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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Jesus novels & films: The Greatest Story Ever Told

Stuart Kelly reviews the latest Jesus novel - The Tongues of Men or Angels by Jonathan Trigell - in today's Guardian and, in the process, provides a neat little summary of the genre:

'Given it has been called The Greatest Story Ever Told, the temptation to retell it is understandable. Except under special circumstances, it also ought to be resisted strenuously. For every Paradise Regained by John Milton, The Monarch by Sir David Lyndsay or Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock, there are misconceived works such as Norman Mailer’s The Gospel According to the Son, Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord books and even Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Pullman was so much better at untelling the Bible than retelling it). There have been a remarkable number of fictional Jesuses in recent years – from Colm Toíbín, Naomi Alderman, Michel Faber, JM Coetzee, Jim Crace, Richard Beard (whose Lazarus Is Dead was remarkable). But that’s not so surprising given that Robert Graves, Gore VidalAnthony Burgess, José Saramago, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov and even Jeffrey Archer have all had a crack of this particular whip.'

Jordan Hoffman says of the latest Jesus movie, Last Days in the Desert starring Ewan McGregor as both Jesus and the shadowy personification of a taunting Satan, 'is a smart and beautiful meditation of fathers and sons (and the Father and Son) that is slow but never boring':

'On the spectrum of Jesus movies this belongs closer to Pasolini’s Gospel According to Matthew than, say, Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings, at least in its ascetic aesthetic. Certainly more than the recent wretched Mark Burnett and Roma Downey production Son of God. The off-book exploration will, I think, be of value to believers, but that’s an issue for the film’s marketing department. As an artwork about a man with a calling, the rich, hazy time spent in the desert certainly inspires.'


Larry Norman - The Outlaw.

Excellent sermons

This week, as I am currently between roles, I was able to be in the congregation for services at both the churches where I will soon have the privilege of being in ministry. As a result, I heard several excellent sermons; two of which can be heard online.

The Rev Dr Sam Wells is well known as a fine preacher and his sermon at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in which he examines the four verbs Mark uses in the first chapter of his Gospel to describe what Jesus is about, was no exception. This was a sermon which was well structured, finely written and which contained insight and impact. Keep it simple can be heard by clicking here and needs to be heard in full, rather being summarised.

Bishop Michael Marshall has provided much of the cover at St Stephen Walbrook during the interregnum as well as running some of his SPA (Scripture, Prayer, Action) sessions during that time. SPA is a fellowship for spiritual refreshment and renewal, committed to times of silent corporate prayer issuing from a programme of bible study and leading to action, witness and service. At the Thursday Eucharist Bishop Michael preached from Matthew 8. 1-4. His sermon, entitled In And Out Of Touch, explored the ways in which Jesus' touch was relevant, inclusive and healing.


Felix Mendelssohn - How Lovely Are the Messengers.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Seeing us all as bearers of the divine image

In speaking about his Head over Heels series Gerald Folkerts writes; “The homeless, the poor, the sick, the young, the age – the very ones whom we often tend to ignore, or at least overlook – their stories seemed worth telling. Such stories are often difficult to hear … Yet these are often the stories that need to be heard most desperately. … why not focus on the face and the feet? They might reveal a great deal about the journey of one’s life, the road on which one has travelled.”

In Imago's E Magazine we read: 'The people found in these paintings are people that the artist took time to get to know. The subjects are burdened in one way or another but the artist depicts them possessing grace and dignity. These important human traits also characterized the artist. He has carried out his artistic calling, deeply shaped by his faith. His work is that of a truth-teller and in the midst of the difficulties of life his faith-ful artist’s eye discerns threads of hope. His work nurtures the human spirit and calls us to view the world and others in it through a lens of justice and compassion, seeing us all as bearers of the divine image.'

Calvin Seerveld said, “Folkerts has the wisdom to let his Christian faith subtly percolate in the spirit of his painterly art by showing compassion for the problematic figures he treats.”

Similarly, on her website Helen Morley quotes the Dutch priest and author Henri J.M. Nouwen who observed: ‘In this crazy world, there’s an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they’re never separated. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the kingdom.’

Morley explains that her work is informed by police mugshot images of addicts but they become at the end, autobiographical: 'I see in them our brokenness and need, which invites in either death or Grace. My practice involves developing the right ‘feel’ which is created with action and attitude. Through drawing, music, dance and seeking the intuitive signals of truth, I paint with joy and gesture: whole glooping armfuls of it. In this way I achieve a surrender, and make things I did not know I could do.'

She writes: 'My proposal is that when an artist makes work using their intuition throughout, then they achieve a kind of loving and tender detachment from the piece, a suspension of expectation of a fixed outcome. As this process unfolds, there is opportunity and room for Grace to become evident or operational and this is generational, evolutionary. The end result is a painting that has the potential to be far more than decorative: it can be transcendent.'

Morley is part of the Creative Recovery group, a charitable organisation set up by four people in recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction and eating disorders. Their belief is that 'creativity challenges us to try new things, brings wellbeing, and helps us be open to change.' They provide a rolling programme of different things to try and encourage members to share their creative skills. They state, 'We do not believe that arts and crafts or ‘wellbeing’ activities alone can get us clean, but being with other people trying to get well, sharing in a positive community and making something practical is beneficial as we grow in recovery together.'


King Crimson - Peace - An Ending.

Speaking in a relevant way about an authentic Christian framework

Michael Gough 'believes the language used in the Christian context is inherent to the subculture, but doesn't translate well in the mainstream: "Our challenge always to our faith-based clients is to make them think about what the mainstream culture is. We think about how we can lift that from the assumptions of a Christian subculture, turning that into something meaningful, engaging and relevant to the mainstream culture."

For Sparks, it's all about helping clients see that opportunity to speak in a relevant way about an authentic Christian framework, but in a language that is engaging to a wider audience.

And they've had a lot of experience, working with organisations such as Christian Aid and OMF, as well as singer Duke Special. But their work is diverse, stretching to financial companies, the legal sector and entertainment.'

In an interview published in the Evangelical Alliance's Idea magazine, he says:

"The problem is the Church has an assumption about its culture, which sometimes gets in the way about people engaging and meeting with the true biblical expression of who Christ is. Lots of language we use in a church context is tied exclusively to this culture – it has little meaning outside."

I think the more we can do to help people outside of the Church to engage with the biblical text, the more we move away from this subcultural context and engage with the truth of the gospel."

Gough says that the early days of Sparks Studio were heavily influenced by the writings of Calvin Seerveld with his essay, 'The Freedom and the Responsibility of the Artist', acting as Sparks' manifesto.


