Braddon Snape - Altar/d at Adamston Uniting

“like liquid mercury in the air” — an invitation to look, and see, to breathe and to wonder

Cloud form by artist Braddon Snape

This shiny cut out cloud form created by artist Braddon Snape is the fifth in the series of Altar/d art installations developed at the Adamstown Uniting Church, in Newcastle, Australia. Like a punctuation mark it announces its presence as a physical object with both humour and delight!

Here, just above the heads of the congregation, it is suspended by a golden support that appears to have emerged from among the gold organ pipes. The cloud is cut out from two stainless sheets that have been welded together and then inflated by air. It is like a comic book version of a cloud, a simple easily recognised form. Yes it is also a surprise addition to the church, both delightful and playful. It is something that children understand as they approach the work and investigate its strange mirrored reflections where bodies appear and disappear, and where the whole interior space is magically stretched like liquid mercury in the air!


 The work activates the memory of the appearance of a cloud in biblical narratives including the journey of God’s people in the desert, the encounter of Moses with God, the transfiguration of Jesus and the cloud of witnesses that surround us. It also references the cloud in popular culture as we negotiate our lives within the continual chatter of the internet. The ephemeral nature of the work, installed only for a few weeks, reminded us of the passing nature of those glorious moments in our lives where we see from the mountain top, where everything shines with clarity. But the irony of the work is that as you get closer, where you hope to establish its clear edges, it then starts to slip away. These moulded reflections begin to turn the church space inside out. It is not a mirror but a window into seeing the whole space around you in one blink of the eye! Meaning can be unstable and illusive, or slippery and complex. This work gives permission for curiosity to be the basis for seeing and the forming of faith. This work does not reward a stance of passive obedience. There are no disinterested onlookers here!


 This work does not hide the fact that is made of steel and wood. It has a material presence. But it also allows us to stretch our imagination to take in its magic and playful permission as an object that has landed in the space. It is both ordinary stuff like the ordinariness of our daily lives, but also allows for the capacity of wonder and surprise. This is when you take in or expire air, and then hold your breath in surprise. And of course this is how the work itself has been created. With the shiny stainless steel being welded together and then pumped up with a pneumatic compressor. The object in front of us is formed by compressed air, like a rib cage or a balloon. It is made by breath or air, and we get that it kind of floats before us, and we in turn are kept alive by the gentle rhythm of our own breathing in and out. This work is an invitation to look, and see, to breathe and to wonder. But you do need to get up close to investigate it! It requires the inquisitiveness of a small child!

 - Rod Pattenden

Information about the sculptor Braddon Snape :

All photos by John Cliff - with thanks!

All photos by John Cliff - with thanks!