Sonia McNally

Exploring Video Art in ‘Sacred Space’.


This study explores video art in sacred spaces. It questions whether the gallery or White Cube is a sacred space and considers why sacred spaces are galleries. It draws on work in two exhibitions. ‘The Mystery of Tears’ at The MAC Gallery in Belfast provided the opportunity to consider the powerful impact of the works by the artists Bill Viola, Jesper Just, Salla Tykkä and Bas Jan Ader. ‘Sketching in Nature’ at The Turner Contemporary in Margate, specifically the video work of Dorothy Cross, was also examined. Both these shows present video work that is emotive and resonates with the sacred. Interviews were undertaken with the curators from both exhibitions and also with Dorothy Cross. In addition, the study draws on the author’s own work in spiritual places. The extant literature was used in three ways; firstly to identify current thinking in the field, secondly to formulate the questions to interviewees, and thirdly to illuminate the findings. The artwork examined resonates in different ways. Cross’ exhibition transforms the gallery into the sacred whereas the work exhibited in the ‘Mystery of Tears’ is shown conventionally in the White Cube. This research concludes that when everything has a monetary value the sacred is missing in everyday experience. Artists and particularly those who make reference to the sacred through the use of referential spaces replace, as Marx says, the heavenly ecstasy that capitalism has drowned out.


I am a visual artist. My current research involves developing new methods of drawing in different media most recently glass. My area of academic interest is the sacred and feminine spirituality. I manage a portfolio of jobs including lecturing at Canterbury Christ Church University, public commissions, art projects and leading expeditions for artists into ancient, wild landscapes and sacred spaces. Prior to this I spent 13 years working as a set builder, props and costume maker for TV, film, theatre, window display and community art. Clients include The National Theatre, Ralph Lauren, Brides, M and C Saatchi and The Notting Hill Carnival.


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Last edited: 10/03/2020 08:32:00