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Arabella Dorman

Flight (2015) and Suspended (2017)

Arabella Dorman is a British war artist and portrait painter who has worked with refugees in Lesbos, Calais and Dunkirk. In December 2015 she created an art installation at St James’s by suspending a dinghy, which had been used to transport refugees across the Mediterranean, from our roof. Called ‘Flight’, the exhibit was on display until February 2016. Two years after the installation artwork Flight (2015), the artist Arabella Dorman and St James’s Church presented a sequel installation called Suspended.

Watch Flight by filmaker Carolyn Davis, with interviews with Arabella, our rector Lucy Winkett and members of our community, and read Arabella’s own statement about her work.

In the two years since Flight, thousands more refugees have continued to flee war, persecution and famine for the hoped-for safety of European shores, deepening what has become the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two. Suspended seeks to highlight the plight of these refugees, with particular emphasis on those who are now stranded in cities and detention centres across Europe – men, women and children hung between loss and hope, suspended between a past to which they cannot return, and a future to which they cannot move forward.

Composed of hundreds of items of clothing that have been discarded by refugees upon their arrival on the island of Lesbos, a stilled explosion has been created over the nave at St James’s Church inviting the viewer to contemplate the violent fragmentation experienced by the inhabitants of these garments.

Lit from the centre, the clothes are seen clearly then lost in the shadow as the light slowly changes in density. While the installation brightens, it represents the light of hope by which a refugee is carried forwards; as it dims, it seeks to remind us that we leave these individuals unseen and in darkness should we choose to ignore their plight and turn away from this most urgent and yet complicated issue of our time.

Today one in every 113 people in the world is forcibly displaced. Whilst Europe struggles to come to terms with this, human trafficking networks are becoming brutally efficient at exploiting and making profit from the vulnerability of migrants – especially the almost 100,000 unaccompanied minors.

Watch Suspended by filmaker Carolyn Davis, with interviews with Arabella, our rector Lucy and members of our community.