Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Art & Music workshop (2)

St John's Seven Kings held an Art & Music workshop today organised with local churches in preparation for this year's Our Community Festival. The art workshop was led by Mark Lewis of commission4mission with Matt Lewis and Henry Shelton and involved portrait and landscape drawing on the theme of local people and places. These are being collaged into larger displays to be exhibited at St Paul's Goodmayes in the week of, and on the day of, the Our Community Festival. The music workshop will gather together a singing group which may perform at the Our Community Festival and was organised by Rev. Geoff Eze, curate at St John's Seven Kings.

The 'Our Community' Festival is, as its name suggests, a Festival for the whole community in Seven Kings/Goodmayes, which obviously includes the churches. If we, or other community groups, weren't involved it wouldn't be a whole community event. The churches, though, are actively involved in the local community in a host of different ways - running/hosting community groups, schools work, Holiday Clubs, community campaigns, services for wedding and funerals and much more - throughout the year, so being involved with the Festival is a way of highlighting what we actually do.

What we will specifically aim bring to the Festival is an art exhibition at St Paul's Goodmayes, a singing group to perform on the Festival stage, and an information stall publicising the wide range of church activities and services in the area. commission4mission is helping us get the art exhibition ready by running the art workshop. In addition to that though we are involved in the Festival planning group and our congregations will be among those who actively support the Festival by coming along and joining in the fun on the day.

Sounds Of Blackness - Hold On (Change Is Comin').

Monday, 24 May 2010

c4m webpage update (42)

New items on the commission4mission webpage include details of exhibitions featuring Nadiya Pavliv and Elizabeth Duncan Meyer. My most recent exhibition review questions, as a stimulus to debate, approaches taken by Christian arts organisations to the church-based exhibitions we organise and this section of my review has been posted. Additionally, there is a post about funding awarded to commission4mission from London-over-the-Border to publicise the extent to which churches in the Barking Episcopal Area of the Diocese of Chelmsford contain significant art and craft works by creating an Art Trail for the Episcopal Area and documenting this Trail in an Art Trail leaflet.


Nickel Creek - Out Of The Woods.

Windows on the world (104)

Chelmsford, 2010


Aztec Camera - Somewhere In My Heart.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

What is it that you most desire?

What is it that you most desire?

How would you answer that question? It could be another person that you desire; your current or a future partner. You might answer in terms of other relationships; time with children or grandchildren, for example. It might money that you desire; a lottery win would do very nicely and give you wealth to do with as you please. You might answer in terms of opportunity; the chance to travel or to enjoy particular types of experiences. Some might answer in terms of dreams; the chance to make a difference in the world, be famous for 15 minutes or to prove they have the X Factor.

This week I was at a conference on ‘The Holy Spirit in the World Today’ where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said that the Holy Spirit is desire in us. He didn’t, of course, mean that the Spirit is any or all desires that animate us but instead a very particular desire; the desire, longing or yearning or passion for Christ and to become Christ-like. The challenge of the Archbishop’s homily was that we should be consumed with desire for that goal. He quoted St Symeon who prayed "Come, you who have become yourself desire in me, who have made me desire you, the absolutely inaccessible one!"

The desire that the Holy Spirit creates in us is a desire to be where Jesus is; in relationship with God the Father, in the stream of healing love which flows from the Father to the Son. In other words to know ourselves to be members of God’s family, brothers and sisters of Jesus, loved and accepted by God as his children and longing to grow up into the likeness of our brother Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God. When we are where Jesus is; in relationship with God the Father then we are able to use the same words and pray the same prayer as Jesus who called God, “Abba” or Daddy. This is the place of intimate relationship with God, this is what it means to be in God and it is the Holy Spirit who stirs up the desire in us to be in that place where we are able rightly and truly to speak intimately with our “Abba” Father.

By stirring up this desire in us, Graham Tomlin has suggested, the Holy Spirit provides the answer to one of the most fundamental questions of existence; the question of identity. We ask ‘Who are we?’ and the Spirit answers, we are beloved sons and daughters of the Father because the spirit has united us to Christ that we might live forever in the love that the Father has for the Son.