Duke Special - Stargazers Of The World Unite.

Windows on the world (328)

Galilee, 2014


Eric Whitacre - Water Night.

Sophia Hub update

Ros Southern writes:

'Here's the news this week. Please do pass it on!

We had a fabulous Timebank community skills exchange last Saturday with at least 18 start ups or small businesses benfitting. For photos and more info click here.

The next Timebank event has been organised by yoga teacher Sam to run a yoga mini retreat with local yoga instructors, 2 of whom are start-up. It's in the wonderful Cauliflower on Wednesday 11th Feb. Payment is in hours! Find out more here.

At the enterprise club on Tuesday we have the lively business woman Karen Leighton wanting to share her business experience with you. Click to read more here.

There was a great business networking event last night and there's going to be a Redbridge business hub! Click to read more here.

Thanks to Begonia Belmonte for being our speaker last week and Jitendra for the invention demo! Read more here.

Please remember that start-ups have free membership of Redbridge Chambers for 2015 - make sure to attend their breakfast networking events. Info here.

Hoping to see some of the entrepreneurs that I met at the networking event last night at the enterprise club on Tuesday!

Best wishes,

Ros Southern, Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Seven Kings
M: 07707 460309 T: 0208 590 2568
T: @sophiahubs7k FB: Sophia Hubs Seven Kings blog:

c/o St Johns Church, St Johns Road, Seven Kings, IG2 7BB'


James Macmillan - The Gallant Weaver.

The upside-down Kingdom of God

At my first training weekend as a curate the then Bishop of Barking, David Hawkins, performed a handstand to demonstrate the way in which Jesus, through his teaching in the beatitudes, turns our understanding of life upside down. As opposed to the survival of the fittest or looking after No. 1, the Kingdom of God, as it is described in the Beatitudes, is a place of happiness for those who know they are spiritually poor, a place of comfort for those who mourn, a place of receptivity for those who are humble, a place of satisfaction for those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires, a place of mercy for those who are merciful, a place in which God is seen by the pure in heart, a place in which those who work for peace are called God’s children, and a place which belongs to those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.

I've been reminded of this by a post at The Jesus Question about an artwork called Jesus Striped and Stripped by Cedric Baxter.

Victoria Emily Jones writes that, 'Every year since 2008 (excepting last year, due to ministerial transitions), Catherine Czerw has curated a Lenten art exhibition on behalf of Wesley Uniting Church in Perth, Australia, called Stations of the Cross. She selects fifteen Australian artists to participate, each one choosing a station to depict. Jesus Striped and Stripped was Cedric Baxter's 2011 contribution for Station 10, traditionally articulated as "Jesus is stripped of his garments."'

'Baxter's tenth station captures Jesus mid-tumble, naked and abused and down on his way to death, but what Christians know and glory in, especially during the Easter season, is that he's circling back. He's turning a cartwheel! The upside downness of Jesus in this image challenges us to look at Passion Week with the right perspective: as a journey that brings Christ low only to raise him up.'

Baxter's image would have been perfect for a short liturgy which I prepared a while back for the Barking Area Team meeting and subsequently used at a Deanery Synod and at St John's Seven Kings. This liturgy began with an opening reflection taken from St Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton:

'[Saint] Francis, at the time … when he disappeared into the prison or the dark cavern, underwent a reversal of a certain psychological kind … The man who went into the cave was not the man who came out again … He looked at the world as differently from other men as if he had come out of that dark hole walking on his hands … If a man saw the world hanging upside down, with all the trees and towers hanging head downwards as in a pool, one effect would be to emphasise the idea of dependence … It would make vivid the Scriptural text which says that God has hanged the world upon nothing.'

This image of coming out of a cave walking on our hands was used by Mumford & Sons in their song entitled The Cave. I adapted this to form the opening response:

May we come out of our cave walking on our hands and see the world hanging upside down. May we understand dependence when we know the maker's hand. Amen.

The prayer of penitence began by borrowing some phrases from Donald B. Kraybill: Jesus, you startle us as paradox, irony and surprise permeate your teachings flipping our expectations upside down: the least are the greatest; adults become like children; the religious miss the heavenly banquet; the immoral receive forgiveness and blessing. Things aren’t like we think they should be. We’re baffled and perplexed; uncertain whether to laugh or cry. Again and again, turning our world upside down, your kingdom surprises us and so we pray now to see your world and our lives as you see them.

I put these together with some of T. Bone Burnett's lyrics from Trap Door. The responses were:

Lord, forgive our knowingness, our grasping, our comfort and our self-satisfaction.

Lord, forgive our attempts to be loved, our pride, our pleasure-seeking and our leisure-seeking. As we turn to you, turn our lives upside down and bless us with poverty, with grief, with meekness, with hunger, with mercy, with purity, with peacemaking, with persecution and with your upside down kingdom. Amen.
The prayers of intercession were as follows: 

God of Israel, the God of the Exodus, you hear the cry of slaves and deliver true liberation. New regimes which leave the old order in place, the bullies in power, the greedy with their unjust gains, and which have nothing to say to the oppressed are not good and are not news. Having heard the subversive nature of your kingdom announcement, we pray for an upside-down kingdom that will deliver true liberation.

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.

It is the humble poor who know their need of you and those who have nothing who know they need everything. So we pray for those moments when we and others become poor in spirit, bereaved, meek, hungry, thirsty, and turn faces to you looking for salvation. Open doors in us and others that gain and comfort have locked tight.

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.

The Gospel announcement, your salvation, is truly comprehensive, is truly for all, because it is offered to losers, by circumstance or choice. The poor have no means of becoming rich but the rich have within themselves the possibility of becoming poor. There is nothing that we don’t have that will bar our entry to this upside-down kingdom and so we pray to be rid of what we do have that your kingdom may truly come to all.

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The liturgy ended with Gerard Kelly's Let Your Kingdom Come.


T. Bone Burnett - Trap Door.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Passion 2015

Passion – a contemporary journey to the cross is a unique performance created and directed by accomplished dance artist and theologian Claire Henderson Davis, which fuses dance, poetry and music into a moving and compelling work.

Using poet Malcolm Guite’s sonnets on the Stations of the Cross as the basis for a contemporary re-telling of Jesus’ last hours, this fascinating piece will bring multi-disciplinary performance into sacred spaces. But there will be no cross or first century dress. This is a thoroughly modern re-imagining in which the bodies of the dancers tell the story, become the cross, play each character in the narrative, and in which the feminine and sexual love become symbols of the divine. The audience move with the action, becoming the crowd in this promenade performance.

