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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Windows on the world (214)

London, 2012


Deacon Blue - The Hipsters.

Transforming Presence: Reimagining Ministry

All of those exploring the possibility of ordained ministry in the Chelmsford Diocese are asked to do the priesthood project. This involves interviewing a selection of Church of England ministers from across the church traditions, reading a particular book on ministry and then exploring the nature of priesthood in an essay drawing on the interviews and your reading.

When I did this at the end of the 1990s I took Ephesians 4. 1 – 16 as the key text for understanding Church and ministry. So I am very pleased that Bishop Stephen has chosen the same passage when he writes about ‘Reimagining Ministry’ in Transforming Presence:

“I would see my role, as vicar in a parish church, as being one of serving the royal priesthood in that locality by identifying, developing and co-ordinating the gifts and roles of the people within the priesthood so that we become a fully functioning part of the body of Christ able to reveal Jesus clearly in practice. Ephesians 4: 11-16 describes this as the task of every leader within Christ’s body:

“It was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”      

The differing roles of leaders mentioned here combine to realise the same aim – preparation of God’s people for ministry (works of service). It is God’s people who minister - who serve and are served - and it is the leaders of the church who prepare God’s people for that service. Both serving and being served build up the body of Christ until the whole measure of the fullness of Christ is attained. Such service will include the priestly sacrifice of whole lives, possessions, praise, money, and evangelism.

The corporate nature of full and effective ministry is vital because God as Trinity is corporate. Jesus does not exist as a sole entity but as part of the Godhead, a distinct part of an inter-related whole that is God – Father, Son and Spirit. As this is the nature of God so it must also be the nature of the Church. Diversity within unity and unity within diversity with God and the Church seen fully as they are seen whole. This is the gift of Jesus, to be drawn into and to reflect corporately the inter-relationship of God himself.

The kind of ministry which I am attempting to describe draws heavily on the example of David Watson and the church structures and approaches that were introduced under his ministry at St Michael-le-Belfrey, York. Watson describes their model and approach in his book ‘I believe in the Church’. In his preface to this book, Michael Green isolates the key characteristics of the approach taken at St Michael-le-Belfrey:

“It is a church where the leadership is shared, where prayer is central, where the sacraments are dynamic, where art and drama and dance adorn the worship. A church where the gifts of the Spirit mingle with His graces of character – and also, no doubt, with many failures! But it is a church which does not depend on its minister. Indeed, it tends to grow when he is away. It is a church that has learnt the pastoral value of the small group, the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, the mutual caring of members one for another.” 

Green argues that Watson’s approach involves “the rediscovery of biblical precedents and principles which are often enough forgotten”. Watson points to six principles of Christian ministry:

1.         No distinction either in form, language or theory between clergy and laity was ever accepted by the New Testament Church.
2.         The ministry is co-extensive with the entire church (1 Corinthians 12: 7).
3.         The local church in the apostolic age always functioned under a plurality of leadership.
4.         There are no uniform models for ministry in the New Testament; the patterns are flexible and versatile.
5.         In the New Testament church can be found both leadership and authority, but no kind of hierarchical structure.
6.         There is one, and only one, valid distinction which the New Testament appears to recognise within the ministry, apart from the different functions to which we have been alluding, the distinction between local and itinerent ministries.”

Much of that remains what I try, very inadequately, to do as your Vicar and much of it overlaps significantly with Bishop Stephen’s vision for reimaging ministry.

Here are the basic principles which Bishop Stephen thinks, with our agreement, could form the basis of a more radical forward thinking look at the ministry of God’s church in our diocese:

·    Ministry belongs to the whole people of God. Every person, because of their baptism, has a ministry. We must nurture an expectation that every Christian gives expression to this ministry in their daily life and in their participation in the life of the Church.
·    Stipendiary priests will need to be more episcopal in the way they understand and express their ministry. They will become much more obviously those who have oversight of the ministry of the church in a cluster of rural communities, or in a town or suburb. Their role will be to lead and facilitate ministry in that area, not provide all that ministry themselves. They will, of course, be involved; but their main task will be to animate the ministry of the whole church.
·    For this to work, there also needs to be a huge flourishing of authorised lay ministry (especially youth and children’s workers, authorised preachers, catechists, pastors and evangelists) and ordained self-supporting ministry. And of course we already have many Readers. Alongside some priests being more episcopal we need many others who will be more diaconal, taking on a pastoral, catechetical and evangelistic ministry at the local level.
·    Each local church needs to have some sort of ministry team and, preferably, some minister to whom they identify as the worship leader and pastor of that community. Sometimes this will be a lay person, such as a Reader, and we should encourage lay led worship and ministry in many of our churches. In many cases I hope it will be an ordained self-supporting minister, so that the sacramental life of our church continues to flourish. But where there are lay led services of the Word it will still be possible within the cluster of communities under the oversight of the (probably) stipendiary priest, for there to be regular Sunday by Sunday Eucharistic provision. Some Self-Supporting Ministers will themselves be the leaders (‘episcopal’ priests) in these benefices.

