Last Supper busts of Jesus and Apostles made from broken china on display in city cathedral

Life-sized busts of Jesus and the apostles created from crockery fragments joined together in gold are on display on the High Altar of Edinburgh’s Episcopalian cathedral.

Sunday, 22nd August 2021, 5:33 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd August 2021, 5:46 pm
"Last Supper” Ceramic Heads Art at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. PICS: Colin Hattersley

The Last Supper, by multi-disciplinary artist Silvy Weatherall is a sculptural interpretation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic painting of the same name.

Silvy, from Irongray in Dumfries and Galloway, said she came up with the idea after her studio was flooded by ‘biblical rain’ and she rediscovered some boxes of broken china.

Her sculptural series evolved from a speculation into what was the ‘last supper’ served upon the plates and china.

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The figures are all in simplified form and are partly inspired by the phrenology busts that were influential in 19th century psychiatry.

Ms Weatherall said she deliberately avoided defining features or characteristics on most of the figures – except for Jesus, John (set to his right) and Judas.

Silvy said: “The idea began some years ago after my studio was flooded by biblical rain and I rediscovered some boxes of broken china in a soggy corner and wondered about the final meals that might have been eaten on them.

"They had been kept, along with other broken and useless belongings, as an ever-growing collection for a ‘rainy day project’. It was a consequence of my hatred of throwing things away. Chucking out a much-loved, inherited tea pot after it got broken is just too emotional.

“I then began thinking about the Last Supper and ideas about how people can be broken by events as they go through life and also how they can be remade in new forms.”

After coming up with the idea of creating busts representing Jesus and the apostles, Silvy asked friends and neighbours for donations of broken crockery.

She then created the figures using the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi or golden joinery meaning “to repair with gold”.

Through the iconic series she is also capturing another Japanese philosophy, that of recognising that cracks and imperfections are a valuable part of an object’s history.

She added: “This series was made as a response to modern-day problems surrounding mental health. Many of our current issues, felt especially during Covid-19 lockdowns, centre around existential crises, mental fragility, self-identity and our ‘air-brush’ culture, or striving to achieve the impossibility of perfection albeit through filtered lenses.

"Here, my aim is to embrace the ethos of Wabi-Sabi and the art of Kintsugi; to rejoice in and highlight the cracks and imperfections. These ‘imperfections’ are what make us unique.”

Reverend Marion Chatterley, Canon and Vice Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, said: “When Silvy first showed me the sculptures I was absolutely blown away by them. And the public response to them since they have gone on display has been wonderful.

“They say so much about the nature of human life about healing and forming, and about the nature of the Eucharist – Christ’s broken body making us whole again.”

Last Supper is at the cathedral until 31 August. The cathedral is open to visitors from 8am to 6pm daily. Visitors are asked to avoid 8am, 10.30am and 3.30pm on Sundays, when services are taking place.

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