That answer to the question of our identity then leads to the question of our vocation – what are we here for? Again, the Holy Spirit is key because the Spirit is given to us as the first fruits of the kingdom of God. The kingdom is still to come but we have the Spirit as the guarantee that the kingdom will come. The Spirit comes from the future to anticipate the kingdom in the present by creating signs of what the kingdom will be like when it comes in full. So, the Spirit initiates the mission of God which is to bring humanity and creation to the completed perfection for which we were originally intended; the time when the whole world will freely return to God, worship him and become like him by living in him. As Colin Gunton wrote, “the Spirit is the agent by whom God enables things to become that which they were created to be.”

Our role is to become involved in this work of the Spirit to heal the broken creation, bring it to maturity and reconcile it in Christ. We get involved by creating signs of the coming kingdom here and now in the present. In the conference, as an example, David Ford spoke of being in Rwanda with women whose families had died in the genocide. They spoke in a service about the pain of their loss and then a younger group of women danced. As they danced in praise of God, the older women cried and mourned their loved ones. Joy and grief were combined and both brought simultaneously to God.

Ford also gave the example of the L’Arche Community created by Jean Vanier where those with learning disabilities and their Assistants live and work together. L'Arche is based on Christian principles, welcoming people of all faiths and none. Mutual relationships and trust in God are at the heart of their journey together and the unique value of every person is celebrated and both recognise their need of one another.

At the conference Rowan Williams also told the story of Mother Maria Skobtsova who on Good Friday 1945 changed places with a Jewish woman at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and went to her death in the gas chambers. Like L’Arche and the Rwandan women, Mother Maria was a sign of the coming kingdom in her passion and sacrifice. Mother Maria said that "either Christianity is fire or there is no such thing." Christianity is fire, passion, desire, longing, yearning for Christ and Christ’s mission. What is it that you desire?

If the Holy Spirit has stirred that fire, passion and desire in you then, like St Symeon, we need to cry out for the Spirit to come to us. To daily pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Come to stir up this desire and longing and yearning and passion in me. Come to make my heart restless till it finds its rest in you. Come to cause me to run into your arms of love. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Let us pray,

Almighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Together with believers all over the world,
We gather today to glorify Your Name.
Apart from You, we can do nothing.
Transform Your Church into the image of Jesus Christ.
Release Your power to bring healing to the sick,
freedom to the oppressed and comfort to those who mourn.
Pour Your love into our hearts and fill us with compassion
to answer the call of the homeless and the hungry
and to enfold orphans, widows and the elderly in Your care. Amen.

That prayer comes from prayer resources prepared for the Global Day of Prayer which will be used today by an estimated 250 million believers gathering in every country on the earth. As part of the Global Day of Prayer activities, we are asked to pray regularly and consistently over the next 10 days using the prayer guide that everyone has received today. The guide also gives details of the Global Day of Prayer event that will happen at Upton Park on Sunday 13th June from 2.00pm. But don’t stop at praying for the next 10 days, also take away one of our new Prayer Diaries and pray consistently and regularly for St John’s Seven Kings, it’s people, it’s activities, and our local community throughout the year. In all these ways and others we can pray come Holy Spirit come and know the desire of the Spirit animating our hearts and lives as the disciples did at Pentecost.


Taizé - Oh Lord hear my Prayer (O Uslysz Moj Glos).

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Holy Spirit in the world today (2)

Godpod with Graham Tomlin, David Ford, Jane Williams, Miroslav Volf and Mike Lloyd

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Charlie Mackesy

I arrived late for the second day which meant that I unfortunately a Messaien meditation and also the Bible Reading given by Jane Williams who, I was told, gave an alternative and profound take on a difficult passage - the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Fortunately I arrived just in time to hear David Ford speak on 'In the Spirit: Learning Wisdom, Giving Signs', a talk that was variously described after it had been heard as 'magisterial' and 'full of riches.'
Ford began by demonstrating that the Spirit cannot be boxed or labelled as the Spirit of Jesus has been shared with millions of Christians who have expressed that Spirit without simply repeating what Jesus said and did. The Spirit stretches us in our thinking and imagining but as Seraphim of Sarov said, "The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God."
Being in the Spirit involves understanding the Spirit firstly as, in David Kelsey's phrase, God's circumambient Spirit which is both freely present as our ultimate evironment and yet also within us. Secondly, we are in the shared Spirit of God's family. It is the Spirit who enables us to cry 'Abba Father', as does Jesus, and the Spirit who creates koinonia or fellowship. Finally, it is the Spirit who draws into the future that is God's global drama. The Spirit is the first fruits of that future and enables us to create tastes and signs of that future in the present.
As a result, we learn wisdom in the Spirit by: praying to our Father from within a family which is potentially universal; loving God for who He is and no other reason; hearing the cries of our world and discerning responses which are signs of new life. Ford ended with three examples of such signs which included speaking in tongues, dancing and weeping in Rwanda; and the work of the L'Arche Community as initiated by Jean Vanier. He ended by reading 'Flight Line', a poem by Micheal O’Siadhail about jazz improvisation which is, for Ford, a parallel to life in the Spirit.
A live Godpod featuring Graham Tomlin, Ford, Williams, Miroslav Volf and Mike Lloyd which included: Williams saying that, like the Medieval mystics, she prefers to use feminine pronouns of Jesus rather than of the Spirit; Volf stating that the idea of a Christian nation is not biblically sound; Lloyd arguing that Christians should influence by persuasion and not legislative force; Volf commending Nicholas Wolterstorff's 'dialogical pluralism'; Lloyd suggesting that true human flourishing will never conflict with the well-being of creation; and Williams noting that forgiveness is about self-defiition, whether we wish to be defined by what has harmed us or what will free us.