Hopefully you can see the overlaps between these principles and Ephesians 4, as well as seeing that this is not radical for St John’s Seven Kings as it has been our direction of travel over the time that most of us have been here.

It stands or falls, however, on the understanding that ministry belongs to the whole people of God and on there being a real flourishing of authorised lay ministry. That is why it is so relevant to preach on Transforming Presence during our Stewardship month. Such service includes the priestly sacrifice of whole lives, possessions, praise, money, and evangelism or, as we put it in our Stewardship packs, time, talents and treasure.

All this is so that our churches can be a transforming presence in our community as: places of prayer; places where people learn about the faith and are active in discipleship; places where there is a ministry of evangelism; places where ministry is shared and developed; places which serve the local community; places that are inclusive and welcome to all; places which are seeking the unity of all God’s church and working with their neighbours locally and globally.

Next week, in our Patronal Festival Service, we bring our reflections on Stewardship and Transforming Presence in our annual recommitment of ourselves in the service of Christ by saying together:

I have a part in God’s great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place. Deign to fulfil your high purposes in me. I am here to serve you, to be yours, to be your instrument. May it be so for each one of us. Amen.


The Staple Singer - Pray On, My Child.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

New commission at Christchurch Wanstead

Last Sunday a new artwork was dedicated at Christchurch Wanstead during the Wanstead Art Trail.

The new work is an optical illusion design by Janet McKay and Martin Jones which from one perspective depicts the sorrow and pain of Good Friday and from another perspective the joy and glory of Easter Day.

Both artists were at the church over the past weekend to show their work, including an animation which has been shown in New York's Times Square, and to talk about this new commission.

The new commission will be added to the Art Trail for the Barking Episcopal Area - click here for details.


Tom Jones - Soul Of A Man.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Passion: pictures, poems and prayers

Jesus dies on the cross

The sun is eclipsed, early nightfall,
darkness covers the surface of the deep,
the Spirit grieves over the waters.
On the formless, empty earth, God is dead.

Through the death of all we hold most dear, may we find life. Amen.

Henry Shelton and I have just published our second set of images and meditations on the Passion narrative.

Our first set entitled Mark of the Cross (available in booklet, presentation, and individual images formats) has proved a popular download from the 12baskets site for user contributed worship resources and can be purchased by clicking here.

Our second set comes initially as a double-sided A3 sheet with all the images, haiku-like meditations and prayers laid out in sequence for ease of devotional use.

These pictures, poems and prayers enable us to follow Jesus on his journey to the cross reflecting both on the significance and the pain of that journey as we do so.

Henry and I have aimed in these reflections to pare down the images and words to their emotional and theological core. The mark making and imagery is minimal but, we hope, in a way that makes maximum impact.

Each sheet costs £3.50, plus £1.20 p&p per purchase. To purchase copies, send a cheque made out to commission4mission to Rev. J. Evens, St John's Seven Kings, St Johns Road, Ilford, Essex IG2 7BB or email to for more information.


Larry Norman - Be Careful What You Sign.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Art as activism

Theaster Gates is an artist, curator and urban activist whose work aims to galvanise communities and act as a catalyst for social change. He is currently exhibiting at White Cube Bermondsey and "has created a multi-faceted installation that investigates themes of race and history through sculpture, installation, performance and two-dimensional works."

Gates refers to his working method as ‘critique through collaboration’ but, as this exhibition demonstrates, the way in which Galleries operate tends to neuter what is at the heart of his artistic practice. My Labor Is My Protest is a fine exhibition which is well worth visiting but it is not a collaborative experience.

Art Galleries, while often presenting as radical spaces, are in reality rule-bound spaces with 'Do Not Touch' being the generally unspoken or unsigned but rigorously enforced fundamental prohibition. It is interesting to observe the way in which rules are also enforced even when participation is an element of an installation.