The piece was developed with the support of Ely Cathedral and performed there on the evening of Palm Sunday 2014. The response was so overwhelming that it will be performed there again on the evening of Good Friday 2015, and will go on tour to other Cathedrals in Britain during Lent 2015, and to St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2015.

The Very Revd Mark Bonney, Dean of Ely, writes:

“Passion” is a creative combination of Malcolm Guite’s beautifully crafted Sonnets and some highly expressive and evocative dance. We were taken on a journey that was illuminating and challenging, that engaged our emotions as well as our intellect and which threw new light on a familiar story.

The piece is performed by Malcolm Guite (poet/ narrator), Claire Henderson Davis and Fraser Paterson (dancers), Jan Payne (oboist), and Dan Forshaw (saxophonist), with a group of non-professional women, some recruited locally at each venue, playing the Women of Jerusalem. 

Confirmed performance dates are: 21 February Lichfield Cathedral; 28 February London St John’s Church, Waterloo (the only non-Cathedral date); 7 March Coventry Cathedral; 12 March Chester Cathedral; 03 April (Good Friday) Ely Cathedral; 11-13 August Edinburgh St Mary’s Cathedral. Following each performance of Passion, Claire will return at a later date to offer a half-day workshop (four hours), giving participants a chance to enter for themselves this contemporary vision of relationship with God.


Malcolm Guite - Stations Of The Cross.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Responses to modernity and religion

ImageUpdate has information about festival events featuring the cream of Western artists engaged in the interface between art and faith:

Artistic Responses to Modernity: 'On Monday the exhibition opens with paintings inspired by T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets by the artists Bruce Herman & Makoto Fujimura with Rowan Williams as a speaker, Juliet Stevenson as a reader, and cello music by Guy Johnston. Tuesday will feature several piano pieces including Messiaen, Visions de l'Amen for two pianos, and work by Cordelia Williams and Jeremy Begbie. On Wednesday, award-winning poet Micheal O'Siadhail will read from his work in progress, Five Quintets, interwoven with piano music by Jeremy Begbie, played by Cordelia Williams. On Friday, arising out of a collaboration with scholars from Cambridge and Duke University, a newly composed St Luke Passion by James MacMillan will be performed with Choristers of Kings College, conducted by the composer.'

The e-newsletter also has information about an interfaith exhibition featuring art from artists drawn from both the East and the West:

'In the wake of the terrorist tragedy in Paris, France, Caravan, an inter-religious peacemaking arts non-profit will launch its interfaith traveling art exhibition titled The Bridge in Paris at the historic Church of St. Germain des Pres, in the Latin Quarter, the oldest church in Paris. Opening on February 2-28, 2015 to commemorate the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week, The Bridge is an unparalleled gathering of 47 Arab, Persian and Jewish premier contemporary visual artists of Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious backgrounds focusing on what they hold in common. Organized and curated by Caravan, the multi-religious group of participating artists in The Bridge are making the case for using that which we have in common as the foundation for the future of our world. After The Bridge runs for a month in Paris, it will travel for exhibition within Europe, to Egypt, and then throughout the USA.'


Olivier Messiaen - Visions de l'Amen.

Jim Morphesis and Corita Kent

The Pasadena Museum of Californian Art is currently showing work by Jim Morphesis:

'Since the 1980s, Jim Morphesis has been one of the most influential members of the expressionist art movement in Los Angeles. Taking its title from what Friedrich Nietzsche called "The Eternal Wounds of Existence," JIM MORPHESIS: Wounds of Existence examines an impressive oeuvre that has captured the profound predicaments of human life. Morphesis most often works serially, on imagery and themes as varied as the Passion of the Christ (influenced by his Greek Orthodox upbringing), nude torsos (inspired by Rembrandt and Soutine) and universal symbols of mortality, including skulls and roses. His paintings of the Passion are grounded in art history, sharing aspects with Diego Velázquez's Christ on the Cross and Giovanni Bellini's Pieta, but are made undeniably modern by his sensuous, textured surfaces. For the past four decades, his paintings have communicated a deep, universal concern with the dehumanization of society throughout history.'

Later in the year they also have a retrospective of Corita Kent's body of work:

'Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent is the first full-scale exhibition to survey the entire career of pioneering artist and designer Corita Kent (1918-1986). For over three decades, Corita experimented in printmaking, producing a groundbreaking body of work that combines faith, activism, and teaching with messages of acceptance and hope. A Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Corita taught at the Art Department at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles from 1947 through 1968. At IHC, she developed her vibrant, Pop-inspired prints from the 1960s, mining a variety of secular and religious sources and using the populist printmaking medium to pose philosophical questions about racism, war, poverty, and religion. Her work was widely recognized for its revolutionary impact and remains an iconic symbol of that period in American history. As a teacher, Corita inspired her students to discover new ways of experiencing the world by seeking out revelation in everyday events. Bringing together artwork from Corita's entire career, this exhibition reveals the impassioned energy of this artist, educator, and activist.'


Morrissey - Now My Heart Is Full.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Here is the speech I gave today at the Holocaust Memorial Day event in Redbridge:

Last year I was fortunate, through my sabbatical visits and through the Tour of the Holy Land organised by the East London Three Faiths Forum, to see a wide variety of artwork in churches and synagogues by the Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall. Chagall was controversial as a Jewish artist for painting images of Christ’s crucifixion.

Chagall’s church commissions were created, ‘In the name of the freedom of all religions’ while, for him, ‘Christ ... always symbolized the true type of the Jewish martyr.’ He depicted this perception most famously in White Crucifixion painted in 1938 in response to the persecution of Jews by the Nazis, including Kristallnacht. Central to this painting, among scenes of anti-Jewish violence which included the torching of a synagogue, is Jesus on the cross with a tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl, draped around him as a loin cloth. For Chagall, ‘Jesus on the cross represented the painful predicament of all Jews, harried, branded, and violently victimized in an apparently God-forsaken world.’

A similar perception is described by Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, in his book Night. There he writes: ‘The SS hanged two Jewish men and a youth in front of the whole camp. The men died quickly, but the death throes of the youth lasted for half an hour. "Where is God? Where is he?" someone asked behind me. As the youth still hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard the man call again, "Where is God now?" And I heard a voice in myself answer: "Where is he? He is here. He is hanging there on the gallows.’

Seen by Elie Wiesel in the context of Judaism and of the humiliation of God in going with Israel into exile and suffering, for Christians this moving story has a striking resonance because of the crucifixion. For Jews and Christians alike, the face of desolation wears another aspect, that of the presence and providence of God.