Tomlin then rounded off the morning by arguing that pneumatology answers the fundamental questions of identity and vocation. He did so by suggesting that Charlie Mackesy's sculpture The Return of the Prodigal Son (see above) can also be read in terms of God the Father catching up and bringing back to life his dead Son after his offering of himself on the cross. Augustine identified the Spirit as the bond of love between the Father and the Son, so by uniting us with Christ the Spirit draws us into the embrace seen in the sculpture; the embrace of love between the Father and the Son.
The Spirit therefore answers the question of our identity by enabling us to know ourselves as the beloved sons and daughters of the Father because the Spirit has united us with Christ to know the love of the Father for the Son. This then leads into our vocation because the Spirit's ultimate role is to draw creation into that same embrace by healing and perfecting the broken creation. Colin Gunton wrote that, "the Spirit is the agent by whom God enables all things to become that which they were created to be." We, therefore, become caught up in this divine mission, which is cross-shaped because it is the power of love which through suffering brings joy. As Seraphim of Sarov wrote, "the Holy Spirit turns to joy whatever he touches."
The conference ended with Tom Smail reflecting further on the shared life with God and others into which the Spirit draws us and with this togetherness being expressed through worship of God and prayer for each other.
This was a conference of real depth and inspiration where those involved seemed genuinely open to listening and learning from those whose thinking may have stretched or challenged the views and understanding with which people may have come. This sense of stretch was there in the presentation of biblically based arguments for diversity, human rights, political pluralism, universalism understood in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit, set within primarily charismatic worship and an openness to the theological riches of the various Christian traditions.

Hospital loses records following death

The Davie family from St John's Seven Kings have had their fight to find out the truth behind death of wife, mother and local GP, Sugi Davie, featured in the local press this week.

Sugi died on 22nd December 2007 in the early morning, having been discharged the night before from a transfusion. When the family asked for the records, within four weeks, first the hospital said they lost the records of 21st Dec. from the Day Unit and later that they have lost the entire file!!

The family write:

"As you know, my mother passed away just over 2 years ago very unexpectedly, and my family and I have been trying to understand the true circumstances of her death. The hospital had lost ALL her medical records, within 4 weeks after her death – which has hindered greatly our ability to find out the truth and we want to ensure the distress we’ve been through does not happen to anyone else.

We have attempted to contact numerous organisations to get support (NHS Trust, Department of Health, Healthcare commission, Local MP, Data Protection etc) – but none of them can offer help, as they don't know what to do or recommend when the individual concerned has died. We decided to go to press for the main reason to highlight a huge flaw in the NHS system and to ensure the NHS does not continue to purposely ‘lose’ medical records to cover the truth, especially when the individual dies following treatment."

