A collection of life sized busts of Jesus and the apostles, made from fragments of crockery, is on display on the High Altar of Edinburgh’s Episcopalian cathedral.
The sculptural interpretation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper is the work of Silvy Weatherall, a multi-disciplinary artist from Irongray in Dumfries and Galloway, who is fascinated by finding new possibilities for the obsolete, the unwanted, the lost, and the forgotten.
The figures, partly inspired by the phrenology busts that were influential in 19th century psychiatry, are all in simplified form. Weatherall has deliberately avoided defining facial features on most of the figures, except Jesus, John, and Judas.
She said: ‘The idea began some years ago after my studio was flooded by rain and I rediscovered some broken crockery in boxes and wondered about the final meals that might have been eaten on them.
‘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.’
Having been inspired, Silvy Weatherall asked friends and neighbours to donate broken crockery, which she used to create the figures using the Japanese art of Kintsugi. This ancient discipline highlights breakage by using a lacquer mixed with powdered gold to repair pottery. By employing this technique, Weatherall is capturing the Japanese idea of rejoicing in cracks and imperfections.
The busts have been created in response to modern mental health issues exacerbated by the pandemic, and oppose ‘our air-brush culture’, which Weatherall believes promotes impossible perfection.
She adds: ‘After all, it’s our “imperfections” that 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 Episcopalian 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 – though anyone wishing to join the congregation is welcome.