Eva Rothschild's film Boys and Sculpture created for the Whitechapel Gallery demonstrated this clearly. Boys and Sculpture shows a group of boys, aged between 6 and 12, each entering a gallery full of Rothschild’s sculptures. Slowly and tentatively the boys begin by looking, then touching. They proceed to totally dismantling the sculptures, revelling in the joys of play and of destruction. This is real collaboration between viewer and artwork but is not, for reasons of health and safety, insurance and other related factors, something that most Galleries will entertain. Therefore, as on issues of commerce and materialism, many galleries talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

This is illustrated most clearly for me in My Labor Is My Protest by the installation of a library borrowed from the archive of Johnson Publishing Company, the Chicago-based publishers of Ebony. This curated selection of books and magazines offer a history of black American culture but this is almost irrelevant as the majority of the items in this library cannot be touched, handled or explored. It may be that the installation is replicating in reverse the experience of exclusion from participation and collaboration endured by black people in America for many years but, if so, why are a small selection of books made available for viewing. This is the worst of possible worlds, it seems to me, for this work, as, if the work is primarily about exclusion then our exclusion from the collection should be absolute and if not, if it is about accessing black culture, then to limit our access neuters the work's meaning. My guess given that Gates' focus is described as being "on availability of information and the cross-fertilisation of ideas" is that the latter is the intent and that the force of the work has been neutered for reasons of insurance.   

The current edition of frieze has an excellent feature about the work of Gates as part of a thematic look at art as activism. Gates' work includes collaborative projects with other artists to purchase and rebuild homes in rundown areas of Chicago to teach carpentry and construction skills. This raises the question of what art is. In my ministry, for example, am I an artist when I read my poetry, show my paintings or use my meditations or is the whole of my ministry, including my involvement in community activism/projects, a work of art. Ultimately, it seems it would depend on whether I wish to describe it in those terms and whether others wish to accept it on those terms. We are all artists, at least if we wish to describe ourselves as such. As Ananda Coomaraswamy said, "The artist is not a special kind of person; rather each person is a special kind of artist.”

Gates has written that he leverages "artistic moments to effect real change." Mark Godfrey writes in frieze that without cynicism Gates "employs the commercialism of the art world to regenerate deprived neighbourhoods":

"His performances are ... addressing real questions of economic inequality and political disenfranchisement affecting black people in the States. At the same time, he is genuinely interested in rituals, not just as historical ceremonies, but as ways of bringing people and thoughts together, just as he is sincere in his approach to incantation and religious music, testing even the most secular members of his audience to reconsider their ambivalence about the 'spiritual' in art."

The idea of art as activism is easy to mock and frieze includes a satirical piece doing just that  - peace achieved through impenetrable wall texts, poverty eradicated by carefully curated collateral events etc. Art cannot, of course, change the world but the activism of artists like Gates can impact positively on local communities.

His work is also of relevance to current debates about the usefulness or uselessness of art. Christopher Brewer and Daniel Siedell are currently in debate on this issue following an initial post by Siedell to which Brewer is responding. Siedell affirms Kant’s intuition that art is useless and states that “Taking seriously art’s uselessness is a way to preserve an aesthetic moment that defies the forensic structure of reality, a moment that testifies to an alien presence, grace.” Brewer begins his series of responses by suggesting that Siedell is setting up a false dichotomy in opposing the usefulness or uselessness of art.

Gates' work suggests clearly that art can be useful. Presumably, he would not accept the dichotomy which Siedell sets out and seems unafraid of engaging with the complexities of his practice and of his practice within both the "compromised situations of art practices today" and the inequality and disenfranchisement his work addresses. In speaking of his input to The Armory Show, Gates said, “If the belly of whales and fiery furnaces can render men or women unscathed, then surely, I can have a few conversations from within the beast. I want to make space for my friends and ensure that some new friends meet old ones. Holding court seems the best way to do this and a much better use of my time than the winter sale at Barneys.”

Gates has written: "I love when I go to new cities and I am taken to small, obscure spaces of beauty that I would never expect ... My hope is to grow the number of small acts of beauty and contemplation with the hope that the moments began to suggest that the place where I live is, in fact A PLACE. I want to enunciate PLACES that already exist and occupy those Places with happenings ... Everyone deserves to see and be a part of the transformation of their spaces into places. Beautiful objects belong in blighted spaces and creative people can play a pivotal role in how this happens. I want the young people in my neighborhood to look at the built environment and see the world as something worth critiquing, exploring and constructing."

This quote suggests that Gates is creating material signs for immaterial realities (sacraments); places, spaces or moments which convey critique or construction. In this way, his work could have resonance with David Jones' argument in 'Art and Sacrament' that "man’s makings have throughout all times incorporated both utile and gratuitous elements":

"The utile element of a making is purely animalic; wholly utile works – birds' nests and beehives, diesel engines and screwdrivers – are wholly mundane. On the other hand, the gratuitous element of a
making is seen by Jones as an engagement with ontological truth because the necessity directing that making is immaterial: there is no reasonable justification for making such works."

Jones is positing a continuum for making ranging from the utile to the gratuitous with art appearing towards the gratuitious end of the continuum while also containing elements of the utile. This would seem to me to capture better the real achievement of Gates' art activism than would the creation of a dichotomy between the useful and the useless.


Theaster Gates with the Black Monks of Mississippi and the Journeymen for Christ - A Closer Walk with Thee (Speakers).

