Soup Of Souls

‘Soup of Souls’ is an art installation at the Portsmouth Cathedral where Pete Codling has been the Artist in Residence for a project funded by the Arts Council. There is always a theme to these projects, and Pete’s theme was time. I went along on the first evening the exhibition opened and had my first glance at the 8 panels hanging in the nave of the cathedral.

So many words came to mind that evening, breathtaking, inspiring, soul searching, storytelling and even a magical, mythological feeling came into my head. Having spent a quiet time there before the crowds arrived I decided it would be lovely to come back and revisit it again. Meeting up with the artist it was really nice to get his views on the panels and where his inspiration came from. Spending several months researching the stories of the Solent and those that lost their lives at sea meant Pete had a mission to tell these stories and present them in a meaningful way.

Being in residence in the Dome part of the Cathedral in Old Portsmouth meant that the panels when put together actually create a trapezium shape that is the exact shape of the Dome. Because it would have been impossible to allow crowds to venture up to the Dome the panel shape was designed to hang suspended from the nave which I think has a wonderful effect for the exhibition.

8 panels in total displaying a total of 24 drawings really draw you into Pete’s charcoal world. Each panel tells a different story from the titles – they fell -they sank – they fish – they sang – they flew and they rose to they lost and they swam. With 4 historical stories and 4 personal ones, the exhibition has history and talks of the local fisherman community to the stories that hit the news headlines of people dying in the sea and local people remembering these tragic incidents that happened amongst the Solent.

Asking about the research done and what moved Pete in these historical facts he said it was the personal stories that touched his heart. The story of the young boy who sailed on a little boat aged 14 with his friend to meet a girl and never made it back really had an impact on the artist. The more he delved into people that are lost at sea, the more he realised just how many people have fallen into the sea or committed suicide and it has such a sad and moving element to the exhibition.

Having the personal stories attached to this theme made the panels really shout out and made you think about loss, sadness, and destruction the sea can have on lives. These panels have a way of drawing you in and then letting you walk back and find something else you had missed before. Having gone back a second time I am very glad I did because it was a chance to analyse each piece thoughtfully. ‘Soup of Souls’ really makes you think of the mythology of the sea and how all the stories told also has a magical sense of what spiritual energy lies beneath the deep blue sea we have around Portsmouth.

‘Soup Of Souls’ is free to go see and on until the end of March at Portsmouth Cathedral in Old Portsmouth. Take your children, granny and anyone you can as an exhibition worth seeing at least twice! Trust me you won’t be disappointed.  On the 28th February there is an artist talk and book launch of the exhibition so look out for that!

Find out more about Pete Codling’s latest work here 



Photos credit to Pete Codling

By Louise O’Brien