I've been a great fan of Sara Hannant's photographs ever since I learned of her "Mummers, Maypoles, and Milkmaids" series which documented modern English practices of pagan rites. I had the pleasure of meeting her when, in a twist of synchronicity, we ended up sitting next to one another at the I:MAGE conference in London last October, and I found her to be as lovely as her work.
Hannant has a new show opening in April called "Numinous," which collects her photographs of the fiber leavings of offerings made at Cornwall's Holy Wells. This work manages to explore this tradition while reanimating these devotional actions with further creative energy.
Forty Hill Enfield EN2 9HA
8 April – 19 July 2015
Exhibition Opening Hours Tuesday – Friday 11am – 5pm Saturday & Sunday 12 noon – 5pm
Open on Bank Holidays 12 noon – 5pm Free
Numinous is inspired by the tradition of offering votive rags at Cornwall’s Holy Wells.
Wells have long been regarded as sacred places and there remains a firm belief that wishing at wells can magically transform events.
A ribbon or piece of fabric from a person’s clothing, sometimes called a ‘cloutie’, is tied to a nearby tree. As the cloutie falls and re-enters the earth the wish is fulfilled.
However the incompatibility of unnatural fabrics to complete this process prompted Sara Hannant’s investigation. She uses forces of nature to create visceral images that combine ritual with metaphors of spiritual transformation.
Her photographs, made in camera, appear to expose spirits or human forms in an imaginary
realm which invite magical belief.
Sara Hannant says, “The work explores a dialogue between contemporary votive rags and ancient folk magic. On my first visit to the Holy Wells in Cornwall I noticed numerous colourful cloths and ribbons tied to the trees, some were inscribed with healing wishes. Among the rags hung a corn dolly, a silver St Christopher medallion and several Tibetan prayer flags. However many people who leave offerings are of an undefined spirituality: the cloths connect pilgrims’ hopes and dreams to the opaque but powerful numinous.”
She is returning to Forty Hall Estate with Numinous, following the success of her touring exhibition Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey through the English Ritual Year which was well-received at the Hall in 2014. The event and exhibition programme at Forty Hall Estate focuses on art, ecology and heritage and the Jacobean interiors of the Hall will provide a unique backdrop for Hannant’s strikingly beautiful imagery.