In Christian vocabulary this could be described as the prayer of incarnation. This is a prayer of presence; a prayer which recognizes that God shares our pain, frailty and brokenness. We pray acknowledging that God suffers with us. From Christ’s life, Christians also recognise two other types of prayer: the prayer of resurrection in which we pray for a miracle; and the prayer of transfiguration where, as Samuel Wells has written, ‘we see a whole reality within and beneath and beyond what we thought we understood.’ In times of bewilderment and confusion we pray that God might reshape our reality, to give us a new and right spirit to trust that even in the midst of suffering and hardship, truth can still be experienced and shared.

At Yad Yashem, on the East London Three Faiths Forum Tour of the Holy Land, I saw examples of this prayer in the words of Aharon Appelfeld who said, ‘From among the horror grew another morality, another love, another compassion. These grew wild – no one gave them a name.’ Similarly, on the Yad Vashem website I read of survivors, ‘dazed, emaciated, bereaved beyond measure,’ who ‘gathered the remnants of their vitality and the remaining sparks of their humanity, and rebuilt.’ ‘They never meted out justice to their tormentors – for what justice could ever be achieved after such a crime? Rather, they turned to rebuilding: new families forever under the shadow of those absent; new life stories, forever warped by the wounds; new communities, forever haunted by the loss.’

I also saw pages from the illustrated Bible which self-taught artist Carol Deutsch loving crafted in 1941 in Antwerp, during the turmoil of the Second World War, as a gift for his daughter’s second birthday. Carol Deutsch and his wife Fela were informed upon and murdered in the extermination camps. However, their daughter Ingrid, who was hidden with a Catholic family in the countryside, survived, as did the Bible, which miraculously remained intact. Deutsch, who died in Buchenwald, left behind a vital estate - a stalwart resistance to everything the Nazis had attempted to obliterate.

Finally, for those who are Christians, Karen Sue Smith has noted that ‘Chagall’s genius was to use Jesus’ crucifixion to address Christians, to alert them by means of their own symbol system to the systematic cruelty taking place in the Holocaust.’ For Christians then, our response should, I think, be in line with the words of Pope Francis from an interview in 2013. There he spoke of his admiration for White Crucifixion praising Jews for keeping their faith despite the Holocaust and other “terrible trials” throughout history (by implication, including those for which the Church is cupable), reaffirmed Judaism as the “holy root” of Christianity saying that, where this understood and affirmed, a Christian should not ever be an anti-Semite because “to be a good Christian it is necessary to understand Jewish history and traditions.”

I pray that this will be so for my own faith community and that God might reshape our reality, to give us a new and right spirit to trust that even in the midst of suffering and hardship, truth can still be experienced and shared.

See here and here for reports and photographs from the Redbridge event.


Azamra - Shuvi Nafshi.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Who are you?

Grayson Perry's Who Are You? exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, linked with his Channel 4 series of the same name, raises important and interesting questions about the nature of identity. Perry writes:

'The fourteen portraits in this exhibition, displayed among the Gallery’s Collection, are not primarily concerned with what the subjects look like. They are images about the nature of identity, snapshots taken from the narratives of people’s lives. Our sense of ourselves feels constant but our identity is an ongoing performance that is changed and adapted by our experiences and circumstances. We feel like we are the same person we were years before, but we are not.

As my subjects I have chosen individuals, families or groups that somehow represent some important facets of the nature of our identity. I have attempted to portray the character of the identity journey they are facing. They have changed religion or gender, they have lost some of their physical or mental faculties, they have lost status, they belong to a group that is hoping it will be seen differently by society. All of them, I thought, show us something of the negotiations we are all involved in, unconsciously or otherwise, around who we feel we are and how we are seen.

For most of us, most of the time our identity works for us so we do not question it. But when it does not feel right, or is under threat, then we are suddenly made very aware of how central and vital our identity is.'


The Who - Substitute.

Post Pop: East meets West

Post Pop: East meets West at the Saatchi Gallery 'brings together 250 works by 110 artists from China, the Former Soviet Union, Taiwan, the UK and the USA in a comprehensive survey celebrating Pop Art's legacy. Post Pop: East Meets West examines why of all the twentieth century's art movements, Pop Art has had such a powerful influence over artists from world regions that have had very different and sometimes opposing ideologies.

The exhibition celebrates the art being produced in these four distinct regions since the heyday of Pop, and presents them in relation to each other through the framework of six themes: Habitat; Advertising and Consumerism; Celebrity and Mass Media; Art History; Religion and Ideology; Sex and the Body.

Although from fundamentally different cultures and ideological backgrounds, the artists in this exhibition play with imagery from commercial advertising, propaganda posters, pictures of the famous as well as monetary and patriotic motifs in wry and provocative works that unmistakably reference the Pop Art movement which emerged in America and Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. In the Soviet Union region these works draw attention to state control, conformity, ceremony, pomp and the façade of unanimity amongst the people; in America and the UK they serve as a critique of commodity fetishism, the cult of celebrity and our mass-produced, status-driven man-made world; and in Greater China as commentary on the social dislocation created by a new super power's fascination with wealth and luxury following a period of extreme austerity.'

Wallpaper says, 'You'd think a generation of artists raised in the relative absence of religion would have escaped the pull of iconography. But therein lies the conflict in 'Ideology & Religion', perhaps the show's strongest section. If you're not scared straight by 'Die Harder', a screaming steel crucifix spiked with coat hangers by Turner Prize-nominee David Mach, you will be by the 12 shrouded figures worshipping at the altar of carved-wood toast slices by Anatoly Osmolovsky.'

Patricia Manos highlights, 'Moscow-based Irina Korina’s Chapel (2013), a structure of what looks like stained glass emerging from behind a thicket and a corrugated metal fence, and which deals with the idea of Socialist utopia as dol’gostroi, a construction project abandoned for lack of funds. Chapel is luminous and puzzling, with a touch of the seductive sadness that draws people to ruin-porn in the first place. It also shows a persistent optimism about the revolutionary potential of beauty, something that makes ‘Habitat’ probably the most conceptually cohesive part of the whole exhibition ...'


Rhiannon Giddens and Lalenja Giddens Harrington - I Know I've Been Changed.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

In The Wilderness: Preparing for Public Service

In The Wilderness: Preparing for Public Service is an exhibition for Lent featuring paintings by Adam Boulter and poetry by Malcolm Guite which will be St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey, from 17th February to 2nd April 2015.

