THE piercing gaze of homeless people forms the basis for a thought-provoking exhibition at a city centre church.
Sunderland Minster is staging its largest art display to date, Nomads, which encourages visitors to focus on the oft-forgotten people who live on our country’s streets.
The striking pieces are from the paintbrush of artist Simon Yorke who photographed homeless people he encountered outside the Tate Modern gallery in London and used the photos to create large portraits.
The Merseyside artist’s work will be on display on Wearside for the next three weeks and is free to view.
Simon, who studied art at the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London, said: “The pieces started life in London when I met homeless people begging outside of Tate Modern.
“Portraits are usually of people who are loved and revered, but what’s interesting is that the people in these portraits don’t have anyone to love them, they’re ignored by society.
“I painted the eyes first because people often look away from homeless people, they don’t want to make eye contact with them. I’m hoping these portraits will help change that, that people will make eye contact.
“I approached each of the people and asked if I could photograph them. I never saw any of them again and they have never seen the finished portrait, but that fits in with the exhibition, because they are transient.”
The portraits have so far been displayed in London, Paris and Liverpool.
They arrived in Sunderland thanks to an exchange with Liverpool Cathedral as part of Liverpool Biennial arts festival.
Sunderland Minster Canon Provost, Rev Sheila Bamber, said: “This is the first time we have had an exhibition of this size, by one artist, in the Minster and it looks fabulous.
“The portraits are as striking as I thought they would be, they sit well in the space, and make a bold statement. It’s not specifically a Christian exhibition, it’s a humanity statement that speaks into the worshipping life of this space.”
Specialist company Exhibit-Art installed the exhibition using a free-standing structure so as not to damage the church walls.
The display paves the way for a large-scale arts project in September.
Sunderland Minster will be one of four major centres hosting All We Are Saying, a project by international artists aimed at promoting peace.
Over the coming months, the Minster will be encouraging visual artists, performers, musicians, photographers, writers and poets to produce new apolitical and nonreligious work for the event.
l Nomads is on display at Sunderland Minster until March 13, from 9am to 3pm each day.