Press: The Journal front page – Chris Minchin makes his mark on church space

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By David Whetstone, The Journal arts editor.

DRAWINGS inspired by alarming YouTube footage purporting to show an exorcism in America feature in a church artwork. But they are not the only arresting aspect of Chris Minchin’s installation at Holy Trinity, Jesmond, Newcastle.

The Newcastle University fine art student has also arranged the seating in the church – chairs not pews – into a 20ft tower. Chris, 22, who grew up in Gosforth and now lives in Fenham, remembers attending ceilidhs at Holy Trinity as a child and being intrigued to see the chairs rearranged. “To make this piece I wanted to rearrange the fabric of the church to show it in a different context,” he explained.

“I wanted to question what a church can be and what its place is in modern society.” Chris said he stumbled on the YouTube video and found the image of the boy writhing on the ground disturbing. He was struck that so many other people had watched it, meaning that, in internet terms, it “went viral”. Chris said it prompted some heated debate with people asking how such a thing could happen. But he added: “I don’t think the boy was forced into it.”

Chris isolated the image of the boy and did 100 pen and ink drawings of him to feature in a film which runs on a loop in the church. He said the artwork was called Do Boys Pray for a Manifested Glory? because the exorcism was attributed to something called the Manifested Church in America.

Chris said the vicar of Holy Trinity, Mark Wroe, was supportive but there had been “some to-ing and fro-ing” before permission was granted. Nick Darby, vicar of St James’s and St Basil’s Church in Fenham, where Chris worships, saw the artwork and approved. “There’s nothing new about using a church for things other than worship,” he said. “The nave used to be a public meeting place. It was the Victorians who installed pews.”

Of exorcism, he said: “You can get your fingers burned if you dabble in things bordering on the spiritual and psychological. It is a specialist ministry.” But he said most vicars had been asked to bring a sense of peace to a place where people felt ill at ease.

You can see Chris’s artwork from today until Friday.

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