Sanctuary Exhibition, 2009


This collection of pictures took many years to accumulate. I have always been preoccupied both with sacred places, which carry the energy of centuries of human activity, and wild places where the energy of untamed nature is tangible. Perhaps this contrast speaks of the balance between control and surrender, known and unknown. I am certainly enchanted by wild places, and with nature.

Looking back over the many pictures I’ve taken and drawing them together has enabled me to see a common thread between them all. There are pictures of shrines, sacred places, refuges, sanctuaries, retreats and havens around the world that have fascinated me over the years.

Sanctuary -Tirta Empul, Bali.jpg
Sanctuary- Balinese temple altars jpg.jpg

These sacred sites may be natural beauties or historic landmarks left by ages past: it may be a mountain, a river, a tree, a bridge or building, a rock or a stone. They are the physical form of people’s spiritual roots and connections with their past. Traditional societies have always recognised the importance of these sites, which take on a symbolic power through which people can connect themselves with their own past.

Holy ground is the detailed organisation of the space around a sacred site. These are places of worship. There may be associated rites (of passage), a physical gateway, maybe a layering or nesting of precincts representing layers of access, a gradual revelation. Every community needs some place where this feeling of slow, progressive access through gates to a holy centre may be experienced. When such a place exists in a community a feeling of holiness will gradually come to life there among the people who share the experience.

Sanctuary - Alcazar, Seville.jpg
Sanctuary- Fountains abbey.jpg
Steele & Stovell