Monday, 24 September 2012

Windows on the world (213)

London, 2012


Riprap and Malcolm Guite - Speaking The Names.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Paul Claudel: The Poet as Believer

Transpositions has posted an interesting review of Aidan Nichols' The Poet as Believer: A Theological Study of Paul Claudel.

Claudel was a central figure in the French Catholic Revival and is 'a poet frequently cited by literary-minded theologians in Europe and theologically-minded poets (such as von Balthasar, de Lubac and Eliot).' 'His work, which continues to arouse discussion in France, was acclaimed in his lifetime as the 'summa poetica' of a new Dante.'


Paul Claudel - The Day Of Gifts.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Maciej Hoffman: the collision of thoughts with reality

All the angst of the world seems spilled out in drips, splatters and gestural brushstrokes on the huge unstretched canvases of Maciej Hoffman's current exhibition at Walthamstow's Tokarska Gallery. The distressed surfaces depict equally distressed characters with existential Expressionist force and a seeming spontaneity of style.

'Disquiet', 'Powerless', 'Nameless', 'Confused', 'Agitator'; Hoffman's titles are accurate indicators of his content. These are grandiose dramatic works full of the tension and conflict by which Hoffman is frequently seized; the collision of thoughts with reality. Stress and fear flow from the problems of the everyday through the walls of his studio to rip apart the work. Almost all his days, he says, are accompanied by stress and the fear of danger, encircled, as he is, by a world in which a price is paid for each breath. 

The child of artists, Hoffman was antagonistic to following in his parents footsteps which resulted in a "troubled" childhood. He was a teenager during the beginning of martial law in Poland. Then came the fall of communism and his immersion in the birth of Polish “capitalism, post-communism”. For fifteen years he worked for one of the biggest Polish advertisement agencies yet this freedom to use art for commercial purposes combined with the unrelenting dominance of the profit principle came to seem as much of a trap and constraint as that which he had experienced under communism. 

Hoffman is interested in art as freedom. His sense is that our control systems for classification, measurement and supervision are narrowing our space for what is irrational, imperfect or disordered. Artistic creation remains the one real margin of freedom we can use. His fluid, gestural manipulation of paint on canvas is seemingly raw, random, unfinished, and yet the emotional impact of his angst is as great as the size of the works themselves. Soutine, de Kooning, Keifer are inspirations and references but Hoffman is assuredly his own man with his own tortured vision.

Maciej Hoffman's paintings are at the Tokarska Gallery until 6 October, Thur - Sat, 12pm - 7pm.


Lou Reed - Sad Song.

Charlie Mackesy: Ramshackle Exhibition

'Ramshackle Exhibition' by Charlie Mackesy is showing until Saturday 22nd September at Gallery 27, 27 Cork Street, London.

Mackesy says:

''I was born and bred in Northumberland in 1962, and spent most of my time running about the hills with sheep. I began drawing in the early 1980s in London. I didn't study art but just kept busy - working as a cartoonist for the Spectator magazine, as an illustrator for Oxford University Press, drawing ads for the daily papers and doing poster designs for delights such as Cockspur Rum.

My first show was in a pub in 1984. I've since been lucky or blessed enough to work with galleries in Edinburgh, New York and London and am continuing to do so ...

It seems, in retrospect, I find an issue which I work through - such as the Prodigal Son and Daughter, which can take two or three years to complete - making drawings paintings and bronze sculptures of the subject -until somehow it's over and I can move on ...

 I am cautious to explain what I think the work is saying for fear of taking away from you something you have seen and I have not. I could conclude by saying that life is precious and faith is a journey and sometimes art can give a small glimpse of these moments seen, and unseen. I think GK Chesterton put it better - 'At the back of our brains is a blaze of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life is to dig for this sunrise of wonder’."


Paradise - Stop And Think.

The state's retreat from welfare

Chris Mould, who set up the Trussell Trust which works to empower local communities to combat poverty and exclusion through a network of foodbanks, featured in a Guardian interview yesterday:

'Mould is proud of Trussell's growth as a testament to the soundness of its franchise design, and the commitment of the volunteers who run the food banks. But he is uncomfortable with the underlying misery that has spurred that expansion – the "massive change in the number of people in the UK who are living very vulnerable lives, relative to the lives they used to live".

The growth of Trussell food banks also shines an uncomfortable light on the state's retreat from welfare, and the failures and cruelty of the parts of the safety net that remain. The charity's data shows that its expanding client base is increasingly low-paid working families who can't make ends meet. They are people impoverished by benefit delays and sanctions, or those refused crisis loans. There is a surge in demand during school holidays, when free school meals are not available.'

