Central Library, Manchester, has a lovely little exhibition at present, Deities at the Bottom of the Garden. The contemporary Sheffield artist Richard Bartle has constructed twelve scaled down garden sheds each with an interior modelled on the worship place of a major world religion. It is fitting that the exhibition is being staged here in Manchester where so many different world faiths interact.
The sheds provide a fascinating introduction to the worship and ethos of the religions and and inevitably lead to comparisons. It is also lovely to ask which one appeals most to the observer, and why. Which one would you like at the bottom of your garden? Of course answers may change from day to day over that. Gregory, aged 8yrs, said he liked the Bah’ai one most because of the lovely patterns and the light.
The sheds take the grandeur of a worship space into the intimate space of a garden shed, but the artist has used materials which would be used in the full size worship space. Hand woven small carpets, painted ceilings, and painstaking attention to detail make each of the sheds special works of art.
The feeling one gets of looking in is of homeliness and invitation. One is drawn into the intimacy and colour of the shed, and inspired by a personal, domestic faith, and encouraged to explore our own personal faith space. The exhibition also explores such issues of use of space, colour and design by different faiths. The differences between the sheds, the different uses of light, colour and space, help us reflect on what is important in faith practice in world faiths and in our own practice of faith. How would we design a shed reflecting our own personal faith?
Do go along to the exhibition on the first floor of the library (It has been extended to September 30th). You won’t be disappointed.
Now, can you recognise the twelve religions’ sheds from the photos?