The Biblical wilderness with its rocky mountainous desert has been a place of sanctuary and transformation for prophets and holy men since the dawn of history. Here Abraham and Jacob encountered the divine, Jesus confronted the diabolical, St Paul and the early monks learnt to speak the truth to those who would listen, and contemporary Christians seek refuge from the wars that are ripping apart this region. Here many stories and cultures that have shaped civilisations are layered onto the land. These paintings by Adam Boulter and poems by Malcolm Guite uncover some of these stories and tie them into our lives and times.

Adam Boulter’s work has revolved around landscape and religious themes. It is concerned with a sense of belonging and of the sacred in places as diverse as the inner-city and deserts, and in ancient stories, myths and sacred texts. Adam has exhibited frequently in and around London, and currently lives in Jordan, where he is the Mission to Seafarers Chaplain to the port of Aqaba.

Malcolm Guite is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge. He is a priest, chaplain, teacher and author. He also plays in Cambridge rock band Mystery Train, and lectures widely in England and USA on poetry and theology.


Windows on the world (327)

London, 2015


Dire Straits - Telegraph Road.

Sophia Hub update

Ros Southern writes:

'On Tuesday at enterprise club the speaker will be Begonia Belmonte who runs a catering business and she's very shy! 12.30 for 12.45 prompt start. Read more here.

Last Tuesday we had a great session with our sleeves rolled up working on each other's business, particularly social media help. Click here.

Timebank skills swap is today. Last minute offers coming in. Read more here.

Thanks to Lynette St Cyr Caesar for giving a bit of an update about her business. Please send me more folks, especially with links so that we can promote and celebrate your journeys. See it here.

This week we are having an exploratory meeting with the Council about green business. Will keep you posted.'

Ros Southern, Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Seven Kings
M: 07707 460309 T: 0208 590 2568
T: @sophiahubs7k FB: Sophia Hubs Seven Kings blog:
c/o St Johns Church, St Johns Road, Seven Kings, IG2 7BB


Paul Mealor - Salvator Mundi: Greater Love.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Guildhall Art Gallery: Dichotomies of spirituality and consumerism

To coincide with its 15th anniversary, Guildhall Art Gallery has undergone a radical rehang for the first time since the current building opened in 1999. The £600,000 renovation improves the visitor experience through illuminating the artworks with a new state-of-the-art lighting system, and creating more flexible themed display spaces.

Julia Dudkiewicz, Principal Curator, says ‘The rehang has been a labour of love and it has been a great privilege to work with such outstanding and internationally significant collections. The Guildhall Art Gallery is a real hidden gem in the heart of the City. It was one of the first public galleries in London, predating Tate Britain by 15 years, and today houses one of the largest and best collections of Victorian art in the world.’

The Gallery shows a changing display of about 250 artworks from its collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture, in addition to a programme of temporary exhibitions. A rich variety of Victorian paintings can be seen as you enter the Gallery, displayed in original nineteenth century style. The collections illustrate the key artistic movements and influences of the Victorian period, from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, to Orientalism, Classicism and narrative painting. Among the Victorian paintings on display include Rossetti's La Ghirlandata, Millais' My First Sermon and My Second Sermon and John Constable's large landscape, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows.

Dudkiewicz has explained that the Victorian room showcases dichotomies on each side of the room, Materiality (Home and Beauty) contrasts with Spirituality (Faith) and Imagined Realities (Love and Imagination) are contrasted with the Realities of Life (Work and Leisure). Further dichotomies can also be found in the Undercroft Gallery where London is explored in terms of 'the effect of the elements on the city (ice and fire), destruction and reconstruction, spirituality and consumerism, and public versus private space.'

The new collecting policy of the Gallery focuses 'on the often controversial themes of money, wealth, the economy, trade, commerce and capitalism.' This policy is currently represented by Mark Titchner's Plenty and Progress wall sculpture. However some of the Victoriana also relates as Dudkiewicz notes in relation to scenes of street children by Augustus Edwin Mulready: “Poverty has not gone away. Is the heart of the City a proper place to make people think a little of social and spiritual issues, that money and materialism are not everything in life? We are going to try.” In his commentary on City panorama entitled City of Holy Dreams Chris Orr states, 'a large number of churches in the City of London are now being choked and outgrown by the new temples of commerce and finance. Cities are maelstroms of competing ideas.' 

The topography of cities has been Orr’s long-time preoccupation, frequently referencing historic panoramas whilst, at the same time, commenting on the fallible nature of human perception. He also loves narratives which are culturally ingrained in us, like Bible stories ... because they give a golden opportunity to the artist to directly open a dialogue with the viewer.'

His contemporary representations of the rapidly changing London skyline feature in an exhibition exploring Tower Bridge as an enduring source of artistic inspiration for painters, draughtsman, printmakers and photographers. The show (which is part of the 120th anniversary celebrations of the opening of Tower Bridge) brings together a diverse chronological selection of artworks exploring the different ways British and London-based artists have pictured the Bridge.

The earliest views by the Victorian maritime painter W. L. Wyllie are juxtaposed with the modernity of Frank Brangwyn‘s working river, through the dramatic wartime imagery of Charles Pears and the poetic conceptualism of Judith Evans and Arthur Watson's The Spirit of London. In addition, the London-based Ecuadorian New Expressionist Mentor Chico has been especially commissioned to create a vibrant, up-to-the-minute painting of the relationship between Tower Bridge and the City entitled Forever Imagical Tower Bridge 2014, conveying the vibrancy of the Bridge in relation to the City visitors, vessels and vehicles.


Ralph McTell - Streets Of London.

Proof of the intangible value of the arts and culture

Here is one piece of evidence for the value of the creative industries:

'Figures ... from a report produced by BOP Consulting for the City of London Corporation show that the City’s world-leading arts and culture cluster had a total economic impact of £247 million in 2013/14. Measured in terms of job creation, this is equivalent to supporting between 6,600 and 7,060 full time equivalent jobs. The cluster organisations together brought in an estimated 8.5 million visitors in 2013/14, an uplift of 9.9% from the 2011/12 baseline figure, and the value of ticket sales for these organisations rose by 11% to £55.5 million.

The City arts and culture cluster includes St Paul’s Cathedral, the Barbican Centre, the London Symphony Orchestra, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Museum of London, Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London among others.

As part of the report, the impact of Crossrail was examined. The authors found this could translate into an additional 991,000 visitors to the City each year when combined with public realm improvements and the development of the wider leisure and retail offer in the City.

