Spem In Alium Nunquam Habui

There was unexpected time today for a visit to Tate, and I felt I received sustenance, artistic, spiritual, emotional, from seeing both familiar favourites and new discoveries.

The familiar always includes a visit to the Rothko room – and it is this painting in particular that transfixes me there:

Red on Maroon 1959 by Mark Rothko 1903-1970

Red on Maroon (1959), Mark Rothko, from The Seagram Murals

It always is prayer to see it, today no less than all the times I looked at it before. 

“There is a way to God”, it whispers to me.

And I pray, “Show me”.

From there, the pilgrimage goes on to Richter, and from Richter to Kapoor. These are my sacred spaces…

Ishi’s Light, Anish Kapoor

Losing myself in “Ishi’s Light”, in the dark unknowable universe of this ‘God-egg’…that womb space with its light beam leading to the maker of all things, artist of artists. Safe and protected but open, unconfined. If you focus on the dark red glaze within, you can forget you are standing on solid ground, you lose yourself, swimming in this warm darkness. I feel lifted out of myself, giving myself up to this sphere.

Then there are The Tanks with unknown adventures waiting, and this time I discovered Otobong Nkanga’s “In Wetin You Go Do?” (2015, more info here). I actually felt like taking my shoes off and walking around it barefoot, as if joining in, or to honour the space… I did not have the courage – I’m not sure what Tate’s policy on barefoot visitors is… This piece has impact. And the arrangement feels like a Richter painting does to me – she stopped just when it felt perfect

And finally, I stepped into Janet Cardiff’s “Forty Part Motet” (more info here).

“Spem in alium nunquam habui…”

“I never had hope in another…”

One of the most breathtaking artistic experiences I’ve had in a long time. I stayed with this piece for a considerable while, listening, wandering, taking in the individual voices as well as the piece as a whole. Contemplative, intense, art as a bridge to the sacred in a secular space. People are praying in that room who have never set foot in a church. I wrote a prayer too before I left.


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