David Morgan's assertion that art institutions have excluded ‘almost all’ openly religious contemporary art is no longer supported internationally, as indicated by numerous recent exhibitions, including Traces du sacré (Pompidou Centre, 2008). Neither does it apply regionally, as evinced in Norwich Castle's Art of Faith exhibition and by numerous shows generated by faith-groups, including A Brush with Faith (Norwich Cathedral, 2005).
Vitally, the curators of Traces du sacré claimed to explore, through objects, the ‘conjunction of art, religion, spirituality, self-consciousness and enlightenment’, working with the premise that ‘art … is the answer to the question “What becomes of religion in a secular world?”’ So, essentially, they considered the possibility that humanity has a need to feel at home. This chapter explores these issues from a local perspective, where ‘home’ is taken to mean the creative negotiation that takes place between individuals, communities and the physical landscape, be it rural or urban.
Norfolk's physical landscape, especially its many modest and round-towered churches, has continued to influence religious art significantly. Even beyond the realms of Christian belief, and despite a decrease in church attendance, those churches have remained a prominent and often well-preserved part of the landscape. Prized by local communities, they are mostly appreciated as monuments to Norfolk's architectural and cultural heritage, rather than as bastions of an enduring Christian faith. The breadth of their impact is demonstrated by W. G. Sebald, in his evocative description of a secular ‘pilgrimage’ along the coastlines of Norfolk and Suffolk.