St John's Seven Kings collected harvest goods for the Redbridge foodbank during our Harvest Festival last Sunday and these were delivered yesterday to the foodbank, which is run excellently by Kings Church in Ilford. The article above from today's Ilford Recorder also flags up the current need for such church initiatives.


Philip Bailey - God Is Love.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Airbrushed from Art History: An update

The revised index to my 'Airbrushed from Art History' series of posts is as follows:
1 - Introduction I
2 - Introduction II
3 - Traces du Sacré
4 - Symbolism I
5 - Gauguin and Bernard
6 - Vincent Van Gogh
7 - Maurice Denis
8 - Symbolism II
9 - Jacques Maritain
10 - Albert Gleizes
11 - Sérusier, Severini and Gleizes
12 - Couturier, Régamey, Bell and Hussey
12a - Victor Kenna, Moelwyn Merchant and Bernard Walke
12b - Graham Sutherland and Jacques Maritain
13 - Expressionism I
14 - Expressionism II
15 - Reconciliatory art
16 - Australia and Poland
17 - Abstract art
18 - Ireland and Malta
19 - Divisionism and Futurism
20 - Contemporary artists
21 - Africa and Asia
22 - Icons
23 - Wallspace
24 - Albert Houthuesen
25 - Stained Glass
26 - Self-Taught artists
27 - Conclusion

Additions to the series and related posts are as follows:

Airbrushed from Art History: Peter Fuller
Airbrushed from Art History: Polish Painters in Post-War Britain
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 1 - Dean, Fujimura, Reinhardt and Emin
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 2 - Walter Navratil
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 3 - Caribbean and South African Art
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 4 - Daniel Siedell
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 5 - Marcus Reichert
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 6 - Lord Harries on Christian Faith and Modern Art
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 7 - Coptic Art and Mexican Retablos
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 8 - The Pilgrim Project
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 9 - Christof Schlingensief
Beyond Airbrushed from Art History 10 - Indian Art
Anselm Keifer: Il Mistero delle Cattedrali
Anselm Kiefer: Il Mistero delle Cattedrali (2)
ArtWay Meditation: Reto Scheiber
Being in the World: Charles Lutyens
British Design 1948 - 2012 and 1948 Olympians
Commission: contemporary art in British Churches
Clay as Earth and Flesh - Stephen de Staebler
Emil Nolde: Inner religious feeling
Forsaken: Marlene Dumas
Howson does not shy away from the role that Christianity plays in his work
Is the Art world anti-Christian?
John Piper and the Church
McCahon, Baxter and Hayman
McCahon, Baxter and Hayman (2)
Moreau, Rouault and Chagall in Paris
On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art
Reaching Beyond - Smith and Moore
Seeing in new and different ways - John Dillenberger
Spirituality in Contemporary Art
When was the last time you saw an explicitly religious work of contemporary art?
William Congdon - The Sabbath of History
Cocteau Chapel: Notre Dame de Jerusalem
Matisse Chapel: Chapelle du Rosaire Vence
Musée National Marc Chagall
Notre Dame de France and the murals of Jean Cocteau


Bill Fay - Be Not So Fearful.

Airbrushed from Art History: Polish painters in Post-War Britain

Airbrushed from Art History referred both to Polish Symbolism and to the sacrum period in Polish Art but there is a further aspect of Polish Art which can be considered, Polish painters in Post-War Britain as documented by Douglas Hall in his book Art In Exile.

Hall writes that the number of displaced artists from Poland coming to Britain as exiles from war and persecution before or after 1939 was perhaps greater than from any other country. In Art In Exile he tells the stories of ten such artists as well as giving reviewing the context from which they came and their reception in England and Scotland. As a result, there are also links to my post on Exiles, Migrations and Orientalism. Hall writes that:

"Recent critical orthodoxy in this country still has little respect for the expression of the individual’s life experience, philosophy or psychic state, since it places an overwhelming emphasis on generational or supposed communal values. To remember the exiles is to be reminded that other nations have permitted or encouraged a greater personal involvement and responsibility on the part of the individual artist. In a sense this book is an exercise in what David Jones called ‘anamnesis’, the constant need to remember what we are and were. Since the present order puts little value on the art of the day before yesterday, the book is first of all an attempt to keep alive, revive or reinforce some reputations, but even more importantly it is to remind ourselves, through the experience of the exiles among us, that there have been other ways of feeling, other ways of understanding history, other ways of using creative ability for other expressive purposes."

