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Liverpool and Cologne’s three cathedrals. Jan 2012. A review

Liverpool and Cologne’s three cathedrals

 An Exhibition of drawings by Colin Taylor

Cologne City Hall on 7 – 27th January 2012


Cathedrals, and in particular Gothic ones, are often a Gesamtkunstwerk—a ‘total work of art’—uniting architecture, sculpture and stained-glass art. To the eye they resemble rocky landscapes, stretching up from the earth towards the sky. Arches are held aloft by columns and pillars, as the treetop’s canopy crowns above

its mighty trunk. It is not unsurprising that the British artist Colin Taylor (b. 1960), would start two years ago drawing cathedrals. The Manchester-based artist was commissioned by the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool to complete a series of drawings of the building’s interior, which were shown in the spring of 2011.

After this exhibition Taylor received a further challenge: For an exhibition in Cologne he was to commit the other two cathedrals to paper, namely the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, and the Gothic cathedral in Cologne, the oldest of the three.

For Taylor, a passionate mountain climber, stone from which all three cathedrals were built—is a material with which he is well acquainted. Taylor has climbed extensively in his native Britain, in continental Europe, South America and Asia, and has subsequently committed these experiences as source material for his art. For Taylor, both mountaineering and drawing have something archaic as well as radical. Just as a sure footing is essential for the climber, for the artist it is a secure standpoint.


Though requiring concentration and exertion, both activities bring elation when the goal is reached, whether this is the summit or a completed work. Both are for Taylor mutually fruitful and are vital components of a process: climbing a mountain, experiencing it, viewing it with an artist’s eye, then executing that vision onto paper;

gradually emerging a highly expressive work. Taylor himself has said that ‘drawing is the foundation’

of his artistic work, upon which a building can be constructed. But how can one draw an edifice as expansive and massive as a cathedral? Taylor’s drawing are organic in that the start point is fairly arbitrary and the image develops outwards. To accomplish this, Taylor’s preferred media are graphite and charcoal, as these materials enable the artist to commit the subject quickly onto paper. Several layers and textures sometimes involving other minerals such as  iron powder or red bole (a kind of clay) are applied which over a period of months are drawn, removed and re-drawn.


What does Colin Taylor’s intend with these cathedral drawings? The artist wishes to depict neither the cathedrals nor their structural elements in true-to-life detail. Instead he attempts to coax out artistically each of the cathedrals’ identity and physical uniqueness. What results are their distinguishing features while nonetheless underscoring their commonalities.

 A cursory scan of the works will do neither them nor the cathedrals justice; rather we are invited to mentally enter a picture, so that we might arrive at the work’s centre. In this way we might begin to appreciate und understand Colin Taylor’s experience with the three cathedrals—these stone landscapes—both as a climber and an artist.


Eva-Maria Will, Cologne

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