Lenten art project – completed!

Over the course of Lent, the St Barnabas community came together to build a sculpture out of single-use plastics. Please read the following words from local artist Imogen Paton, under whose direction and leadership this project this project came to be.

My name is Imogen. I am an artist, a mother, an early years caregiver and postnatal doula.

Issues of sustainability and preservation of our planet have always been close to my heart and are now more important than ever. I have always tried to recycle and shop thoughtfully as much as possible, but the arrival of the COVID pandemic meant that the luxury of choosing food products without unnecessary plastic wrapping, for example, became somewhat of a dream, especially on a menial budget and with multiple children.

To tackle my sense of guilt and responsibility, I began creating sculptures of unusual and threatened species, constructed entirely out of my household waste. It allowed me to monitor just how much unavoidable waste my family was generating and subsequently to make something I felt was beautiful and re-purposeful from what would have otherwise been discarded for landfill.

Over time and practice, and by really refining this process of reusing and reshaping, I began a new chapter of sharing and passing on of this process so that others too could experience the initial wake up call and despair at the sheer scale of our waste problem, but then equally to rejoice in the possibilities of rejuvenation. I now run workshops for all ages and abilities from mothers with infants right the way through to those in their later years of life. All have their own wisdom, both inherent and learned, to contribute, and all are part of both the problem and solution to generating a sustainable future.

The piece you see here today has been built upon many hours of reflection, consideration and hope over the course of six weeks. From its infancy as a huge box of non- recyclable waste contributed by our local community, we have built a symbol of Lent; of taking and giving back, a symbol of the beauty and value of nature to be preserved as well as the critical appetite for consumption of single-use materials that we need to learn to relinquish. See it, if you will, as a juxtapositioning of ideals, the mirage of a perfect world where material gain and convenience reign supreme, and the simplicity of man’s crucial evolutionary reliance and need for life and nature. Here they become entangled: what you see as pleasant, attractive and intriguing is in fact a pile of useless, destructive waste.

It has been an absolute pleasure and honour to work alongside so many beautiful and spiritually rich souls, and comforting to feel that we are living and sharing in these times together. Accompanying this project is a poem, “Nature on the Brink,” written for me by one of the participants to mark the end of the project. It is both a call to action and a display of the blessing of the human spirit, of companionship and teamwork, and, most of all, hope.

This sculpture is currently on display in the Welcome Area of St Barnabas Church — We hope you will visit soon!


You can find Roger Symon’s sermon for the First Sunday of Lent, as well as Hugh Taylor’s intercessions, here.