Coalescence, a blog from Catherine Cane

This image displays the dean of liverpool, Sue Jones, with designer Paul Cocksedge, under new installation Coalescence at Liverpool Cathedral.

What comes to mind when you think about Liverpool? The Beatles? The city’s influence on Premier League football? Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham? All very valid answers, however, you don’t have to be in the city long to notice its vast culture, something else Liverpool is renowned for. What may be less known, is the fact that outside of London, Liverpool has more museums and art galleries than any other city in the country. From that fact alone, it’s obvious Liverpool doesn’t shy away from showcasing some great art and Liverpool Cathedral, the UK’s largest cathedral and the world’s fifth, is no exception.

Home to many pieces of highly significant artwork permanently exhibited on the cathedral grounds, Liverpool Cathedral has also displayed some popular installations temporarily. From Luke Jerram’s The Museum of the Moon in 2018 to Peter Walker’s Being Human in the summer of 2022, the installations have been incredibly popular amongst the people of Liverpool and tourists alike, so it comes as no surprise that Paul Cocksedge’s Coalescence, the cathedral’s most recent art installation, has had the same effect.

From 9th February to 12th March 2023, Coalescence has been suspended in the cathedral’s well, a chandelier made of coal as a visual representation of the amount of coal needed to power a single 200w light bulb for one year. This world debut of the new art was created with thousands of pieces of coal, specially sourced from one of the last remaining coal mines in the UK, measuring six metres in diameter.
Paul says: “You can’t use coal without thinking about sustainability and energy.” As coal is the largest source of energy for generating electricity, the installation draws attention to the significant role it plays in our lives, something we often may take for granted. Whilst we may associate coal with pollution, the history surrounding it, and the current anxiousness regarding the impact it has on our environment, it is possible that the installation will evoke something political, or personal, with its responses and interpretations being infinite.

As Paul said: “People come in and they may not be necessarily ready to experience a piece of art but because it’s talking about something that we’re all thinking about it really has that connection.” As a space of reflection, having Coalescence mounted in Liverpool Cathedral encourages visitors to consider what the piece is telling us and acts as a reminder of the very relevant and imminent impact coal is having on our environment.

With that being said, it is also important to recognise the optimism in the piece and take away the fact that beauty can be found in something we wouldn’t usually consider beautiful. The installation encourages its viewers to look beyond their perceptions of coal, possibly encouraging them to seek beauty elsewhere and in their everyday lives. In a world where it is easy to get caught up in the bad, it is valuable to take time to reflect on the good, and if that means finding beauty in day-to-day life, then so be it. So for that, thank you, Paul.

Catherine Cane
University of Liverpool Creative Writing MA placement student