St Laurence's Church, Reading and the Grounded Exhibition at Creativ.Spaces

Loving history and drawing is one thing, but to be able to connect with other members of the creative community locally - especially those who have similar interests - is incredible. I've got to know so many new friends and as well as advice, fun and friendship they have also hugely inspired me in my writing and drawing.

In an online meeting some months ago, we decided that we would run an exhibition together. It would be on the theme of 'Grounded', a reaction to spiritual and emotional grounding as well as a feel for the autumn/winter vibes at this time of year: taking stock of the challenges of the last year or two and readying ourselves for the colder days and darker nights ahead. We would hold it at Creativ.Spaces in Caversham, near Reading, in aid of the mental health charity Mind

Our community includes ceramic artists, watercolourists, portraitists, sketchers, photographers and oil and acrylic artists. And, it turns out, we all took the theme of 'grounded' in different ways. Some highlighted the physical sense of being grounded - however fragile this is - in the soil or the sand. Others looked back to how they were inspired by daily lockdown walks and how nature and the countryside helped us 'ground' despite challenges we may have been facing. Others looked to happier times where they were inspired and awestruck by forces of nature. 

I decided to draw a church. 

St Laurence's Church, in Reading's Market Place. 

Since moving to Reading in 2009, I've loved this church. I pass it each time I go to town, on my way to Broad Street through the Market Place and I always look up at its stone turrets and the gargoyles that glare down at me as I walk past. 

There was a church here since Norman times, and it formed part of the entrance to the grand Reading Abbey, by a gateway on the right hand side. That gateway no longer survives, but traces of the Medieval church still do. Over the last 900 years countless Medieval royalty have cast their eyes over its stone structure. Visitors to the abbey would have given it a sideways glance as they passed through the abbey gates since the twelfth century. King Stephen and the Empress Matilda would have known it, near the abbey Matilda's father founded in 1121. Edward IV and Henry VI may have looked up at it as they held parliaments in the town in the 1400s. Henry VII took a walk in the church grounds in 1486. Anne Boleyn may have glanced up at its gargoyles - just like I do, today - when she visited the abbey in 1532. Elizabeth I had her own personal pew here where she worshipped during her visits to Reading, which was decorated by the townspeople with fresh flowers before her arrival. 

St Laurence is definitely 'rooted' in Reading's history. It's one of the town's oldest buildings and has survived all sorts of adversity. I think there's a lot to be learned from our historic buildings, not just in the stone and timber of their construction, but the energies of the people who married, celebrated, worshipped, hoped and grieved here for almost a thousand years. 

Here is my explanation that was on display with the painting at the exhibition: 

"The structure of St Laurence’s church in Reading’s ancient market place has pierced the sky for almost 900 years. During that time it has been pelted with thunderstorms, rain and gales. It has survived religious and political upheaval and continually been built and rebuilt, even surviving a WW2 bomb strike in 1943.

And yet it still stands. The church is not only ‘grounded’ in the soil as my exaggerated perspective conveys but also gives us an opportunity to learn from its resilience; to ‘ground’ ourselves emotionally, face adversity and find our own strength."

Me with my painting of St Laurence's Church, Reading - 
at Creativ.Spaces, Caversham. Photo: Minna at Metawell  

It was great to collaborate with other like-minded creatives - on the night it was really busy, with drinks flowing and beautiful (and delicious!) cookies provided by Keigher's of Caversham. 

VERY delicious cookies from Keighers of Caversham

I loved chatting to people during the evening, it was great fun. Please do follow the links for details about Creativ.Spaces or the workshops being run there by MADEbyTamalia. They worked so hard to put the exhibition on and organise the event. As part of the exhibition, photographer Scarlet Page showed her own exhibition in an adjoining room, of some of us, in our creative spaces - called 'Meraki' - which shows us in the spaces where we each create: where we feel comfortable, at our most happy and inspired to work. 

My finished painting of St Laurence Church is A3 in size, and completed in fineliners, watercolour paints and Tombow grey and black brush pens. The original is for sale, please email if you would like it or if you'd like to commission me to paint you a house portrait or other building you love. Pubs and churches are always popular!

You might also like: Historic Urban Sketching at St Mary's, Purley on Thames; A Tour of Elizabethan House, Plymouth and my series on Reading's history, where you can find everything from witches to ancient pubs!

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