Softly lulling coos fill the nave. More than two thousand origami paper doves, popped in blue light, whirl softly on the ceiling. Visitors stop, inhale, lift the view and rest. These doves are testimony to a divinely calming presence among the visitors. And this reaction is intended. „Les Colombes – the doves“ is a site-specific multimedia installation by artist Michael Pendry.
In 2016 the project embarked on a journey through churches around the world, from Jerusalem to San Francisco to spread messages of peace and hope. A message we can’t spread too often.
Currently the installation is on view in the Church of Heavenly Rest in New York. Pendry’s doves teach us that, regardless of external circumstances, peace is always a touch a way – within us – and always available.
The dove becomes a symbol of the soul’s release from its earth-bound duty, a symbol of hope.
There is a romanticism in Pendry’s oeuvre that is rare in our fast-paced, mechanical world.
His monumental installation „heart number one“ that was on view in Munich in 2016, is a trestle, white and filigree, 5 meters wide and 5 meters high heart that alternates its color and rhythm. It pulsates, burns, throbs and sometimes even bleeds. In 2010 he created one of the biggest light and urban art installations ever done in Germany at the time. The „Stern des Suedens“ used more then 9000 LEDs to lighten the rotor blades of a 100m hight wind wheel on the outskirts of Munich. Coeur et Art Editor Inga Nelli talked to Michael about his art-for-peace project „Les Colombes“, his journey as an artist and his personal approach to art and spirituality.
Please tell us about Michael Pendry, what is the core that defines him?
I am a mixed media artist, mostly working in public spaces, doing large scale installation. It is very important for me to reach people with my projects, my work. Especially those people who do not usually visit the galleries, museums and theaters of our cultural world – to experience things of our everyday life in a new dimension and maybe also giving them a new magical twist, a magical moment which has almost disappeared in our world. That is my interest and always an important part in my works and in my life.
How did the idea of the “LES COLOMBES” installation, that tours the world and is currently on view in New York, came about?
I was asked to do an installation by an art advisor in Munich. She works for the Diocese of Munich/Bavaria, responsible for all art events/exhibitions in southern Bavaria linked with art in churches or dealing with religious content. She offered me two different spaces in the city center of Munich, one was the Church of the Holy Spirit, a very beautiful baroque Church build by the Brothers Asam, the famous bavarian Architects.
As she had a big faith in me and my work, I was free to do whatever I wanted to.
As I sat in this beautiful old church for almost two weeks not having a clue what to do, I discovered that there were doves everywhere, in pictures in the side chapels, in the main altar, and as stucco sculptures all over the place. So I started to research about the symbol of the dove, where it comes from, the meaning and what it means for us today. I tried to convert the idea of „spirit, holy spirit and peace“ ( all those terms stand behind the symbol of the dove ) into a three-dimensional installation and into my way of working.
The installation is seeking an approach to the idea of the spirit, the “Holy Spirit” on various levels and angles with a full range of stylistic devices – a physical and emotional experience in unique spaces.
In our modern hightech and consumer orientated society, faith and the spirit are losing importance. What reaction or action would you love to provoke with your installations?
Well, basically I always try to get to the people with my work, and in this very special case it works pretty well, as the symbol is easily accessible, everybody understands it and the tranquility of the installation makes the people calm down.
It lets them rest for a while and experience the space in a new way.
It makes people think and reflect about peace, what everyone could do in everyday life and what’s at stake at the moment, worldwide. And it has a very connective approach to it as well, as the installation is traveling form country to country, across borders and across walls, across barriers either geographically or in the heads of the people.
Your temporary art project “LES COLOMBES” tours churches all around the world. How exactly does religion fuel your practice as an artist?
Well, I wouldn´t say that I am a very religious person, nor would I call myself a religious artist. I would call my approach to religion a more spiritual approach. I grew up in a society that is characterized by the catholic church and of course that does something with you. It is a constant dispute, a friction that is good and creates new approaches in my work of art as well.
Flying Doves, lightened stars, beating hearts: The subject matter of your installations is somehow very romantic. Ever thought about this?
Lol… interesting question. Not really, to be honest. I always tend to approach projects or ideas on a very intuitional level. If it is perceived to be kind of „romantic“ what I do, fine. Yes, I am not a conceptual artist who´s only intention is to provoke and to shock.
I try to bring back some aesthetics into art and beauty.
Once a lady came to me after visiting one of my installations and said „Thank you so much for what you do. Finally art can be beautiful again!! Please never stop!!!“
Seeing your doves fly on different continents and in different countries from Israel to the U.K. and the US. What did you learn on this journey?
I learned a lot, I have to admit. A lot about myself, but also about how different countries and people are. But one thing is the same where ever I go: the wish for a more peaceful and equitable world.
What comes next?
Oooh, a lot. I have a few new projects in the States, a few ideas for public spaces in New York, a new installation for Munich in October, one in Vienna, and a very big public art project for Venice in Italy I am working on for almost 9 years now.
Until the 14th of August 2019 „Les Colombes“ is on view at the Church of the Heavenly Rest (CHR) in NEW YORK, Fifth Avenue, New York, USA
Header Photo: Los Colombes, Dormitio Abbey, Mount Zion, Jerusalem
Author: Inga Nelli