Artist Rev Peter Gardner hopes to bring a sense of peace to the General Assembly

The iconic black and white corridor leading into the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly Hall has been transformed into a message of peace for this year’s annual gathering of the Kirk.

Rev Peter Gardner and his wife Heidi, who are both artists, have spent the last week constructing an installation designed to give commissioners a feeling of peace as they enter and leave the debating chamber.
Rev Peter Gardner and his wife Heidi, who are both artists, spent a week constructing an installation designed to give commissioners a feeling of peace as they enter and leave the debating chamber. Credit Andrew O'Brien.

Rev Peter Gardner and his wife Heidi, who are both artists, have spent the last week constructing an installation designed to give commissioners a feeling of peace as they enter and leave the debating chamber.

The General Assembly brings together around 730 Commissioners from churches across Scotland and around the world to chart the Kirk’s course for the next year.

Turning words into visuals

Mr Gardner is the Kirk’s pioneer minister to the Glasgow Arts community and works with wife Heidi as Gardner & Gardner. He said:

“We've created our work on the threshold in and out of the Assembly, encouraging people to reflect on the word 'peace'. So people are welcomed in with the word 'peace', and as they leave, they're met with the General Assembly theme of going in peace and 'Peace Be With You'."

"Over the year we've been hoping to do something at the General Assembly, to turn something that's often to do with speech, conversation, discussion and words into something that's more visual.

"We came in in January to see the building, as our work is context-specific. It has to fit into the space, so we always come up with ideas which work for that space rather than beforehand. The iconic black and white corridor felt like it was the right place to do something.

"The Assembly is a place where we gather as a church to, collectively, seek God's wisdom. And, in the Old Testament, wisdom is almost always feminine, and so the title of the piece became 'All Her Paths Are Peace'.”

The couple were surprised some months later to discover that the theme for the General Assembly would match their artwork.The theme of the 2018 General Assembly is ‘Peace be with you.’

Heidi Gardner said: "I think it often happens in our work; our faith informs what we do as artists, and it often feels like our inspiration is given to us as a gift, and that is then for us to give to other people.

"In some ways, when Peter came back and said the theme was peace, I wasn't that surprised."

The couple always try to use low-cost or recycled materials in their artworks and 'All Her Paths Are Peace' is no different. The entire installation was constructed using 10 rolls of black tape and cost just over £10. The only additional costs were the hours of meticulous measuring and planning that went into the work and the cost of printing postcards. Each commissioner will be given a postcard of the installation to send or keep.

Beauty in the abstract

As a contemporary art piece, the challenge will be in interpreting the meaning behind the visuals.
As a contemporary art piece, the challenge will be in interpreting the meaning behind the visuals.

As a contemporary art piece, the challenge will be in interpreting the meaning behind the visuals.

Peter said: "As well as saying the word, and repeating the word, we wanted it to have a beauty in the abstraction of the pattern because our work is quite conceptual and it's not figurative, and it's challenging for people as contemporary art.

"I love the way the word 'peace' is revealed and obscured at the same time, as sometimes the path of peace is not always easy to find. We discover that sometimes in the Assembly, so this piece is a reflection of that aspiration that peace is what we find here."

"It's OK if people come and they don't get it right away - we'll be around all week during the Assembly to chat with folk and see people's reactions. Overall, we simply hope that people respond with their heart and not just their head."

You can view Peter and Heidi’s art installation on the black and white entryway tiles into the Assembly Hall, during the General Assembly this week, running until Friday 25 May.