Adaptation Of The Frontal View Of Church Altar Fabric Dressing Into Painting – Complete project material



The research titled “Adaptation of the frontal view of Church Altar fabric dressing into painting” was inspired by the frontal view of Church Altar fabric dressing. It has its target on the creation of installation art by adapting altarpiece fabric decorations. From the exploratory stage of the study to the developmental one, the researcher was able to conduct the research on three different objectives; to produce fabric installations in painting by adapting the features of the frontal view of the Church altar decoration, to create altarpieces that are non-figurative in painting and to adapt the symbolic liturgical colours of the Catholic Church and their symbols into fabric installations. The colours are red, green, white, purple and gold. Selected Altarpiece paintings and fabric installations were reviewed as they are found to relate to the study. The researcher collected data from the Parishes of Catholic Diocese of Zaria, Kaduna State. The data collected were analysed using exploratory and studio based research methods. Seven paintings were produced during the preliminary study which are grouped as category one. Ten fabric installations also were produced at the developmental stage and are grouped as category two. The researcher found out that the elements and principles of art in the Church fabric altar dressing can spur and inspire artists to produce art works. The researcher produced nonfigurative fabric altarpiece installations employing the symbolic liturgical colours of the Catholic Church.




Title page – – – – – – – – – 0
Declaration – – – – – – – – – i
Certification – – – – – – – – – ii
Dedication – – – – – – – – – iii
Acknowledgements – – – – – – – – iv
Table of contents – – – – – – – – vi
List of figures – – – – – – – – x
List of plates – – – – – – – – xii
Definition of operational terms – – – – – – – xvi
Abstract – – – – – – – – – – – xix
1.1 Background – – – – – – – – 1
1.2 Statement of the problem – – – – – – – 8
1.3 Aims of the study – – – – – – – 9
1.4 Objectives of the study – – – – – – – 9
1.5 Research questions – – – – – – – 9
1.6 Scope of the study – – – – – – – 9
1.7 Justification of the study – – – – – – – 11
1.8 Significance of the study – – – – – – – 11
2.1 Introduction – – – – – – – – 12
2.2 Conceptual framework – – – – – – – 12
2.3 Review of related literature on alter design, installation art and fabric installation as art form – – – – – – – – – 14
2.3.1 Altar design – – – – – – – – 14
2.3.2 Installation art – – – – – – – – 16
2.3.3 Fabric installation as art form – – – – – – 18
2.4 Artworks reviewed – – – – – – – 20
2.4.1 Altarpiece paintings – – – – – – – 20
2.4.2 Fabric installations – – – – – – – 28
2.5 Summary of related art works – – – – – – 39
2.6 Summary of related literature – – – – – – 41
3.1 Introduction – – – – – – – – 42
3.2 Research design for the study – – – – – – 42
3.3 Population of the study – – – – – – – 42
3.4 Sampling and sampling technique – – – – – 43
3.5 Instruments for data collection – – – – – – 43
3.6 Procedure for data collection – – – – – – 43
3.7 Data collected – – – – – – – – 44
3.8 Procedure for data analysis – – – – – – 51
3.9 Sketches – – – – – – – – – 51
4.1 Introduction – – – – – – – – 57
4.2 Category one – – – – – – – – 57
Exploratory stage – – – – – – – – 57
4.3 Category two – – – – – – – – 64
Developmental stage – – – – – – – – – 64
4.3.1 Realistic phase – – – – – – – – 64
4.3.2 Tentative phase – – – – – – – – 70
4.3.3 Rigid draped phase – – – – – – – 71
4.3.4 Transformed phase – – – – – – – 75
5.1 Summary – – – – – – – – – 82
5.2 Findings – – – – – – – – – 82
5.3 Conclusion – – – – – – – – 83
5.4 Recommendations – – – – – – – 84
References – – – – – – – – – 85




1.1 Background to the study
In several religions, there is always a place set apart as sacred and holy. This set-apart-place is always the focal point, the summit of communal worship, and is central in cultic rituals. Entrance and usage have restrictions. Before entering and using the set-apart-place, one would have to undergo certain laid down training, purification, initiation which consecrate or prepare the individual to encounter the residing deity. Religious groups such as Christianity, Taoist, Baha‟i, Traditional, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism to mention but a few, have names for their sacred place. In the restricted place, certain objects and furnishings are put in place according to each Religion‟s tradition to enhance the performance of their liturgy.
