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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

'Transformation' Private View

Tonight's Private View for the 'Transformation' exhibition by Terrence Ffyffe at St Stephen Walbrook featured music from Michael Homer, 'Painting the Light' a film of the artist by Alex Vernon, and reflections on the work from Tessa and Terry Ffyffe, Edward Lucie-Smith and myself.

In my remarks I said the following:

Welcome to St Stephen Walbrook for this Private View and exhibition. St Stephen Walbrook hosts a regular programme of contemporary art exhibitions. We partner either with established art societies (such as the National Society of Painters, Sculptors & Printmakers or the Society of Catholic Artists) or significant art critics such Edward Lucie-Smith. In 2017 our programme has already included displays of art created from refugee camps, the Diocesan icon of hospitality, crucifixion drawings by Francis Bacon, a digital residency by Daniel Bourke, and an Easter Eve Vigil with the digital artwork of Mark Dean. Our programme will continue with an exhibition of spiritual art from Jamaica, an exhibition and conference with the sculptor Alexander de Cadenet and a group show by commission4mission.We have also led on the creation by the City of London of The Art of Faith, a City Walk exploring modern and contemporary art commissions in the city churches. I hope you will take away a copy of The Art of Faith leaflet and the leaflet publicising our exhibition programme.

This exhibition explores two transformations; a person artistic transformation and a universal spiritual transformation. Terry Ffyffe has described in his essay ‘Beyond Post Modernism’ how he had a transformative experience whilst painting. For much of his career he has been a well-regarded figurative painter in the classic tradition, drawing inspiration from the Old Masters such as Van Eyck, Bosch, Goya and Rembrandt, and increasingly tending towards religious imagery.

“Whilst painting the Resurrection event, using free, broad, colourful strokes to represent the transcendental light emanating from the Risen Lord.,” he says, “I had an "Epiphany" that took me back to the beginning and I realised once more that the Modern Movement was beget by the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Zeitgeist, and that the purpose of Art is to glorify God, to be transcendent, to inspire people, to bring joy and peace, and to connect the viewer with their deeper mind (self) and lead to contemplation of the great questions like "What is Reality?" Where do we come from? Where are we going? And that art should reveal Beauty, and (with the Modern ideal) a beauty that has not been seen before. In a moment I saw it all.”

As a result, he returned to the style of work that he had painted at the beginning of his career but empowered with all the study he had done and the considerable life experience he had gained. No longer emulating other artists or working in a derivative style, his new work is original and authentic. The inspiration for it comes from personal experience in meditation and the images we see coming via the Hubble Telescope, The Liga project and the electron microscope; the patterns of nature.

This exhibition brings together the last works that Terry was working on before this profound change with his new work depicting the beauty of the hidden world of nature and the inner world of the mind.” This leads us to the second transformation explored in this exhibition. Terry says, “The early paintings are about the Historical Jesus and the New Paintings are about the Holy Spirit.” The exhibition is deliberately organised to coincides with the Feast of Pentecost, celebrating the ‘Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles’, an event that transformed them from cowering in fear to boldly proclaiming the “Good News.”

This transformation occurs when the incarnate Christ ascends to his Father allowing his Spirit to then come and fill his followers. Terry’s visionary depictions of this transformation would seem to have synergy with Franciscan mysticism and the writing of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Richard Rohr. Rohr says that, “Franciscan mysticism is about an intuition of Jesus as both the Incarnate Human One and the Eternal Cosmic Christ at the same time”:

“The first and cosmic incarnation of the Eternal Christ, the perfect co-inherence of matter and Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-11), happened at the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the human incarnation of that same Mystery a mere 2,000 years ago, when we were perhaps ready for this revelation … Jesus presents himself as the “Anointed” or Christened One who was human and divine united in one human body—as our model and exemplar. .. Christ is our shortcut word for “The Body of God” or “God materialized.” This Christ is much bigger and older than either Jesus of Nazareth or the Christian religion, because the Christ is whenever the material and the divine co-exist—which is always and everywhere.

Ilia Delio writes, “The conventional visualization of the physical world was changed by Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which showed that matter itself was a form of energy. . . . For all practical purposes, energy is the ‘real world.’” There it is: science revealing that everything is both matter and energy/spirit co-inhering as one; this is a Christocentric world. This realization changes everything. Matter has become a holy thing and the material world is the place where we can comfortably worship God just by walking on matter, by loving it, by respecting it. The Christ is God’s active power inside of the physical world.

Delio continues: “Through his penetrating view of the universe Teilhard found Christ present in the entire cosmos, from the least particle of matter to the convergent human community. ‘The Incarnation,’ he declared, ‘is a making new . . . of all the universe’s forces and powers.’ Personal divine love is invested organically with all of creation, in the heart of matter, unifying the world.”

The coming of the Cosmic Christ is … the unification of all things.”

Teilhard calls this Christogenesis, believing that as the universe evolves toward its full realization at Omega, this is the point which coincides with the fully realized Christ. It is also at this point that God will be ‘all in all’ (1Cor. 15:28c).

A body of work that imaginatively depicts the Cosmic Christ and Christogenesis is genuinely original and holds great potential not only to depict transformation but to be transformative as these works are contemplated and prayed over in this place. So, as we welcome you to St Stephen Walbrook and to this Private View and exhibition, we also invite you not just see but also to experience transformation.


Bruce Cockburn - Lord Of The Starfields.

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