Everything under one roof

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral is open to everyone under the sun, the moon, the stars and beyond. Steve Lee speaks to the artist bringing an impressive light show there

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Space, the Universe and Everything, an immersive light and sound show, was initially presented during 2019 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landings. The work has subsequently toured a quartet of locations and is now coming to its most spectacular venue yet: Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

“It’s going to pretty much take in every interior inch of the building,” says Peter Walker, the artist behind the visuals. He promises a light show in the well of the vast building, multiple light installations to include a four-metre reinterpretation of the Saturn V rocket and ceiling projections, each exploring the wonders of space and questioning just where mankind may head next.

“All the artworks are on a loop so people can watch them once or watch them multiple times. They can take photographs, bask in the light, lay on the floor… it will be a beautiful and quite uplifting experience.”

Coupled with Walker’s visuals will be the dramatic soundscapes of long-term collaborator David Harper. Walker, who also sculpts with traditional materials such as bronze, stone and steel, explains how the partnership works.

“I start a project like this by producing a rough storyboard and then David will begin to draft music that fits alongside. Then we’ll continue, changing and adapting together. It’s very much like scoring a film so that everything is synced and entwined.”

Is there ever friction during this collaborative process?

“We’ve worked together for over 20 years so rather than disagree we tend to work things out and bring out the best in each other,” Walker laughs. “This show has many sound pieces going at once and the grandness of it all can be quite overwhelming at times. It will be amazing in the space offered by Liverpool Cathedral.”

While the methods used by Walker and Harper – electronic lighting, projection and amplification, each controlled by computer – may be hi-tech, the concept behind the work is age-old.

“If you look at the history of cathedrals, especially ones in northern Europe, you find many had ceilings painted with golden stars on a blue background and columns painted like trees,” Walker says. “Really our idea is to bring that back – a forest indoors with starry sky above – and give people today a sense of what those walking into cathedrals all those years ago would have had.”

The installation is non-religious, Walker says, with the dramatic cathedral setting adding to the visitor experience rather than placing constraints on who can visit and how the artists approached the work. Although admitting to a degree of self-editing – “obviously you have to ensure it’s the correct art for the space” – he says “the art always comes first and stands up as a testament to itself, something people can freely interpret from any perspective.

“Art is in the eye of the beholder. I try not to be too prescriptive and it’s for the viewer to read what they’re seeing.”

Walker believes Space, the Universe and Everything gives people an opportunity “to take a moment out and watch these beautiful, almost abstract projections and to contemplate family and friends, and experience something new and wonderful. I think that’s what great art is for.”

Space, the Universe and Everything, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, 18-27 Feb

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