The links to the articles are here, both include the opportunity to comment on the story and the family's situation:


Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Holy Spirit in the world today

Graham Tomlin, Jurgen Moltman, Ken Costa and Rowan Williams

Q & A with Moltmann, Costa & Williams

Miroslav Volf
I've spent today with friends and colleagues from the Diocese at the conference on 'The Holy Spirit in the world today' organised by St Mellitus College and held at Holy Trinity Brompton.
It has been a lengthy (made longer by a station evacuation at Holborn) but very fruitful day hearing from some of the most interesting and stimulating contemporary theologians including David Ford, Jurgen Moltmann, Miroslav Volf and Rowan Williams.
The day got off to the best possible start with a wonderful homily from Rowan Williams in which he spoke of the Holy Spirit as desire or longing to become the new humanity for which we have been created by God. Quoting St Symeon - "Come, you who have become yourself desire in me, who have made me desire you, the absolutely inaccessible one!" - and Mother Maria Skobtsova - "either Christianity is fire or there is no such thing" - he argued that the Holy Spirit is the desire in us to be where Christ is - God's child - and to become Christ-like - self-emptying. True freedom, he said, is freedom for a full humanity. Full humanity is Christ-shaped. Freedom is kenotic - for self emptying - humanity overwhelmed by the energy of gift.
By contrast Ken Costa seemed to me to provide only a lightweight comic turn between the heavyweights with a contribution which had plenty of jokes but was light on illustrations of his theme that the Holy Spirit was active in the world of work and economics. Philip Ritchie and Graham Hamborg however assured me that that message was a necessary one for those who tend to view the Spirit as primarily working through the Church and, to be fair to Costa in the later Q&A with Moltmann and Williams he did provide examples to back up his argument.
Moltmann, like Williams, was simply wonderful. A brief initial interview by Costa revealed the humanity which informs his theology and then he spoke on 'The Church in the power of the Spirit'. His perspective is a European theological voice not commonly heard in Church debates within the UK which is informed by the destruction of state Christianity that occured in Europe following the First World War but which is only slowly occuring in the UK. As a result, he is comfortable seeing the Spirit's initiative in and the need for the Church to ally itself with human rights organisations and Greenpeace, alliances over which much of the UK Church still agonises or resists. He emphasised the extent to which his theology had been a response to world events - The Theology of Hope was a response to Germany after the War and The Crucified Christ a response to the assassination of Martin Luther King - and an attempt to resource the Church for ministering in the light of those events.
'Think globally, act locally' is a lesson that the Church can inhabit and so he began with stories of the Church in Germany and his own church of St Jacob's Tübingen. This is a church which has moved from being a church for the people (religious caretaking) to become an inviting, participatory community church of the people where the gifts of all are trusted. The opposite of poverty and property, he argued, is community because in community we discover our true wealth the spirit of solidarity through which all our needs can be met. Such spirit-filled communities are seen in the fulfilling of Joel's prophecy at Pentecost and the descriptions of the Jerusalem Church in Acts. Such spirit-filled communities are bridgeheads to new life on earth where righteousness will dwell.
He posited three paradigms of Church - the hierarchical, the hierarchical community and the charismatic community - which equated to the Father above us, Christ with us, and the Spirit within us. The Church is come of age, he suggested, so we are no longer just God's servants or his children but, his friends. Peace with God, however, makes us restless in the world and a revolutionary Christiaity will both call the world evil and seek to change it, ultimately by reconciling the cosmos. The Spirit of God is no respector of social distinctions which divide us and awakens democratic energies for a new humanity.
Graham Cray drew on John V. Taylor's The Go-Between God to identify criteria for discerning the work of the Spirit in leading God's mission and the part that the Church plays within it. Discernment involves learning of what God is doing and learning to do it with him. This means understanding the shape of the Spirit's ministry. The Spirit is essentially relational and arranges the meaningless pieces of reality until they suddenly fall into shape. The Spirit anticipates in the present, things which are still to come. The Church is, therefore, to live in each culture as an anticipation of the future. Christ-likeness is the ultimate test of the Spirit's presence and where the Spirit is making Jesus more real neither caution nor convention or reputation ought to make us resist his possession of us. The Spirit is manifest in the translation of Christ in all times and cultures, so that he is multiply incarnate.
Cray's specific criteria for discernment were: charism, character, content, characteristics, community, cultivation, and experience. However, each of these is open to interpretation as was illustrated by his response to a question regarding the Episcopal Church which he thought to have departed from scripture. The actions of the Episcopal Church in relation to the LGBT community could be understood within Cray's criteria as a discerning of a move of the Spirit in a direction that subverts previous understandings of scripture, as in his biblical example from Acts of Peter's re-evaluation of his understanding of God's mission in response to the Spirit's work in Cornelius.
Paul Westin helpfully summarised Lesslie Newbigin's understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in mission. Newbigin blazed a trinitarian trail in thinking about mission as he responded to the changing thinking seen at the major mission conferences of the twentieth century. For Newbigin pneumatology is mission, as the gifts of the Spirit are always for mission. It is the Spirit which takes the initiative bringing the Church after, in contrast to the Church-centric focus of the 1938 mission conference in India. The Spirit brings new forms of Church into being and by doing so works towards unity which is the deepest expression of the Gospel.
Miroslav Volf posed the key question in a globalised world of whether and how religious exclusivists can live comfortably with each other i.e. is monotheism by its very nature exclusivist? He answered this question by arguing that Christian monotheism contains democratising and universalist aspects which justify political pluralism, including the Spirit of justice and of many languages/cultures, so that a consistent religious exclusivist ought to be a political pluralist.
Having set his question up in an interfaith context I felt that Volf should have explored an interfaith answer and was disappointed that he unpacked only a Christian answer. Others thought that this decision was appropriate to the nature of and audience at this conference. As a side issue he also suggested that the example of religious conflict in India indicates that the pluralism of Hinduism is no more effective at warding off exclusivism than is monotheism. This would have had my friend, the Hindu educationalist, Jay Lakhani fuming at the suggestion that his faith should be defined by its worst and therefore least representative practices (an approach that we rightly resist when used by Richard Dawkins' to stereotype Christianity), particularly when he views the pluralism of Hinduism as the solution to religious exclusivity (a position which has an imperial aspect as it requires other faiths to reframe themselves in Hindu terms). All this in my view indicates a need to examine this issue within the worldview of each of the monotheistic faiths, although this too might involve remaining within, as opposed to challenging, the exclusivist mindset.
David Ford summed up a part of what the conference has covered to date with the following questions: What is real humanity in the Spirit? How do we relate the world and the Spirit? How do we shape the Church globally in the Spirit?
Ford also gave these key elements in wise and creative theology inspiered by the Spirit:
  • retrieval of the past and of scripture;
  • engagement with God, the Church and the world;
  • mastering the disciplines of thought;
  • wrestling with mediums to come to and to commuicate new understanding.