Among those featured in the book is Marian Bohusz-Szyszko who had been teaching Polish servicemen in Rome to paint prior to his arrival in Britain in 1947:

"Bohusz-Szyszko immediately set about creating the conditions in which he could continue his teaching mission, at first in a reception camp, later at various addresses in London and finally at the St Christopher Hospice at Sydenham. The classes became known as the Polish School of Painting, and were eventually taken under the wing of The Polish University Abroad. The relatively younger artists, including [Stanislaw] Frenkiel, founded in 1948 the Young Artists Association … A group calling themselves Group 49 took its place a year later and mainly consisted of pupils of Bohusz-Szyszko … In 1955, with Polish artists beginning to be more successful commercially, a society was formed with the neutral title of The Association of Polish Artists in Great Britain (APA) … Although APA was intended to be a broad church, the pupils of Marian Bohusz were still the most important element. The spiritual intensity of Bohusz’s work … was almost impossible to pass on to others, and without it the overall impression of APA is of a conservative body whose members had little desire to rock any boats. [Henryk] Gotlib and [Zdzislaw] Ruszkowski were early members, but dropped out. Frenkiel stayed the course and was for a time Secretary; his work, unique in any context, stands out even more sharply in this one."

"Bohusz-Szyszko, the Catholic, found release in a search for transcendence, which he achieved with a devotional bounty of paint parallel, only, to Expressionism." "You will not find the name Marian Bohusz-Szyszko in any history of modern art, under the heading of Expressionism, or any other. Perhaps more than any other artist in this book Bohusz demonstrates that the most emphatic artistic personality is not enough by itself to commend notice … Sadly it seems that Bohusz’s religious visions did blind the art world of his time to the extraordinary quality of his work."

"The very last visitor to an exhibition of his work at the Drian Gallery in 1963 was Doctor Cicely Saunders, who was then in process of creating what became the St Christopher’s Hospice at Sydenham. Dr Saunders was struck by the spiritual depth and intensity of the work, and immediately bought a painting, Christ Calming the Waters, with the intention of placing it in the chapel of the Hospice. She wrote to the artist to enquire about its origins, and from that exchange of letters began a relationship with the late Dr (later Dame) Saunders and the Hospice movement which lasted until his death. The Hospice, open to all but conducted with the ideal in mind of a contemplative and spiritual Christianity, provided a focus for Buhusz’s own inclinations. Over the years after the opening of St Christopher’s Hospice in 1967, a growing number of his paintings found their proper place there until there are now over eighty. About ten years later he was officially recognised as artist-in-residence and provided with a studio where he continued to teach students at the weekends. His marriage to Dame Cicely in 1980 sealed the relationship with the Hospice, and it was there that, in his 94th year, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko died on 23 January 1995."

Henryk Gotlib’s "Polish Triptych is a work of imagination and exists on a plane of its own, intended by Gotlib to transcend the limitations both of traditional history and religious painting and of modern art, employing aspects of both." The subject of his Crucifixion "was suggested to him by an unexpected view of one of his own paintings which was already almost completed, and which he then converted into its present form. But if he did not originally intend it, he was open to a vision of it. Gotlib was not a believer and his Crucifixion does not have a standard iconography. Christ hangs forward from an ill-defined cross against a jagged mountain, his head wreathed not in thorns but in white … In The Holy Man … the hermit … Thin … sits naked on the ground, his hands between his knees, his head in its mass of black hair thrust down on his hunched shoulders … at the outset of his late period … Gotlib’s introspection … focused his mind on mortality. The great monument to this mood is Rembrandt in Heaven … Rembrandt is … brought before … the suffering Christ, naked and weary, wearing a vast crown of thorns which somehow echoes Rembrandt’s cap. It is the same crown of thorns that the Christ-like figure in the Warsaw triptych wore, a figure modelled by Gotlib himself."

In 1960 Alexander Zyw began a new phase of his work turning "to the study of small insignificant fragments of nature that were in no way already pictorial .. In the process the materiality of the original object gave way to an intangible presence so lightly painted as to seem almost breathed on the canvas." From 1967 - 72 Zyw worked on a nature cycle using the elements of water, air and fire. The last element he addressed was fire in the form of a meteor and for this he used a pebble "which showed signs of being created, like the meteor, by extreme heat or pressure, being penetrated by deep holes":

"the pebble of Meteor was intensely anthropomorphic, for its deep holes suggested the cavities and orifices of a skull … A friend and patron, who must have seen the way the work was going, offered to commission a Crucifixion triptych, intending the usual iconography of Crucifixion, Deposition and Ascension. By his own account, Zyw went back to his studio, looked at a large red Meteor canvas, and saw a huge head of Christ … Zyw never painted a Crucifixion in a direct way, but adopting the meteor subject was a solution to the project for a triptych, which he realised between 1981 and 1986 … After the Meteor sequence and its sequel the triptych, Zyw felt one more metamorphosis well up from his imagination. This was the subject he called Fiat Lux (let there be light) … Giovanni Cavazzini suggests that Fiat Lux is the final yielding by Zyw to a spiritual, even religious tension that had been evident for some time, and this permitted him to find in this pebble ‘the dawn of the world’."

