York Cemetery, “A beautiful place to spend eternity”: These introductory words are dedicated to York Cemetery, celebrating its 175th birthday this year. In order to catch the beauty of “York’s hidden gem”, the York Cemetery Trust called out for York-based artists earlier this year to display their “cemetery-inspired” artworks. The results can now be seen in the newly restored Chapel, a beautiful old building, giving the exhibition a scent of former ages.
Although a cemetery is often referred to as a “place of the dead”, the exhibition bursts from life, diversity and beauty. From botanical illustrations by Jane Wright to “paintings in rugs” by Louise Creed, the exhibition offers a wide variety of artistic approaches to the cemetery.
It is advisable to start with the historic photographs that give an insight into the cemetery’s past, from its early beginnings in 1837 until today.
Apart from well-known artist Mark Hearld, Emily Sutton is one of the 35 artists having volunteered for the York Cemetery. The York-based freelance artist and illustrator has particularly worked on the angels of the cemetery. “Two Angels”, a beautifully arranged painting of hers, tasks the angels of the cemetery with an important role: Giving this place of grief a peaceful countenance.
Moreover, John Greenwood exhibits a circular artwork, called “Diptic NFS” with 12 photos being arranged as the ciphers of a clock without hands. These 12 photos depict the same tree in different times of the year demonstrating the circle of life, coming and going and finally stating the inextricable bond between human beings and our environment.
Whilst most of the artworks mirror the beauty of the cemetery itself, Emily Hayes has focused on the topic “death” and its meaning to humankind. Hence, a very dark illustration with bones, skeletons and praying hands can be found. Although the overwhelming fear of death accompanies our lives, Emily Hayes comes to the conclusion that death cannot break what love has bound on earth. She supports her drawing by using facts about the cemetery and quotes such as the following by Francis Bacon:
“Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark, and as this natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other.”
The exhibition, to which entry is free but with donations welcome, is open daily from 10am – 4pm (weekends until 6pm) and runs until September, 22nd.