Commenting on the launch of the report Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman for the City of London Corporation, said: “While we have all been long aware of the intangible value of the arts and culture to the City’s role as a world-leading financial centre, this report provides proof of their value beyond their obvious cultural merit. The cultural cluster supports jobs and growth in both the City of London and outside, and provides a huge variety of cultural opportunities for Londoners to enjoy.”

The full report is available here:


Ed Sheeran - The City.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

commission4mission's January Newsletter

commission4mission's latest newsletter includes several exciting announcements and new partnerships:

New Day Dawning by Colin Joseph Burns
"The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy." Psalm 65:8

'This month we announce three new developments which we believe will serve to enhance the work of commission4mission in the coming year.

Good news! The Charity Commission has approved commission4mission’s application to become a registered charity. In order to complete the process, we need to hold a general meeting at which we agree our charitable objects with members.

We plan to do this as part of a wider Arts Event and Service to take place at St Stephen’s Church, 39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN on Saturday 14 March from 1pm to 4.30 pm. All are warmly invited.

The programme will include drawing workshops using various media, a series of on-screen meditations to dip into, and conclude with a service of thanksgiving celebrating the arts. Please rsvp if you would like to attend.

This year presents a new challenge for c4m’s secretary Rev’d Jonathan Evens, who is to become Priest for Partnership Development at two central London churches. He will be Priest-in-Charge at St Stephen Walbrook and also an Associate Minister at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

While Jonathan has said it will be a wrench to leave his post at St John’s Seven Kings and his friends in the Redbridge Deanery, he recognises that this new role offers a unique opportunity which involves all of his key interests in ministry: ‘This will include forming partnerships between the two churches as well as with businesses in the City of London and cultural organisations around Trafalgar Square. Both churches have significant cultural programmes and a history of artistic commissions, and I hope to play a part in promoting and developing their artistic engagement,’ he says.

We congratulate Jonathan on his new appointment, and hope his experience and continuing involvement with commission4mission will assist him in this aim.

Oasis Trust to be c4m’s chosen charity for the next three years, subject to annual review. Since 2009 we have donated ten per cent of the proceedings from commissions and sales to a different charity each year, usually one that supports work with children and young people. This year we were able to make a gift to Oasis Trust, and we now look forward to developing an ongoing relationship which will be of mutual benefit. While supporting Oasis, we believe this partnership will help to broaden the scope of commission4mission and open up further opportunities for our artist members.

Hand carved and painted sculptures on the theme of Jesus’ last hours juxtaposed with scenes of the Jewish Holocaust

Monday 16th February to Good Friday 3rd April 2015. Preview from 5pm with official opening at 6pm after Evening Prayer.

Coventry Cathedral, 1 Hill Top, Coventry, CV1 5AB. Tel 024 7652 1200

We hope many Artist Members and Associates will be able to make the event highlighted above at St Stephen Walbrook on Saturday 14 March, when we will revisit c4m’s aims and purpose as agreed by the Charity Commission. It is a great opportunity to get together, and promises to be a good afternoon.

We would like to hear from Members who may be interested in organising a c4m event in their locality – in a cathedral, a church, gallery or elsewhere. In particular we are looking for a church willing to host a Big Draw event in October, and for Members to volunteer to take part.'


Colin Burns - Linger Here.

Making sense of the Census

The 2011 Census was the second Census in England and Wales to provide data on population by religion for regions, counties, London boroughs and districts in England and Wales on census day. The Census data has been analysed by the Church of England to produce data specific for each parish.

Those using the national Presence & Engagement website can click on their diocese to find out about the religious demographics there. It is also possible to search for the religious demographics in your parish by searching with your postcode. This includes a comparison between the 2011 and 2001 data, as well as age data and poverty data (provided via a separate link to the Church Urban Fund website).

Searching for the data on my former parish St John's Seven Kings produces the following as an example of the type and value of the information available:

"This P&E parish has a very significant 63.05% of the population consisting of faiths other than Christianity. It is a P&E parish. The population is 15200."

"The population of ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, GREAT ILFORD is 15180 and the IMD rank is 9889 out of 12,660 (where 1 is the least deprived parish).

The most significant poverty-related issue in this parish is the relatively high rate of pensioner poverty. The next most significant issue is the relatively high rate of child poverty.

Child poverty and pensioner poverty in this parish are among the highest in the country. Working age poverty in this parish is higher than average compared with other parishes in the country. Qualification levels in this parish are higher than average compared with other parishes nationally."


George Harrison - All Things Must Pass.

Sabbatical art pilgrimage: St Paul's Goodmayes

From 1898–9 local developer Cameron Corbett laid out an estate of good quality houses that clerks and lower grade civil servants could afford. As a result, this development in Seven Kings extending to Goodmayes has been called “the town built in a year.” Corbett added the Mayfield estate to the south and Downshall to the north meaning that the area quickly had 10,000 inhabitants (

Several churches were built as a result including St Paul’s Goodmayes built in response to the development of the Mayfield Estate. When the decision was made, in 1901, to build St Paul’s this estate had 420 houses, built in the preceding eighteen months, 300 of which were occupied, representing perhaps 1,500 people. More were to be built on the south side of the railway line, meaning that a clear need for a church was established.

The Church which was built is in the style of Gothic architecture, that had been popularised by A.W.N. Pugin and which characterised church building by the Arts & Crafts Movement. The materials used are red brick with stone dressing. Messrs. Chancellor & Son of Chelmsford and London were the architects and the contractors for the first portion of the building were Messrs. Brown & Son of Braintree. The building was completed by additions in 1905, 1917 and 1929. The completed church was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford, The Right Reverend John Edwin on Thursday 22nd March 1917, when St Paul's became the independent parish church of Goodmayes.

St Paul’s Goodmayes has been a prolific and generous patron of the arts since the church was originally built and now has a vast array of artwork reflecting the movement in Church Art from the medievalism of the Arts & Crafts Movement through the angular, cubist influences of Leonard Evetts to the semi-abstract work of contemporary artist Henry Shelton. The materials used include stained glass, silver, brass, copper, oil on canvas, watercolour, carvings (in both stone and wood), wrought iron work, gilding work and ceramics. There is work from the studios of Fullers, Morris & Co., Whitefriars and the Faith Craft Company, with designs from artists such as Sir Edward Burne-Jones, J.H. Dearle, Evetts, Alfred Fisher, Jane Quail, and Shelton.

