11 February 2016

AN art project which includes a new creation hosted by The Salvation Army's International Headquarters (IHQ) has been launched in London. Stations of the Cross uses new and existing artworks at 14 iconic locations to lead viewers on a 'pilgrimage' across central London, telling the story of Jesus' journey through Jerusalem to the Cross. Other venues include St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and the National Gallery. The exhibition – which runs until Easter Monday – tells the story of the Passion in fresh ways.

Information about all the stations – including an interactive map, podcasts and events – is available from the website: www.coexisthouse.org.uk/stations2016 or through the free ‘Alight: Art and Sacred’ smartphone app. There is also a Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Sea of Colour by night

The launch event took place at the chapel of King's College London, attended by representatives from the various sites that are hosting the 14 stations. Artist Terry Duffy, whose 1981 work 'Victim, No Resurrection?' is installed in the chapel as Station 1, spoke about his inspiration and also encouraged the people gathered to channel their passion for art and 'making people's lives better'. Terry is co-curator of the project, together with King's College academic Dr Aaron Rosen.

Güler Ates – the artist who was commissioned to create 'Sea of Colour', which now hangs in the window of IHQ – used unwanted and discarded children’s clothing to draw comparisons between Jesus’ suffering on the way to the Cross and the suffering today of refugees across the world. Organisers of the project felt that having this work at IHQ was particularly appropriate because of the assistance provided by The Salvation Army to refugees and other forgotten people around the world.

The huge collage was created in the gallery space next to the public cafe by Güler and a team of volunteers – including refugees, and staff and officers from The Salvation Army. Güler worked closely with members of refugee women's groups, some of whom donated clothes. Others poured their experiences into messages written on some of the clothes, from words of hope and peace to poignant messages such as 'Why did my son have to die?' – which has particular power when linked to the Crucifixion.

Once the work was finished, it was taken on a perilous, difficult journey over the River Thames and back across the Millennium Bridge to symbolise the loss and trauma suffered by refugees who are forced to leave their homes and travel long distances to seek safety and welcome. At times, when the blustery wind caught the fabric, there were worries that the whole piece would be blown into the Thames.

A dramatic video of this journey can be seen on the Stations of the Cross page of The Salvation Army's international website, at sar.my/stations2016. The page is regurlarly updated with information about and reactions to the project, and includes interview footage with Güler in which she explains her approach to the work and also talks about her overwhelmingly positive experience of working with The Salvation Army.

Güler Ates is best known for her photographs of mysterious figures in shimmering, diaphanous veils, drifting through opulent spaces. In 'Sea of Colour', fabric takes a different form, drawn from donated and discarded children’s and baby clothes, too worn, damaged, or dirty to be used for charity. These cast-off clothes offer a haunting reminder of children who have died – sometimes in their mothers’ arms – in journeys to escape conflict.

Having suffered displacement from eastern Turkey herself, the artist feels an acute empathy for refugees, and created this work with the assistance of women from local refugee groups. In a new way, she returns to questions that emanate throughout her work: can we ever really know the person in front of us? Can we know their pain? Even when Jesus stood naked, stripped of his garments, who among the jeering crowds really knew what he felt?

Information, downloadable photos and video footage of the project, with information about The Salvation Army’s ongoing refugee response, are available online at sar.my/stations2016.

Report by IHQ Communications
International Headquarters

Tags: Europe, Refugees in Europe