here is a little introduction to the man responsible...... Father Steven Saxby.

Please can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Steven Saxby. I am the parish priest of St. Barnabas and St. Saviour’s churches here in Walthamstow and I have been in E17 now for 10 years.

When did you first curate an E17 Art trail event and why?
I first curated an Art Trail exhibition for St. Barnabas three years ago in 2010. My excitement about the Art Trail really made me want to be involved. I also wanted people to see the beauty of St. Barnabas itself and to share this architectural gem with the community. I was sure that the space would enhance the artwork and vice-versa.

I have always been enthusiastic about art. I am not an artist myself but I did a masters in cultural heritage which included work on exhibitions in museums and galleries and this really helped me. I am overjoyed to be contributing to the Art Trail as a curator and I like the fact that I used to be a curate and now I'm a curator!

Please can you give us a quick overview of what we have to look forward to at St. Barnabas and St. Saviour's this year?
We have a huge amount of work from sixteen different artists including photography, painting, prints and installation with a range of contributors from 16 year old students to professional artists. The subjects and issues covered by the artists in our exhibition this year also give much food for thought and reflection.

It is very exciting that we have these artist expressions of thoughts and feelings and reflections on what is meaningful in their lives and how this can communicate with others. The highlight for me is the drawing for the altar by Kirsten Schmidt. It is a quite astonishing piece of work designed specifically for the space and very impressive in the context of the building. It is a perfect illustration of how the work enhances the building and vice-versa.

We have a fantastic display at St. Saviour’s curated by Elizabeth Pell who is displaying her own work and textiles by Gilli Haqqani and several other artists, seven in total. There is also the return of Harriet Hammell’s Reverend Mother who this year has been promoted to the office of Bishop!

What are the challenges of getting everything ready?
Not knowing what is coming and then working out where it’s all going to go! Even though it’s a very big space I am committed to making it all look good in the space. So it’s always a challenge looking at different bits of the church and wondering about positioning the work and what would best enhance both the art and the building. Synergy between the work and the space it occupies is very important so getting that all right is a challenge but it always opens up new ideas of how the space can be used. I am glad to say that even now with more work than ever we seem to have managed.

Is there an artist (or artists) that you particularly like or has influenced your involvement in art?
As a teenager I was very engaged by pop art, Andy Warhol and Peter Blake, and I regularly went to galleries to look at contemporary and modern art. In recent years I’ve become more interested in the historical masters like Caravaggio. I always liked the relationship between art and expression and how people are communicating something about their lives.

The E17 Art trail has become bigger every year. Do you think it is because more artists are calling it home?
What it brings to the surface is the huge amount of creativity in E17. Not only for individual arts but in all sorts of media. It’s a very lively place culturally and its great to see that being expressed. I am sure we could even do more to capture the diverse cultural expression of Walthamstow. I am actually working on a little photo project called The World in Walthamstow and all being well I hope to have my own exhibit next year.

What has E17 bestowed on you?
I love living here. I love the diversity. I refer to it as the cultural capital of the universe and I really believe that. It’s a vibrant place to be and for me it’s become home for sure.  The title of one exhibition this year ‘Salvation to Bestow’ comes from a hymn and it represents healing and peace. We hope we can bestow some peace when people visit our exhibitions.

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