Susanna Bozhkov February 10, 2018

It's better when we listen by,

The Hostry, Norwich Cathedral

February 20-March 11 2018

free entry

press release by Susanna Bozhkov

photographs by Juliet Goodden

Juliet Goodden is a painter who is exploring the sacred landscape of the UK. Her ambition is to familiarise herself and others with contemporary religious life.

Not the lofty, distant, even divisive worlds of the past, but the people and ideas that rub shoulders in the high streets of Harrow, Nottingham, Derby . . . and now Norwich.

Akin to an anthropologist she works in situ - recording what she sees, what is going on inside a mosque, a temple or a church - sitting at the back, or in the first pew, drawing board on lap. Outdoors she can paint from the shelter of her car - whose interior and mirrors play their part in her compositions. Goodden emphatically draws and paints from life.

As an artist she processes the experience into visual form, sometimes merging the view, so that the exterior of a church from one day’s painting in Derby, will be joined by reflections of worshippers leaving their mosque, on another, in the car’s rearview mirror. Her painting Kedleston Road from a Derby series, won a place at the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize 2016 in Liverpool. 

In her latest show - It’s Better When We Listen - at Norwich Cathedral Hostry, Goodden’s paintings and drawings take a new turn, though still in the same territory.

This body of work focuses on the personal, domestic scale of religious objects, from the celebrated and iconic to the cheap, almost tacky souvenirs of different faiths that can equally connect and return the owner to a spiritual step, a pilgrimage, a special service, a moment of truth; or simply a happy time with family which takes on more significance later.

The paintings, in oil on sari fabric that Goodden finds in charity shops, place small religious sculptures and ritual paraphenalia in surprising conversation with each other. Norwich Cathedral also appears in several of the works, like a dream arising from a brilliant field of green silk sari, or tie-dyed purple, in the company of a Muslim incantation, Hannukah candles or a sacred heart necklace.

Goodden is also showing her collection of religious souvenirs, from which the paintings were created. There are small stone cows from India, a statue of Buddha from the Norwich Buddhist Centre, a snow globe of Norwich Cathedral and Native American Kachina dolls, among others.

The exhibition's title, Goodden says, occurred to her after  attending services in many different places of worship and hearing extremely similar prayers and advice. “Rather than make assumptions about each other, we gain a better understanding when we listen to each other.”



 Sandra Gibson  August 27, 2016  

John Moore's Painting Prize 2016

Walker Art Gallery
9th July – 27th November 2016
Free Entry

Reviewed by Sandra Gibson
Photographs of paintings by Geoff Edwards

I also noted examples of the diptych genre in this year’s exhibition. Traditionally associated with religious art, the diptych consists of two sections: variations on a theme, or an event in chronological order, such as the Annunciation and the Nativity. Gemma Cossey’s Halves II (Continuum), 2015, a painting in acrylic, water-based pigment paint and gesso on canvas, juxtaposes two carefully painted examples of texture and tone: white horizontal stripes and a white criss-cross motif. Bella Easton’s Passageways, 2015, is an interesting and ambiguous composition possessing a decorative formality that raises it from mere narrative description. She has used the diptych form compositionally, to create one painting. It is a symmetrical diptych: the two images back-to-back, creating exquisite poise. Seen another way, the twin interiors become the prow of a ship. The use of the linen is part of the structural scaffolding. I would have given this painting a prize.

.........Perhaps the most innovative use of the diptych is in Juliet Goodden’s small oil painting Kedleston Road, 2014, where there is a painting within a painting. The view point is of a road and buildings, in colour, from a vehicle whose occupants are seen, in black and white, in the rear-view mirror. The inside/outside dichotomy is emphasised by the contrast between monochrome and colour. It is a vertical diptych, one section above the other, rather than the traditional side-by-side version.



Dr. Valerie Reardon, book foreward


Derby Prayers


Juliet Goodden’s paintings and drawings are always the product of close observation so it is unsurprising that when she moved to Derby, a city she was completely unfamiliar with, she began to drive around, looking and drawing in order to see and understand it further.


The work in this book is the result of two years of careful visual research into the various religious communities that reflect the city’s cultural diversity. Religious centres are cultural spaces which enable the community to inhabit the culture of their birth without pressure to assimilate to the dominant culture. Goodden’s project was not confined, however, to the religions of the ‘other’ as various manifestations of Christianity are also included. Her intention was to shed a small light on what she regards as the common ground of religious faith. The book includes drawings and paintings of exterior and interior views of religious buildings but they are certainly not mere descriptions of buildings or religious practices. Instead, they are redolent with painterly concerns.


The first thing to notice is Goodden’s partial, almost unlikely framing of a subject. The exterior views often privilege run down shops and signage – the visual detritus of an urban landscape. The building – which is ostensibly the focus of the picture – is in the background or off to one side as in the case of Derby Cathedral, where only its spire is visible. This holistic approach provides a context for the building and points out the ordinariness of these places of worship which people walk by every day. Goodden further dissolves classical perspective by including part of her car in many of the paintings. As she explains:


 ' It breaks up the composition, taking away from a straight landscape format, as the foreground is at the top of the painting as well as at the bottom. There is also a colour interest, as some of the upper portion might be seen through the glass in the boot.’


By making visible the constructed nature of the image, Goodden disrupts easy voyeurism and implicates herself – and the viewer – in the process of looking. The substantiality of her exterior images, however, is in direct contrast to the ephemerality of the interior depictions. Hints of architectural or decorative detail allow the viewer to complete the scene. Quick bursts of colour – ruby red garlands on a row of Hindu statues or the bright blue stoles on a group of priests – enliven the whispery line drawing. Figures are indistinct and often overlapping, suggesting movement within the space and time. The lack of clearly defined outlines or boundaries also evokes the subsumption of individuality which is a hallmark of many religious communities.


As a body of work, the images in this book offer an understanding of the place of prayer in Derby. Juliet Goodden’s remarkable achievement is her ability to make visible, by painterly means, some of the most fundamental and intangible aspects of religious worship.


Dr. Valerie Reardon