Iconoclasm is a genuine recognition of the power of the work of art. Nigel Halliday

Giampaolo Babetto: Candle Holder

ArtWay Visual Meditation 4 February 2024
Giampaolo Babetto: Candle Holder
That’s How the Light Gets Out
by Jonathan Evens
Leonard Cohen sang that there is a crack in everything through which the light gets in. St Paul told the Christians in Corinth that they had the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in their hearts, but that this treasure was in clay jars, so that it might be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and did not come from them.
He used this image of light in containers seen through cracks to assure the Corinthian Christians that they had the light of God in their lives, despite the fallibility and frailty of those lives. Like Cohen he suggested that there are fractures and flaws running through each of our lives, but that these imperfections actually enable the light within to be seen more clearly.
If the container were to be perfectly formed, then the light inside would not be seen from the outside. The light of Christ would effectively be hidden. People would look at our perfect life and not Christ, because they would only see us. Instead, St Paul says, because we are not perfect and have difficulties and flaws, it is then clear that where we act or speak with love and compassion, this is because of Christ in us, rather than being something which is innate to us or simply our decision alone.
Italian artist-goldsmith Giampaolo Babetto designed candle holders for the Dick Sheppard Chapel at St-Martin-in-the-Fields (London), where the candle is ‘mainly hidden and serves to create a mysterious light, thus giving the candle holders a spiritual appearance.’ Babetto has also enhanced the glow of light by covering the interior of the candle holders with gold leaf. This glow of light from the interior is seen because Babetto has cut the shape of a cross into the metal. The cross is the ultimate vulnerability, because it represents the death of God. It is through this crack in the invulnerability of the Almighty that the light of God shines most clearly in our existence.
Babetto also created a chalice and paten for the Dick Sheppard Chapel and responded to the richness of the contents of this small chapel, which includes a sculptural altar by Eric Parry and a bright tapestry by Gerhard Richter, with the discrete designs of this metalwork. His works incorporate hand-beaten sheet metal, an ancient technique that creates forms without welding, to produce objects of ‘great delicacy’ combined with a ‘beautifully sensitive materiality.’ In this context the fact that these objects have been beaten as part of their creation is a further connection with the experience of crucifixion of which they remind us.
Babetto’s process of moulding starts to develop from working a circular form, by tenths of millimetres, beating in a spiral around the surface many times before arriving at the final form. He says that in his work he is seeking to ‘find a form that you think will become a jewel.’ He says also that his work ‘is not made of appearances’ and that he would ‘like it to be something that comes from the inside, that expresses an inwardness.’ That aim has perhaps never been better realised than with these delicately material candleholders from which the light shines out through the crack of a cross.
(Originally posted on ArtWay on 29 January 2017)
Giampaolo Babetto, Candle Holder, 2015-16, image copyright Benjamin Westoby.
Giampaolo Babetto was born in Padua (Italy) in 1947. He studied at the Pietro Selvatico Art Institute in Padua and at the Academy of Belles Artes in Venice. From 1967 he exhibited his work in Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain, Japan, and the USA. His works are in the permanent collection of the Pforzheim Jewellery Museum in Germany. He lives and works in Arquà Petrarca (Padua, Italy). 
The candle holder is featured in The Art of St Martin-in-the-Fields, produced by Modus Operandi Art Consultants, 2016. £9.99 from the Shop at St Martin’s.
Jonathan Evens is Team Rector for Wickford and Runwell in Essex, UK. Previously Associate Vicar for HeartEdge at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, he was involved in developing HeartEdge as an international and ecumenical network of churches engaging congregations with culture, compassion and commerce. In that time, he also developed a range of arts initiatives at St Martin’s and St Stephen Walbrook, a church in the City of London where he was Priest-in-charge for three years. Jonathan is co-author of ‘The Secret Chord,’ an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life written through the prism of Christian belief, and writes regularly on the visual arts for national arts and church media including Artlyst, ArtWay and Church Times. He also blogs regularly at
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We have booked a venue that can seat 75. In order to help us plan well we need a good idea of how many of us plan to attend as soon as possible. We will do our best to keep costs low and once we know how many will attend we will finalise the venue and accommodation. If you are serious about attending please register here and then once we know the costs we will alert you and ask you to register and pay online. More information and to register, see Events - The Kirby Laing Centre
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See for more exhibitions, symposia and lectures, podcasts, videos, books, ArtWay news and more here
ArtWay is a website with resources for congregations and individuals concerned about linking art and faith.

Other recent meditations:
- March 2024: Güler Ates: Blanket I
- February 2024: Silvia Dimitrova: Miriam
- January 2024: Jan Brueghel: St. Paul’s Departure from Caesarea
- January 2024: Yuki no Santa Maria

For more Visual Meditations, see under Artists