The Church website documents the many commissions revealing the value of memorial bequests for the commissioning of much Church Art. The first stained-glass in St. Paul`s was the East Window of the Lady Chapel which was made by the Fullers Studio (by which the work of Geoffrey Fuller Webb may be indicated). At the end of July 1944, this window was almost completely destroyed by a flying bomb, leaving only the tracery (small upper windows) intact. These show the Arms of Canterbury and Chelmsford, flanked by St. Paul, the Patron of the church and St. Cedd the 7th century missionary Bishop in Essex.

The original main lights of the window showed Our Lady and the Infant Christ, flanked by Wise Men and Shepherds. The replacement, from 1957, is an entirely new design depicting the same scene. The three lights now show Our Lady and the Infant Christ with the kings and shepherds to left and right respectively. The replacement window came from the Whitefriars Studio and contains their mark, a White Friar, in the bottom right-hand corner, while the artist has signed it off with his normal signature, the trilby he wore in his workshop.

Like the Lady Chapel window the East Window was severely damaged in July 1944 by a flying bomb landing on the East side of the church: only one-seventh of the original remained, (to judge by the insurance valuation before and after). The original had been donated by Leonard Randall, a generous benefactor of St. Paul`s, and had been dedicated on 15th September 1929. A design by Sir Edward Burne-Jones was used for this window which was created and installed twice by Morris & Co., firstly in 1929 and again in 1954.

As Morris & Co. note on their website (, William Morris is regarded as the greatest designer and one of the most outstanding figures of the Arts & Crafts Movement: ‘In 1861, with a group of friends, he started the decorating business Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. which provided beautiful, hand-crafted products and furnishings for the home. This was highly controversial at the time as it denounced the ‘progress’ of the machine age by rejecting unnecessary mechanical intervention. Influenced by the ideas and writings of Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin, who sought to re-dress class inequality and improve society by reinstating the values of the past, Morris was motivated by the desire to provide affordable ‘art for all.’

Driven by his boundless enthusiasm, the output of the company was prolific and encompassed all the decorative arts. He is perhaps best known for his wallpaper and fabric designs but he also designed and made embroideries, tapestries and stained-glass, reviving many of the traditional arts which had been swept away by industrialisation. Before he mastered each craft, he learnt every stage of the hand making process and understood his materials thoroughly so that he could get the best results and teach others.’

Burne-Jones became the chief designer of stained glass (creating over 100 drawings throughout his lifetime) and a separate area at Merton Abbey, where Morris’ workshops were located from 1881 onwards, was allocated to his glass workshops. Morris & Co. dominated British stained glass production during the 1870s and 1880s.

The St. Alban and St. George window was donated by Leonard Randall in 1929 in memory of his nephew killed in World War I, and had been installed at the same time as the East Window. Also made by Morris & Co., this window was not a 19th century Burne-Jones design but instead a contemporary design by J.H. Dearle, who was then designing for the firm. Dearle also designed the figure of St. Peter for another West end window installed in 1933, which was complemented by a figure of St. Paul to a design by Burne-Jones. 

In between these two smaller windows is the main West Window which was made, like the previous ones, by Morris & Co (again from a design by Burne-Jones) and was dedicated on 18th December 1932. Leonard Randall, the donor of several earlier windows, died in 1932 leaving a large sum to St. Paul`s, including £400 for a window in the new Baptistry, which had been built into the West End of the church in 1929. The window depicts a well-known scene from the Gospels, where women were bringing their children to Jesus and He was blessing them. The text below (Luke 18.16) reads: ‘Suffer little children to come unto Me.’

The last of the Morris & Co. windows in St. Paul`s depicts David and Jonathan and was designed (in a rather different style from the others) by D.W.Dearle (not J. H.). This window cost £96.15s. in memory of Mr. A. E. Godfrey, and was dedicated on 4th September 1949. Today it is the ‘odd-man-out’ in the Lady Chapel as the three surrounding windows all feature Our Lady and the events of Christ`s birth. In 1949, however, it was the only stained-glass in the Chapel, (apart from the tracery over the East Window); the rest being added later. 

The surrounding windows are the most recent at St Paul’s being created in 1975 and 1980 by the prolific stained glass artist, Leonard Evetts. On 1st June 1973 Walter Tolbart died leaving a substantial bequest to the Church. He had expressed a wish that part of this money should be used for a proposed window and approaches were made to various artists, as a result, in 1974. Finally, in April 1975, the PCC approved a design by Leonard Evetts, depicting the Annunciation; and the window was dedicated in memory of both Doreen and Walter Tolbart on 30th November of that year.

In the left-hand light, the archangel Gabriel “is drawn to give the impression that on wing he has silently entered the drama, barely touching the earth” to quote the artist`s own account. Our Lady is depicted on the right; she wears the traditional blue robe, which is decorated with a Madonna Lily. Gabriel`s salutation is written across the centre in Latin: ‘Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum’ – Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.’ Gabriel went on to say that Mary would conceive by the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit appears in symbolic form represented by a Dove in the tracery, from where shafts of light can be seen descending onto the figure of our Lady.

Then, when Miss Norah Sherren died on 17th March 1977 at the age of 82, she was described as ‘the senior member of the congregation’, having been present at the laying of the Foundation Stone of St. Paul`s. Miss Sherren left a considerable sum to the Church, including £1,000 for a memorial window. This forms a pair with the Annunciation Window: both being designed by Leonard Evetts, and with the new window telling the next episode in the life of Our Lady.

Immediately after the Annunciation, Mary spent three months at the home of her cousin Elizabeth, soon to be the mother of John the Baptist, and the two women rejoiced together over the sons they were to bear; Mary`s words of celebration included the ‘Magnificat’. This story, generally called the ‘Visitation’, took place in the hill-country of Judea, which is represented by the rocky scenery in the background of the window. Elizabeth is shown on the left, Mary on the right – notice the blue robe and lilies once again. As with the Annunciation Window, Evett’s signature is just visible: ‘L.C. Evetts fecit. 1980.’ The window was installed and dedicated on the Feast of Christ the King, 26th October 1980, and was the last stained glass window to be installed in St Paul's to date.

Prior to the Evetts’ windows two other modern windows had been commissioned. The Jesus the Carpenter Window was made by the Faith Craft Company, and was installed in 1963. The Faith Craft Company was a studio set up through the Society of the Faith, which grew from vestment manufacture to encompass various aspects of church furniture such as joinery, stained glass and statues. The Company was in operation from 1921 to 1972.