Stanislaw Frenkiel met Georges Rouault in Paris and was influenced by his "earlier works in watercolour and graphic media" from which he learned "the religious significance":

"of … outcasts of society, the abused as well as their abusers, whom Rouault portrayed with equal ruthlessness as if equally corrupted in the flesh, but all holding out the possibility of redemption and regeneration. The lesson was not lost on the young man with a well developed knowledge of the flesh and the consequences of its vulnerability. The sense of the dual nature of fleshly existence remained with him always, and was the driving force behind his mature work."

"What Anthony Dyson calls ‘Frenkiel’s essential preoccupation with making the ordinary extraordinary’ had been with him almost from the beginning." "Lawrence Bradshaw assessed Frenkiel … as ‘an actor-producer, who invents his own dramas, selects his own cast and creates his own happenings’."

"All his work is imbued with the concept of original sin and redemption":

"As a Roman Catholic he realised that the central mystery of his faith was God’s will to re-unite divided humanity by the act of redemption … For Frenkiel the sinful part of humanity had a positive value; being a sinner himself, he took comfort in the belief that Catholicism was the religion of sinners. ‘In order to be forgiven, you have to sin,’ as he once unguardedly put it. He often made use of expressions like ‘the spirituality of sensory experience’ or ‘the legitimacy of desire’. He had no time for the Protestant fear of contamination, comparing it to an artist’s not wanting to get his hands dirty, whereas he himself revelled in the sensual satisfaction of handling paint and being ‘contaminated’ by it. All this is the background both to Frenkiel’s unconstrained Expressionism and his joyful and not so joyful depictions of erring humanity, mainly female. His views were not a smokescreen for voyeurism as a cynic might suggest. ‘The crux of all that I have been trying to do is to find some kind of saving element in disgrace,’ he told Dyson."

Marek Zulawski’s Christ of Belsen:

"shows the emaciated body of Christ lying across the whole width of the canvas, at the foot of the cross of which only the base is seen. He lies on a white cloth, the sky is red, there is nothing else. The brushmarks are hard and angular. In the aftermath of war or horrific events there are broadly two directions artists may take in order to cope (other than to ignore it, as many do): the gritty depiction of horror, though never gritty enough, or the expression of emotion through the veil of abstraction. The Christ of Zulawski forcibly drives a path between these extremes. It is realist in as far as its subject is unequivocal, the feelings it is meant to evoke unequivocally plain, mesmerising in its intensity, yet formalised and hauntingly beautiful … Eleven years Zulawski later took … this stylisation of agony to a high pitch in a number of paintings of Ecce Homo."

Finally, Adam Kossowski did the greater part of his work "for the purposes of the Roman Catholic Church" as for twenty-five years "he worked at the Carmelite Priory at Aylesford in Kent, making mainly reliefs in painted ceramic."


The Holmes Brothers - Pledging My Love.

Monday, 17 September 2012

ArtWay Meditation: Reto Scheiber

This weeks ArtWay meditation written by Johannes Manz is of particular interest as it focuses on works by Reto Scheiber utilising minimal imagery to explore belief.

Scheiber is a freelance artist and designer, who lives and works in Basel, Switzerland. After his studies at the College of Colour Design in Zürich from 2000-2003, he worked as a designer, creating numerous projects in the area of art within architecture as well as complete architectural designs. In 2006–2007 he studied fine art at the University of the Arts London/Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where he obtained a Master of Fine Arts. He has taken part in solo and group exhibitions in England and Switzerland . He works in various visual art forms, such as painting, sculpture, video, photography and installations.   


Blind Boys of Alabama - Free At Last.

Windows on the world (212)

London, 2010


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Transforming Presence: Serving with accountability

Today we had our All-Age Harvest Festival at St John's Seven Kings. Our congregation generously collected a large amount of Harvest goods to donate to the Redbridge Food Bank. After the service we enjoyed a bring & share Harvest lunch. In the service we thought about the third of the Transforming Presence priorities - serving with accountability.

"They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers." In a single verse Acts 2.42 describes the life of the very first Christian community. It is a community which is faithful to Christ. It is a community that is growing as the Lord adds more people to its number.
It has a life of clarity, integrity and mutual accountability. The apostles teaching, fellowship with each other, the breaking of bread and the life of prayer constitute and characterise the life they have in Christ.

In Transforming Presence Bishop Stephen asks us to consider how these things are evident in the life of our community? What else would we add to this list? Or, put another way, what aspects of the apostles teaching need to go alongside these other three basic priorities of our life together?

Is there a bottom line? Is there a set of ministries and activities that we should expect to find in every Christian community, whatever its context and circumstance, and about which we should hold ourselves accountable? Is there a rule of life for the local Christian community? Are there a set of ingredients that constitute a faithful, healthy Christian community?