In the Christian religion, the restricted place is called the sanctuary. Particular objects and furnishings are kept for use in the sanctuary. However, the objects and furnishing found in the sanctuary may differ from one denomination to the other. In the Roman Catholic Church, at the sanctuary for instance, some of the objects and furnishings found are; the altar, chairs for the ministers and altar servers, credence table, finger towel, lavabo dish and lecterns. Also, cruets, flagon, thurible or censer, incense boat, pall, candles and their stand, crucifix, tabernacle and its light, chalice, corporal, ablution‟s bowl, Purificator, book of the gospels, ciborium, sacred linens, flowers, Pascal candle, lectionary, and sacramentary are found.
Among all the objects and furnishings found in the Sanctuary of the Roman Catholic Church, the altar, for the purpose of this research, becomes the subject of study. The frontal view (the part that faces the congregation) is normally decorated with coloured fabrics based on the church‟s laid down symbolic liturgical colours, which are; green, red, purple, white and gold for each of its liturgical seasons. The liturgical seasons are; Advent to Christmas, Lent to Easter, and the ordinary time of the year. This research is inspired by the decorations found in the frontal view of altars, the researcher created fabric installations in painting by adapting the elements of art that the fabric decorations embodied such as; form, shape, texture, line, space, colour, value and variety. The researcher also found in the fabric altar decoration and adapted in the course of the production of fabric installations in this research, some principles of design like balance, harmony, time and motion, proportion, dominance, unity, rhythm, movement and economy.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia (2012) clears that in the ancient times, when the priest stands in the basilica, he faces the congregation. Then the Roman Empire basilica was a small court used for meetings and for judging cases, it has enough space to contain many people. Interiorly, it is separated into two parts. It has four rolls of pillars, forming a central Nava and side aisles. At the end opposite the entrance of the basilica, there is a semi-circular shape called the apse. The priest and his assessors usually sit at the apse, which was raised higher than the level of the floor, then before him is the altar. On the altar, sacrifice is made before beginning any essential public business.
Furthermore, the Catholic Encyclopaedia (2012) illustrates that Christians adapted those public buildings for their gatherings, but they made some changes. Some of the
changes are, the Apse was preserved for the bishop and his clergy, the centre and the side aisles were kept for the faithful, and between the clergy and the faithful is the altar. The position of the altar was changed after some time to the apse, against the wall or at least near the wall, to enable the clergy during worship face the east, and behind him the faithful.
The act of building a structure above and behind the altar and adorning it with artworks on panels could be dated back to the 11th century AD according to the Encyclopaedia of Art (2013). It further states that, around 1200 AD, a lot of changes were made in the church, which changed the position of the Priest, the Priest and the congregations were from then positioned on the same side of the altar. In line with this; Crichton (1965) asserts that it is of great importance that the altar is positioned in a manner that the worshippers are near it for a better participation. The author further states that the altar turned out to be a primary arena for panel painting, especially in Italy, thereby the name altarpiece emanated. It was a design, which was developed in Western art from the examples of late Byzantine icons (1261-1453). From the time altarpiece was introduced, the Encyclopaedia of Art (2013) asserts that all of them were made from panel painting. Altarpiece painters became well known. Panel paintings used over the altar then usually came in three formats: diptych, triptych and polyptych. Some of these altarpieces were winged. The winged altarpieces are altarpieces that are made with movable wings, and they can close and open over a fixed central part, thereby allowing various representations to be exposed to viewers. Also, there is Reredos, which is ascribed for ornamental screen or partition that is not attached directly to the altar but is affixed to the wall at the back of the altar. Another is the retable; it refers simply to any ornamental panel at the back of the altar.
More enumerations from the Encyclopaedia of Art (2013) reveals that altarpiece paintings became famous in the north of Europe in the 15th century AD, Ghent altarpiece (the adoration of the lamb) dated back to 1432, the Isenheim altarpiece done in 1515, Enthroned Madonna with saints, St. Francis, Virgin enthroned in majesty with Saints, Madonna enthroned, and Altarpiece of St. George to mention but a few. Their early designs were done in gabled vertical panels. The paintings of the saints were in full human length, and flanked by the events in their lives. Later developments include individual compartments known as polyptych which, frame could become increasingly elaborate. Gradually, altarpieces were made into architectonic structures, looking alike in the way they were detailed and relating to space, position, size, and shape of contemporary full-scale Gothic architecture. Altarpieces done in that manner, in Italy were mainly made of painted wood. In Northern Europe, they were commonly made from stone. In this era, in Italy a new type of altarpiece emerged, which is called the Pala. It is a type of panel painting, Sobre (1989) observes that the Pala is placed over or behind an altar and it looks almost like a framed picture.
