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  • Gaby

How do you paint a ceiling?

Peter has told us it is his dream to decorate the walls of the whole of a small church, as artists sometimes would in the renaissance, most famously Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. At the age of 82, he feels he will not achieve this now. Perhaps he won't be able to achieve that dream, but he has painted a ceiling painting for St Bede's Catholic Church in Newport Pagnell around 1986-1987.

The painting was a commission by the parish priest of the day as part of church renovations at the time. Peter comments:

'The church is a converted old town hall, not at all what you would expect as a church. The priest wanted the town in some way included in the picture and their most iconic feature was their bridge, so I made sure to include that. There were also some houses which I thought matched the bridge which I have worked into the background. ‘

This is one of the few times Peter has included real places in his religious paintings (Suffering of the world is another example)

But how did he do it? The first thing to note is that unlike Michelangelo, Peter did not literally paint onto the ceiling. Instead, like a large proportion of Peter's works, the painting was done on boards, which he painted white, and sanded to a smooth surface. In the photo at the top, you can also see that it was made in three sections, each which had slots or beams to link them together.

Due to the size of the painting, although some of it could be painted in sections in his small studio at his home, eventually he needed a larger space in which to paint, and with permission from his parish priest, he then painted in his local church, Our Lady of Peace, Burnham.

The oval shape and fisheye type perspective that are used here are features that can be found in other church ceiling paintings.

One of the other unusual features of this work is that it is perhaps the only instance where any of his painting is actually in three dimensions. Peter has often used unusual shapes for his paintings and has made use of internal painted frames out of which his subjects break to give a sense of bursting out of the paintings, but most are completely in the flat. Here, you can see around the edges golden swallows. Peter asked a friend - Chris Kay to carve these swallows, although some he carved himself as well. He then covered in gold leaf, but finding this rather tricky, he later used a gold paint. The patterns which also surround the central image are also 3D, made of bent cane pinned in place with nails.

The painting remains in place and you can go and see it when the church is open. Check the St Bede's parish website for details. Photo of painting in situ with thanks to St Bede's website.

For more pictures and bible references for the painting, visit - Ceiling Painting for St Bede's at Newport Pagnell.

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