In his experience intensive conversations had led to the greatest breakthroughs. Conversation and dialogue is therefore a key location for the movement of the Spirit in the world.


Hillsong United and Tim Hughes - Consuming Fire.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

TASK Newsletter No. 16

It's been a little while since we have been in touch, in large part due to our main communications man and founder Ali Hai having been involved in local elections for Redbridge Council on May 6th.

As he has already indicated, he was successful in his bid to become a- Labour- councillor in Goodmayes, and will be taking more of a back seat role in TASK from now on, which means that I (Chris Connelly) step up to the plate to take over our regular email bulletin.

The headline news is that it is business as usual for TASK. We will continue to work with the new Council, and all its mainstream political parties, as well as health and other public service providers, to generate the best possible deal for local people in Seven Kings, and we plan to initiate a number of new campaigns as the summer progresses.

These will focus on securing clear arrangements for the opening of our new, hard- fought for local library on the High Road, now expected to open around July 2010, planning for, and costing work on, long-term community use of the lorry park, whilst also working for an interim arrangement that would see it cleaned up and used for a range of creative, but more temporary, events. Like specialist food markets, boot sales or summer sport and play activity for our local youngsters, any funds from which come back into the local economy better regulating the huge local rented sector, to improve conditions for tenants and to smarten up the often shabby and neglected dwellings which reflect so badly on the neighbourhood working with hard- pressed traders to improve our local shopping streetscape, and to reduce the overall volume of fast food and takeout outlets as part of a longer term goal of enhancing retail diversity and choice in Seven Kings.

To do this, we need your help and will be starting a regular series of short supporter meetings from June. These will hopefully allow for new supporters to get involved, and will help us plan our work for the rest of 2010.

Watch this space for more detail of meeting times and dates, and do please share your local news with us as you are our eyes and ears across the area.


The Housemartins - Build.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

ArtWay aims to open eyes, hearts and minds

ArtWay ( is a new web-based service for congregations and individual believers to help them better understand the role of the visual arts in deepening faith, contributing to worship, and communicating truth and hope across cultures. Its formal launch is on Pentecost 2010.

