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Gates of Paradise I

Mixed media including wood and Idenden
356 x 272 x 11cm

As part of my research for Something About Paradise for Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I was struck by the Christian notion of there being actual “Pearly Gates,” grand portals through which souls pass in order to gain admission to heaven. In the Muslim tradition, although there are seven entry points to paradise, they are not framed as actual doors. I imagine them as simple archways in a wall, but their appearance is not commonly defined and there is no iconography around them, as there is in the Western tradition. What also interests me is the persistent notion across faiths of there being “thresholds,” marking the transition from one state to another, however undefined or symbolic. After all, why not just “appear” in paradise?

My response to these questions and the conversations they’ve engendered has been to create a series of new sculptures. Playfully speculative, they take on the notions of magnificence and mystery in a series of imaginative propositions of what the Gates of Paradise might look like. These are gates not as fortifications or institutional “closed doors,” but celebratory thresholds, taking inspiration from across the ages and decorative traditions, and drawing on many fine examples of wrought ironwork in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Made of painted birch plywood, the gates function as sketches or evocations, flights of fancy from which to begin to imagine the realms of paradise beyond. At Yorkshire Sculpture Park, they lean against the walls of the space provisionally, like archaeological treasures, conjuring the gallery as staging post. Where have they come from? What is their ultimate destination? And the visitor, standing amongst them may ask themselves are they standing just outside paradise, or just within?


Photography by Jonty Wilde.

Gates of Paradise I