The centre section of the window shows Jesus in the carpenter`s shop at Nazareth, surrounded by the tools of His trade. On the left, there is a roundel depicting the Sower (the subject of our Lord`s famous parable); while a similar roundel on the right shows St. Paul working as a tentmaker. This unusual combination of images commemorates the longest-serving Churchwarden of St. Paul`s, Foster Threadgold, who had died at the beginning of 1959, in his 29th year of office. Well over 100 people contributed towards the memorial which was located on the North side of the Church, as near as possible to the churchwarden`s seat which he had occupied for so many years.

Finally, the St. Timothy Window comes from the Whitefriars Studio and the hand of Alfred Fisher.
The Whitefriars Company was a successful British glasshouse closely associated with leading architects and designers from the later portion of the 19th century onwards including Philip Webb who designed glass for Morris & Co.

This is a lovely bright window with vivid colours achieved by the use of hand-made ‘Norman slab’ glass, which retains its lustre even in dull conditions. The window shows Timothy as a youthful figure, staff in hand, presumably engaged on some missionary journey. In the two small tracery lights above, there are symbols of the activities for which Frank Hills, in whose memory the window was given, is remembered: he was a member of the Choir for some 40 years, which explains the page of music, and the words ‘O Sing unto the Lord’; he was also at one point Churchwarden here and was also involved in the Scout Movement – hence the Churchwarden`s staff and the Scout emblem. But the words ‘Honour thy God’ have a double significance: as well as being appropriate to Frank Hills’ life, they are also a play on the name ‘Timothy’, which is derived from two Greek words meaning ‘honour’ and ‘God’.

Fr. Benjamin Rutt-Field, who oversaw the addition to St Paul's Goodmayes of a Madonna and Child by the contemporary Roman Catholic sculptor Jane Quail and Shelton’s Stations of the Crown of Thorns has said that all too “often people walk past churches and think it is just a plain building - they aren't aware of the beauty inside.”

It was Fr Rutt-Field’s belief that “for Christian art to have any significance and empathy it must be Spirit-driven, Spirit-imprinted; it should stimulate both our imaginations and our prayers.” With this in mind, he wrote an original set of meditations to accompany the new set of
Stations of the Cross commissioned from noted religious artist, Henry Shelton, through commission4mission.

The seed for this commission was sown by an elderly parishioner who gifted a generous sum for a new set of Stations and whose memory lives on in the dedication of the tryptich, incorporating Stations XI, XII and XIII, which, as altarpiece, forms the central focus of the scheme. This tryptich has inventively incorporated an existing metal crucifix into its design to form Station XII; 'Jesus dies on the cross'. There are 15 paintings in all, as the scheme includes a resurrection 'Station' depicting Christ present in the Eucharistic elements.

These, though, are not the only unusual elements of these Stations, in that, as part of its semi-abstract imagery, Christ is depicted throughout only by the Crown of Thorns. Fr. Rutt-Field notes that, “these Stations are known as the ‘Crown of Thorns’, rather than ‘The Cross’, because Jesus is depicted in each one as a simple, humble crown of thorns.”

Shelton says of his semi-abstract style and minimal flowing lines, that, “as I’ve got older I’ve learnt that ‘less is more’ and through the development of my work I’ve learnt to express emotion in a semi-abstract form.” This is why he paints; “it all goes back to feeling; the pathos of suffering.”

The power of art to evoke emotion is what originally inspired Shelton and which has sustained his work throughout his career: “When I first saw the great 
Rembrandt’s in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the power of his images seemed to transcend time. The same thing attracted me to Christian Art as a choirboy at All Saints West Ham; the art spoke to me. I used to look at the altar and see images that were just so powerful. The images seemed to bring the past into the present and to form a profound link with the lineage of the past. I see myself as an artist trying in my small way to continue that lineage and my passion as a Christian artist is to keep that lineage alive in my generation as a witness.”

However, as an artist who often paints with the tones and harmonies of the Dutch Masters, this commission represents a considerable lightening of Shelton’s palette in order that the colour scheme of these 'Stations' harmonizes with the existing stained glass. At St Paul’s Goodmayes, Shelton's 'Stations' complement the existing works to create a feast of visual art for worshipper and visitor alike.

The commission was only the second to be completed by commission4mission, of which Shelton is both a founder member and the current Chairman. Shelton says, of commission4mission, “I want us to be offering quality work and craftsmanship, rather than mass-produced work, to continue the legacy of the Church as a great commissioner of art. The Church has, in fact, commissioned some of the greatest works of art ever produced.”

To have his work in churches, Shelton says, “really is the fulfilment of my life’s work.” He doesn’t have much ambition to show in galleries and says that, “the whole point for me is to create reaction and engage people; for people to enjoy and be moved by my work, just as I’ve been engaged by the work of other artists.”

His most recent pictures have all come to him in prayer as he has been meditating on particular Bible passages. Most of his work now comes through a meditational process and it is, perhaps, this quality of Shelton’s work to which Fr. Rutt-Field is responding when he says: “I firmly believe that these new Stations of the Crown of Thorns, painted by a deeply committed Christian artist, are indeed both Spirit-driven and Spirit imprinted. They will greatly enhance and beautify the simple form and architectural lines of our parish church, as well as our worship.”

As St Paul’s Goodmayes is a neighbouring parish to my own, I have had the opportunity to undertake ministry in partnership with Fr Rutt-Field and his congregation which has often made significant use of art and the artworks at St Paul’s Goodmayes. Art competitions and workshops have led to exhibitions timed to feature as part of community festivals, while the local cluster of Anglican churches created an Art Trail with a route for visiting each church in turn and highlighting artworks of interest in the four churches. The creation of the Art Trail was a recommendation in the report produced following a
Community Street Audit of Aldborough Road South by the Seven Kings & Newbury Park Resident's Association and the Fitter for Walking project of Living Streets. Printing of the Art Trail leaflets was funded by Living Streets as part of the Fitter for Walking project and copies of the leaflets can now be found in the four churches. Fitter for Walking helped residents create streets they can be proud of and was funded by the Big Lottery Fund, along with contributions from local authorities, to work in five areas of England.

Churches have for many years been significant patrons of the visual arts and contain important and interesting works of art. The local Anglican churches in Aldborough Hatch, Goodmayes and Seven Kings are no exception with works of art by excellent local and national artists from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. The significant works of art in these churches, taken collectively, represent a major contribution to the legacy of the church as an important commissioner of art. The rich and diverse range of work found at St Paul’s Goodmayes provides a demonstration of ways in which the visual arts enhance worship and mission. The story of their commissions reveals the significance of memorial donations and the journey that Church commissions made in the twentieth century from the medievalism of the Arts & Crafts movement to the semi-abstract styles of contemporary artists.  


Larry Norman - Country Church, Country People.