In the 16th century, the emergence of the religious reformations that erupted brought with it changes that were important, which affected the form and function of the altarpiece paintings as it is written in the Encyclopaedia of Art (2013). The altarpiece painting iconography, the author states, was restricted to subjects suitable to the sacrament celebrated at the altar under protestant protection, such as the scene of the last supper. He further asserts that important altarpiece paintings that were made of single paintings or reliefs continued to be made. The use of architecture was on the increase as theatrical setting for the three dimensional display of the altarpiece
painting subjects in sculpture. More so, Kauffmann (1973) states that then in churches, there were altars; one would be centrally positioned in front of the church, and the others placed at the sides of the church. The latter were dedicated to particular apostles or saints. Altarpiece paintings were used both in the central and side altars. According to him, elaborated large altarpiece paintings portrayed stories, events and teachings in the life of Jesus Christ. In some of them also, many saintly figures and some important events that took place in their lives were narrated; these altarpiece paintings were used at the central altars, which served for public worship, and side altars, which served for a private devotion. The altarpiece paintings used were often endowed by the painting of an apostle or a saint, states Kauffmann (1973). The altarpiece paintings created at this period were of different sizes and they were rendered like this till a century later.
According to Adolph (1992), the different qualities that Baroque art characterized brought important changes to the design of altarpiece painting. 17thcentury AD Baroque artists started painting and creating large, stage-like altarpieces in which paintings, sculptures and floral ornaments were put together dramatically and whimsically, the author states. Baroque period which started in Italy, especially in Rome and which stood as the centre of Western European art, had been established during the High Renaissance by the Papal patronage of art and Rome‟s link with antiquity. The origin of the name Baroque was associated with decoration, dressing and detailing, which were overly exaggerated, he further affirms. In line with this, Langmuir (2000) states that, “Baroque signifies a deliberate rejection of the hermetic complexities of Pan-European court mannerisms in favour of a return to the values of Italian renaissance art”. At the peak of Baroque painting, the church started decorating
in a flamboyant manner. Adolph (1992) writes that, from 17th to 20th century with the influence of Baroque way of life, there was greater display of splendour. The Roman Catholic Church‟s celebration of the mass for example was experienced as the feast of the eye and ear. The sculptures found in marbled altarpieces were painted, thereby producing painted sculptures. This technique of painting sculptures Velden in Emily (2008) explains, aroused a humorous relationship between painting and sculpture. He further elaborates that on the outer of the Ghent altarpiece panel, for example, Van Eyck painted two figures, which became the first documented painted sculpture. In his writing, the author highlights that this technique gave birth to painted altarpiece. Furthermore, he writes that altarpiece paintings made by Gian Lorenzo Bernini are good examples of the flamboyant tradition, which made its way, especially in Austria, Spain and Spanish America in the 18th century AD. Paintings with religious themes at this period in Europe declined according to him, however, in the 19th century AD, the design of altarpiece painting also declined into pure eclecticism, which in art is a kind of mixed style where variety of styles are being borrowed from diverse sources then merged together. This borrowing of variety of styles when designing an altarpiece emerged with various historical styles in the church architecture. Important steps in the 20th century had been made to revive the altarpiece paintings on panels, but the modern church is drawn more into the reintroduction of an altar without an altarpiece just as it was before 1200.Ugiomoh in Otuewena (2002), asserts that anytime a new thing excites the curiosity in people, it happens through man‟s continuous struggle to bring a change into an existing event as to make it more efficient and appealing, the movement from a known culture to a new one has often raised a few controversies.
With the beginning of eclecticism and the desire to have the altar decorated in an appropriate manner, Holmes (2004) observes that different worshipping communities of the Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century started posing questions on how this could be achieved. He explains further that the question posed led to various National Bishops‟ conferences which were held in different countries. The conferences came up with a unified answer, which states that „„the altar is importantly to be given the esteem befitting God‟s presence using material, placement and decoration chosen and accepted by a specific worshipping community in an aesthetic relationship with other furnishings”. The author writes that in one of the dioceses of the United States of America for example, the Bishops‟ conference asserts that in addition to the fabric covering the uppermost part of the altar which must be white, other fabrics can be used which may be of other colours and will have to possess Christian honorific of festive significance according to longstanding local usage.
The beginning of pure eclecticism only had effect on the altars in the Roman Catholic Church; it did not have effect on the mode of the altars in Coptic Orthodox Churches. Father Theodore of Mesopotamia writes that the altar of Coptic Orthodox Churches is free of any engravings or paintings. He observes that they held firm to the injunctions on the mode of the altar as laid down in the old testament of the Bible, which states that the use of tools on the altar will defile it. This position is contrary to that of the Roman Catholic Church which accommodates the decoration of Altars. Any fundamental embellishments are seen on the canopy that is above the altar. Fr. Theodore however, observes that the altar must be covered as the altar cloth stands in for the linen used at Jesus‟ burial. He elaborates further that the Coptic Orthodox Church uses three coverings on their altar; the first covering covers the four sides of
the altar and it is designed with four crosses at each side or a big cross at the centre (sometimes a red velvet is used as the first covering), the second covering covers the altar from above to about 15cm and the third covering covers the top surface of the altar.
