In the Presence of Angels: Photographs of the Contemplative Life

3 June – 1 July 1992

In June, the Annex will exhibit In the Presence of Angels: Photographs of the Contemplative Life by Anne Noble.

Anne Noble is a major figure in contemporary New Zealand photography. In the Presence of Angels is a significant body of work produced over three years, which provides a valuable insight into the life of a contemplative monastery. From 1985 until 1988, Noble lived in London. During this time she visited Tyburn Convent, an order of Benedictine Contemplatives, with a view to taking photographs for a magazine article.

However, the body of the work grew into a longer, more reflective documentary essay suitable for exhibition and publication in a book form. Noble's images centre on the three most important elements of monastic life; prayer, lectio divina, and work. Lectio divina is the art of meditation in the Benedictine way of life.

Noble says that it was curiosity that took her through the door one day to sit for an hour in the sanctuary and wonder about this life of prayer. "It was quiet, despite the city busying by outside, and the distant, intermittent belly roar of the London Underground. Not the whispering kind of quiet of a library or the dead quiet of the night, but a deep listening silence that echoed stillness and carried within it all the sounds of the monastery."

In the Presence of Angels documents this "outward aspect of inward, hidden spiritual activity", without disturbing the contemplative nature of the order, or breaking into this silent, starkly beautiful realm. The exhibition has been prepared by the Sarjeant Gallery in Wanganui, where Anne Noble was Artist in Residence during 1989-90, and the national tour has been organised by Exhibitour.

('Anne Noble: In the Presence of Angels', Bulletin, No.79, May/June 1992, p.3)

This exhibition was held at the McDougall Art Annex in the Arts Centre.

"It was quiet, despite the city busying by outside, and the distant, intermittent belly roar of the London Underground. Not the whispering kind of quiet of a library or the dead quiet of the night, but a deep listening silence that echoed stillness and carried within it all the sounds of the monastery."

– Anne Noble, Artist