Our churches should be places of prayer; places where people learn about the faith and are active in discipleship; places where there is a ministry of evangelism; places where ministry is shared and developed; places which serve the local community; places that are inclusive and welcome to all; places which are seeking the unity of all God’s church and working with their neighbours locally and globally.

We must move, Bishop Stephen suggests, to a situation where it is no longer possible or acceptable for a church to say, for instance, ‘we don’t do children or young people’ or ‘evangelism isn’t our thing.’ Each community will, in its own way, be developing a common set of ministries so that we might be a church that is faithful to its apostolic calling.

As part of doing so, a Diocesan rule of life could help us answer the following questions:

·        What are we doing to teach people to pray?
·        What are we doing to teach people the faith and help them in their discipleship?
·        What are we doing to share the faith with others and what have the results been in the past year? And does our church have a place of nurture?
·        What are we doing to nurture and develop the ministry of the whole people of God including enabling people to come forward for authorised lay and ordained ministry?
·        How is your church a blessing to the community we serve? And how are we witnessing to God’s kingdom of justice and peace?
·        What are you doing to ensure our church is a place of safety and welcome for all ages and for people of all backgrounds?
·        How are we working in partnership with other Christian communities in our locality and at the diocesan, national and global levels?

As we ask and answer such questions we are being accountable to each other and to God for the ministry of this Church. Similarly Stewardship month is a time when we stop and reflect on our actions and activity and review what we are doing. To do this is to be accountable to God and each other. 

At Harvest and in Stewardship month we regularly remember that our church is made up of people who, together, trust in and follow Jesus. We depend on Jesus and care for each other and for the community where we live. By being together as the disciples of Jesus we can offer spiritual sacrifices of our time, energy, abilities and possessions to bless God and our neighbours, by:

·        offering ourselves as ‘living sacrifices’ in love of God and our neighbour – including our enemies (Romans 12)
·        living a life of love – following the sacrificial example of Jesus (Ephesians 5:2)
·        sharing our possessions with those in need inside and outside our community (Philippians 4:18, cf. Galatians 6:10)
·        praising God together and sharing with people living in poverty (Hebrews 13:15–16)

But we are not on our own. We are also part of the global church – all made of living stones. Jesus the cornerstone joins us together. Our church, through Jesus, is joined to churches locally, nationally and internationally. We offer spiritual sacrifices to God, which benefit the people around us. We can also demonstrate unity through supporting – and praying with – churches across the world. As living stones, together, through Jesus Christ, we are being built into God’s global church, his spiritual home. Together we are church.

We are one of the richest nations in the world; we have been given so much. God calls us to make spiritual sacrifices for his kingdom, and we can start today by committing to offer spiritual sacrifices, through prayer, by giving regularly to this church and the global church, and by taking action to care better for the world in which we live (see today’s Stewardship form). These sacrifices, made in partnership with other churches - like King’s Church who run the Redbridge foodbank and the Anglican Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo whose youth work we support - enable more and more churches to bring spiritual and material transformation to their own communities. Together we are church.
(Taken from Transforming Presence and We Are Church - Tearfund's 2011 Harvest resource).

Matt Redman - I Will Offer Up My Life.

Celebration of Poetry

Together with Kathryn Robinson, Performing Arts Adviser for the Barking Episcopal Area, I am organising a poetry evening as part of the Woodford Festival and Arts Festival for the Barking Episcopal Area.

This Celebration of Poetry will be on Friday 12th October, 7.30pm, St Paul's Woodford Bridge, Cross Road, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 8BT. There is no admission charge and the evening will include local poets, published poets, musical/storytelling interludes and a showing of the 'Run with the Fire' Olympic-themed digital art exhibition. Among those reading their poetry are: Tim Cunningham, Jane Grell, Malcolm Guite, Alan Hitching, Jennifer Houghton and myself, among others. 

Through commission4mission I am also involved with two other events for these Festivals:
The Big Draw – Saturday 6th October, 12.00 noon – 5.00pm, St Mary’s Woodford, 207 High Road, South Woodford, London E18 2PA
Drawing workshop with hints and tips from commission4mission artists.

Art exhibition - Saturday 13th October, 10.00am - 7.30pm, The Atrium, All Saints Woodford Wells, Inmans Row, Woodford Green, IG8 0NH
No admission charge. Exhibition of art works by members of commission4mission, an arts organisation which aims to encourage churches to commission contemporary art. Includes the 'Run with the Fire' Olympic-themed digital art exhibition. This exhibition will include work by Alan Hitching, Mark Lewis, Janet Roberts, Francesca RossHenry Shelton, Joy Rousell StonePeter Webb and myself.


Tim Cunningham - Kyrie.