Credit: Rowan Briscoe

Interview: 5 Minutes with Visual Artist Abigail Conway

We talk to Abigail Conway about Brighton Festival and The Spire's new commission, The Candle Project

Brighton Festival and The Spire premiere a new commission, The Candle Project by Chichester-based visual artist, Abigail Conway from Mon 24 May to Sat 30 May.

Abigail is best known for her immersive site-specific installations, and actively celebrates and encourages the artist in everyone, disrupting the delineated roles of spectator and performer in playful ways.

The Candle Project is a timely ritual, a welcome, transformative ode to resilience, a light held up to the dark and an intimate celebration of shadow and light. Abigail invites participants to make a tapered, beeswax candle, cast their own words inside, then place it amongst a larger candle installation. As candles slowly burn, remnant messages left behind become glimmering beacons of hope, whispers, for others to discover and take home. 

In a transient world that offers little space for deep listening, The Candle Project reclaims and recreates sacred ground in the setting of a former church, providing an analogue space for contemplation, connectivity and regeneration. 

We have a quick chat with Abigail to find out more about the inspiration behind The Candle Project and how you can take part.

What inspired The Candle Project?

The inspiration to work with candles came from a visit to a church in Chamula, Mexico called the Church of St. Juan. Local people made offerings and filled the floor with small candles and pine needles. It was very emotional; people stay there for a long time and no photographs were allowed. The light from all the candles was lit up the church and it was very moving. It was one of the most intriguing and atmospheric churches I had ever been to. I wanted to use the candle to bring people together, reflect and exchange words and feelings.

How would you describe The Candle Project?

Contemplative. Beautiful. Transformative.

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How do you hope people will feel taking part and experiencing The Candle Project?

I would like them to feel like they have contributed to building the art and have a sense of ownership. For them to know how a candle is made and how simple and satisfying it can be and to reflect on what is worth saying to others. 

What has it been like creating this work with The Spire?

Being commissioned by The Spire to present The Candle Project, at this time couldn’t be more perfect. St Marks Chapel is a wonderful space to invite local people and festival goers together; to see and be part of something artful whilst celebrating slowly coming out of national restrictions.

Brighton’s community is known for being unique, welcoming and open. Repurposing the space for a contemporary ritual, where secular and non-secular communities can come together and share the majesty of the chapel’s architecture, feels special and exciting.