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A Revelation in Threads

by glynch — last modified 06 Sep, 2017 05:11 PM

New Cathedral exhibition brings book of The Bible to life

A new exhibition launched today at Salisbury Cathedral tells the story of one of the most challenging books of the Bible in twelve millions stitches

The Threads Through Revelation exhibition was more than three years in the making. In it, textile artist Jacqui Parkinson explores one of the Revelation of St John the Divine through a series fourteen huge embroideries.

Each embroidered panel stands 2.5 metres high with a span of between 1 and 3 metres. The embroidery is made on large bedsheets that Jacqui bought in second hand shops. She relishes the idea that other people’s dreams, histories and DNA are part of the story she is telling. For her, it adds to the poignancy.

Her technique and style is as unusual as the subject matter – and possibly unique - a combination of painted dyes, multi-layered silks cut to create an extraordinary frayed effect and then metallic leather stitched on top. The panels are also strikingly coloured, even the darker panels, reflecting the text they illustrate: the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Armageddon, The Towers of Babylon and Jesus Christ himself, “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”, a fiery figure with blazing eyes and a sword in his mouth. The panels burst with stories of war, slaughter, judgement, resurrection and creation.

Threads Through Revelation is also personal. A lifelong Christian, Jacqui embarked on the work in 2013 after travelling to France to see the Jewish painter Marc Chagall’s epic Bible paintings. She came back determined to create fabric paintings of Revelation. The embroidery project evolved from there. Twelve million stitches, three years and three months later it was complete, and so was Jacqui’s own spiritual journey:

Jacqui Parkinson, textile artist said, “During the three years that it took to complete the embroidery I read and studied Revelation, trying to understand what the passages meant. The book offers no security but it is hopeful, written at a time when Christians longed for peace and an end to persecution. As I worked I drew numerous images, calculated and recalculated the number of panels, painted and stitched, trying to make visual sense of what I was reading. Ultimately I was challenged to live differently.”

Robert Titley, Salisbury Cathedral’s Canon Treasurer said, “The Book of Revelation is a volatile, intoxicating tumble of visions in which some might find fuel for vengefulness and paranoia; mystics will find an express lift to the threshold of heaven; and those who have longed for justice will find images to persuade them not to give up hope.

“This book is the antidote to all domesticated ideas of God and Jacqui’s work captures the dazzle and fracture of the book of Revelation. These panels and their subject matter show the God we know best when we are willing to be taken out of our depth.”

Jacquiline Creswell, Salisbury Cathedral’s Visual Arts Advisor said, “I have watched this work grow over the years and it is an astounding feat, both artistically and physically. To create textiles this powerful and this large takes considerable endurance, and the result is a passionate declaration of God. Even for people who are not acquainted with the poetry of the last book in the Bible, these images say it all and we are left in no doubt about the range and scale of the God Jacqui Parkinson is portraying or the events she has captured.”

Jacqui Parkinson came to embroidery late in life, after a career in teaching and Arts administration. Her passion for textiles began with an embroidery course that folded after a single lesson because there were not enough attendees. That lesson was enough for her. She immediately followed up with a distance learning degree in Embroidery Textiles at the University of Middlesex and embarked on a new career.

Threads through Revelation can be seen at Salisbury Cathedral from 6 September. The panels, which measure 33 metres when placed end to end, will line the Cathedral’s North and South Nave Aisles and sit within the North and South Transepts.

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