Back in June this year, The Holy Biscuit had the pleasure of hosting two students on a placement from Cranmer Hall, a theological college that is part of Durham University.
Thomas Sharp and Rachael Garland visited The Holy Biscuit during an exhibition changeover time when no artwork was on display. Despite this, both Rachael and Thomas crafted beautiful pieces of poetry and prose about The Holy Biscuit. We are thankful for their fresh perspectives on the project and that they encouraged us by sensing more than just a empty gallery! Below is Thomas Sharp’s writing and in future blog posts we will also publish the work of Rachael Garland.
White-washed walls at The Holy Biscuit
Empty space lies open to grace,
imposing nothing on the Other’s will.
Gracefully whitewashed walls are empty
of persona, save the will to make space
for blossoming, sacred, potential;
hanging only on another’s freedom.
We very rarely find true freedom
as rat-run lives are wrung to render grace
ground by precious earning potential,
and in this working world where is Our Will?
Our hearts beneath constricture need space
to play with space, inhabit the empty.
A cube with little doors lies empty:
a solitary fortress of freedom
beneath the flats maintains a play-space,
humbly offering its presence. With grace
it gives its colour to a creature’s will
and quietly births another’s potential.
In yielding up its own potential,
pouring out itself and leaving empty
for service, its sacrifices will
a gift. Framework for creative freedom,
offered not for profit but as grace,
makes a blossoming, sacred, human space.
An art gallery at changeover time is a strange thing. You might think that it would have no soul, no character, no identity. But any artist who has studied form, or line, or design will tell you that even an empty white room has an inherent character. It was built in that way for a reason. It has its own peculiar story to tell.
In the case of The Holy Biscuit that story is one of outpouring. The building is a Methodist church that has been converted to become a community hub. But you wouldn’t know that just to look at it: it’s like any other art gallery. The Holy Biscuit has given up its own identity to become something for the wider community.
Art needs spaces that do this, if it is to sing. Sometimes art is created for a particular space, to interact with it, and to be read in dialogue with it. But to display art in a gallery, the gallery’s character must be as quiet as possible if the art is to breathe and express itself.
But this doesn’t mean that The Holy Biscuit has no character at all, no personality. What I see here is a meaningful outpouring of identity. An outpouring that says, “this place is not to be for itself, but to be what others need it to be.” White-washed walls are not passive things, they aren’t silent. They loudly proclaim their willingness to receive anything and anyone.
White-washed walls aren’t a cover-up of the Christian heritage of this place… they loudly proclaim it. Art should be for everyone, and needs places where anyone can be creative, where anyone’s art can sing. What could be more Christian than to pour out your own plans for a space… to let another’s ideas come alive?
White-washed walls are a gift to others. White-washed walls are sacred spaces to the wonderful gift of human potential.
– Thomas Sharp
Thomas Sharp is a musician, poet and trainee priest based in Durham. While he explores his adoptive home of the North-East, he dabbles in all things Franciscan and creative.