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The second person whose work is worth thinking about in the context of the sacramental is Edmund de Waal, and not just because he was brought up in the Deanery at Canterbury Cathedral. When I first knew his work, he regarded himself as working as a craftsman potter, trained partly by Geoffrey Whiting, a student of Bernard Leach, and partly in Japan, where he went on a scholarship in 1990. There is a long and honourable tradition in the work of the craftsman potter, as de Waal, with his strong sense of the tradition of the craft, knows better than most: the production of the simple vessel, the repetitive routine which leads to very minor modifications in individual works which are intended as much for use as for visual enjoyment and contemplation. But de Waal was ambitious for his practice beyond the dimensions and restrictions which are attendant on the practice of craft. He began to display his work in sequences and series, not as utilitarian objects, but as works of art. What is it that gives the work legitimacy and currency as works of contemporary art? It is not the works themselves, which are essentially the same in kind and character as they were when he was working as a potter. It is the space between them, the sense that one is being encouraged to look at the work not as something utilitarian, but as something transcendental: the preoccupation with the space between the work which gives it its ordering; the preoccupation with the idea of the vessel and the symbolic connotations of the cup, as well as the symbolic connotations of whiteness which he has explored in his recent book; the sense that the meaning of the work is not finite and described, but has symbolic and emblematic and historical overtones, which — again, I cannot help but use religious language — are devotional and sacramental: the communion cup, the fragility of porcelain, the search for history in the use of the material; these all give his work a resonance which is beyond craft.

The last of the artists whose work I want to consider is Antony Gormley. I remember him complaining very bitterly when Bradford City Council turned down a large work which he had planned there and how not long afterwards I read that he was working on a major work for Gateshead which became The Angel of the North. This is what Antony Gormley himself says about the origin and meaning of the work:

People are always asking, why an angel? The only response I can give is that no one has ever seen one and we need to keep imagining them. The angel has three functions — firstly a historic one to remind us that below this site coal miners worked in the dark for two hundred years, secondly to grasp hold of the future, expressing our transition from the industrial to the information age, and lastly to be a focus for our hopes and fears.

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