Based on the propositions reached at the various National Bishops‟ conferences in different countries, each worshipping community started making their various choices. In Nigeria, coloured fabrics based on the symbolic liturgical colours are employed to decorate the frontal view of the altar, minding the season, which determines the particular colour of fabric to be used.
1.3 Statement of the problem
Altarpieces offer ample opportunities for the creation of fabric decoration in churches, particularly the frontal view of the altar (the part of altar facing the congregation). However, visual artists and researchers appear to overlook the possibilities of adapting altar fabric decoration in painting. Another problem of the study is that, despite the aesthetic nature of altars decorated in flamboyant coloured fabric, especially to the worshippers, no known study has been undertaken in the studied area.
More so, Marble altar is taking prevalence presently, and it gives no room for fabric dressings because of the engravings or paintings in their frontal view, which their aesthetics are not needed to be veiled. Based on this fundamental development, this study is timed appropriately
1.4 Aim of the study
The aim of this study is to create installation art by adapting altarpiece fabric decorations of Catholic Churches in Zaria diocese, Kaduna State in Painting.
1.5 Objectives of the study.
The objectives of the study are to:
i. produce fabric installations in painting by adapting the features of the frontal view of the Church altar decoration,
ii. adapt altar fabric dressings into painting by producing installation arts,
iii. adapt the symbolic liturgical colours of the Catholic Church and their symbols into fabric installations. The colours are red, green, white, purple and gold
1.6 Research questions
The research questions are, what:
i. are the possibilities of producing fabric installation in painting adapting the features of the frontal view of Church altar decoration?
ii. possible ways can the altar fabric dressings be adapted into painting by producing installation arts?
iii. are the possible aesthetic effects of using the Catholic Church‟s symbolic liturgical colours and their symbols in fabric installation in painting?
1.7 Scope of the study
Few Christian denominations have altars at their church‟s sanctuary; however, the Catholic Church is known to use them extensively. This research is delimited to the frontal view of the altar (the part of the altar facing the congregation) found in
Catholic Churches of the Catholic Diocese of Zaria, Kaduna State of Nigeria. There were twenty two parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Zaria. The twenty two parishes were visited but it was only in nineteen parishes that photographs of their altars could be taken. No photograph could be taken from the site of three parishes, namely; St. Augustine of Hippo in Kongo, Seat of Wisdom Parish in Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic and St. Stephen‟s Parish in Dutsen Wai. The reason is because the parishes were burnt down during post-election crisis in Nigeria in the year 2011. Three altar designs were taken from St. Mary‟s Parish Samaru and five altar designs were taken from Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish A.B.U Main Campus because the altar decorations in these parishes are usually more embellished and possessed the characteristics that will help the research. One altar design was taken from each of the following Parishes; Christ the King Cathedral Sabon Gari, St. Paul‟s Parish Ngwan Sarki, St. Theresa‟s Parish Hanwa, St. Endas Parish Bassawa, St. Andrew‟s Police Chaplaincy MTD, St. Peter‟s Military Chaplaincy Jaji, St. John‟s Pastoral Area Pambegua, Sacred Heart Parish Wusasa, St. Benedict Chindit Barracks, St. Anthony‟s Parish Dakace, St. John‟s Parish Munchia, St. Joseph‟s Parish Birnin Gwari, St. Peter‟s Parish Rumi, St. Paul‟s Parish Ungwar Pete, St. Mary‟s Pastoral Area Dorayi, St. Denis Parish Danladi and St. Ann‟s Parish Zangon Tama 11.
The research is also delimited to the Catholic Church‟s symbolic liturgical colours, which are five in number. There would be variation in the sizes of works to be produced, and the progression of works in the studio would determine the number of works to be produced.
1.8 Justification of the study
This research is justified because it points out the possibilities of adapting altarpiece fabric dressings in creating fabric installations in painting. Also, the church is going back to the use of marble altars. Marble altar embodies engravings or paintings in their frontal views and does not need to be covered so as not to veil its aesthetics. Marble altars are now found in several Roman Catholic parishes presently, even in Nigeria. So, this research will help in documenting for future generations this mode of embellishing the frontal view of the altar with coloured fabrics which at this present era is disappearing with the use of Marble altars taking preference.
1.9 Significance of the study
The study will create awareness to other artists who are interested in undertaking similar research. The study is also significant in that it will motivate artists to learn about fabric installation, the end result of which may lead them to be self-reliant. Also, the study will add to the existing studies and literature on fabric installations in painting.



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