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1300 years of Lichfield Cathedral celebrated by South African Ian Redelinghuys sculpture to honour St Chad

Sunday, October 8, marked the 1300th anniversary of the dedication of Lichfield Cathedral and a University of Wolverhampton postgraduate student's creativity heralded the dawn of a new era in the building's history.

Ian Redelinghuys, Head of Fine Art at Pretoria Technikon in the Republic of South Africa, is studying for an MA in Art & Design, specialising in Sculpture.

Ian is a sculptor working primarily in metals and his new stainless steel and bronze creation, specially commissioned for the cathedral dedication ceremony, took pride of place at the commemorative service.

For his sculpture, installed in the Lady Chapel, Ian has crafted a shrine in remembrance of St Chad who moved the seat of the diocese to Lichfield. He was responsible for converting many people to Christianity and after his death numerous miracles were attributed to him.

When the sculpture was unveiled at the service attended by religious dignitaries, as well as University of Wolverhampton Vice-Chancellor John Brooks and School of Art and Design Dean, Andrew Brewerton, the reaction was unanimously positive.

Ian said: "I think a lot of preconceptions disappeared when people actually saw the work. The reaction was very favourable and I felt that people were quite excited by the sculpture.

"It combines modernism with a real sense of the spiritual history of the subject. Chad was a Saxon, but trained under Aidan at Lindisfarne. I looked at the Celtic spirituality and have created a demarcated sacred area in a circular shape. The circle is of seat height so that people can sit on it as I am very much in favour of sculpture as being something to be used."

Ian came over last September to spend four months researching his ideas and producing a model at the School. He then started on the sculpture proper in January 2000 and had it ready for shipping from his studio in Pretoria to the UK in August.

However, there were a few finishing touches that needed making over here, although a recent national crisis did its best to keep St Chad waiting!

Ian explains: "The crate weighed 890 kilogrammes and had to come over by ship, but after getting all the way from South Africa, they could not come the final 100 miles from London because of the petrol crisis.

"Eventually the sculpture came to Wolverhampton and it was a blessing in disguise because everyone at the School of Art and Design came together and assisted me. It was a real community effort."

The University of Wolverhampton has strong links with Lichfield Cathedral and Andrew Brewerton, Dean of the School of Art and Design, is a member of the Cathedral's Education Trust.

Mr Brewerton first introduced Ian as a candidate for the commission, as he knew that Ian was interested to develop a new sculptural language for the Christian liturgy. He comments: "We Europeans seem to have invented a strange bidding culture, in which the need to secure funding precedes any belief we may have in good ideas. The Lichfield project was the complete antithesis of this: a strong and irresistible idea, with no visible means of support, which as creative people we just had to make happen!"

Ian added: "The sculpture is mainly brass with a stainless steel frame and some bronze. You cannot really weld brass, so I have used screws which is an allusion to the industrial past of the Midlands. It's not quite a Meccano set, but it has similarities!"

Mr Brewerton was delighted by the recognition and historical implication of Ian's work which has further enhanced the School's reputation in the world of public art.

He said: "Ian Redelinghuys' bronze shrine for the 1300th anniversary of the dedication of Lichfield Cathedral is the latest in a series of major, high-profile public art projects that the University of Wolverhampton's School of Art and Design has negotiated, executed and delivered.

"The projects have included the 1999 major work in glass which has formed the centrepiece of the New Shanghai Library. They have created opportunities for Wolverhampton students to demonstrate their excellence and the School of Art and Design is developing an enviable - and unique - profile and reputation in the sphere of public art."

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