Based in the Netherlands, ArtWay is the vision of ArtWay’s editor-in-chief, Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker, and her husband Albert Hengelaar, not only to help sustain the landmark work of her father, Hans Rookmaaker (1922-1977) in the area of art and faith, but also to carry on his vigorous support of practicing artists, encouraging them to attain excellence in their work while maturing spiritually. Laurel Gasque, author of Art and the Christian Mind: The Life and Work of H. R. Rookmaaker, and Sessional Lecturer in Theology and the Arts at Regent College, Vancouver, BC, Canada, is contributing editor.

Thoughtful engagement with art and culture

ArtWay offers a key to the rich, fascinating world of the visual arts that is sometimes hard to enter and to understand. The goal is to open Christians’ eyes to the beauty and meaning of art so that more people can enjoy the vast treasury of art both past and present and become discriminating viewers of what they see, from both an artistic and a cultural perspective. ArtWay thus encourages a thoughtful engagement with art and culture, rather than an uninformed rejection or uncritical embrace of them.

Although ArtWay will showcase the best work it can find of believing artists around the world, it will by no means deal only with art created by Christians. It is committed to an open-minded and respectful examination of art, no matter what tradition that art comes from. “Christian art,” ArtWay moreover believes, is not necessarily art that deals with explicit Christian themes but any art that is rooted in a Christian view of life. A landscape or a still life, an abstract work or a scream of doubt or protest—all such art can spring from Christian conviction.

Art beyond borders

In recent years the number of Christian artists who produce good work has grown substantially, and so has the number of insightful books and essays about art written by believers. This has often, however, focused entirely on an English-speaking enclave and has left unnoticed significant artwork and writing being done elsewhere in the world—except for a few artists who seem to be able to attract an Anglophone audience. A distinctive goal of ArtWay will be to cross some of these linguistic boundaries by bringing forward the work of lesser known artists, first of all from the European Union, but also from around the globe. ArtWay trusts that after it introduces people to “art beyond borders,” these works of art will be able to find their way into homes, schools, and churches in other cultures.

Information and resources

In addition to showcasing international artists of faith, ArtWay will also offer many other resources, including information about international arts organizations and study programs for artists, image-and-word Bible studies, travel tips, reviews, news items, practical networking, and a host of other features. At its core is a weekly Sunday newsletter with a visual meditation on a notable work of art. ArtWay aims in particular to give suggestions and develop materials about how to use images in liturgy, small-group gatherings, church bulletins, and building design.

John the Baptist of the heart

ArtWay will facilitate the sale of works of art by its featured artists, but it will not take any commission or remuneration for this. ArtWay eagerly anticipates not only exchanges between artists and potential patrons, but also—by means of its information and resources—a vigorous exchange of views on the state of the arts from a Christian perspective.

Jacques Maritain called art “the John the Baptist of the heart, preparing its affections for Christ.” As both Scripture and the history of Christianity show, God can use art to convey his truth, love, and grace implicitly, multivalently, and powerfully across diverse cultures and circumstances. This is what ArtWay stands for and aims to encourage.


Mahalia Jackson - Come Sunday.

Highlights & new works for the Methodist Collection of Art

Wallspace is about to embark on their fourth year of operation with an exciting world premier of new painting for what has been described as “the best denominational collection of modern art outside the Vatican.”

The Collection: Highlights and new works for the Methodist collection of modern and contemporary art

23 June – 16 July 2010. Wallspace, All Hallows on the Wall, 83 London Wall, EC2M 5ND
Tuesday - Friday 12am – 6pm. Saturday 11am – 4pm. Nearest tube Liverpool Street or Moorgate. For directions go to Admission free.

Wallspace is delighted to host some great paintings from this remarkable collection. It is part of their vision to bring significant works of contemporary art to the City of London – and the fact that this exhibition will form part of the City of London Festival’s annual celebration of the arts is a real bonus.

This exhibition is the first opportunity to see significant new acquisitions and loans from major artists such as Craigie Aitchison, Susie Hamilton, Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Peter Howson, David Jones, John Muafangejo, He Qi, Sadao Watanabe and Roger Wagner.

Methodist Publishing and the Collection trustees will also take this opportunity to launch the new Guide to the Collection with an introduction by art critic and former Turner Prize judge Richard Cork.

During The Collection Wallspace will be hosting a number of special events. Here are just some of them:
  • Artists' evening - Thursday 24 June, 7 – 9pm. Sold your Soul? Artists and collectors discuss their different perspectives on acquiring, or being acquired for, a collection. Open to all artists.

  • Bible Society Reception and Tour of the Exhibition - 29 June, 7 – 9pm. An opportunity to view this unique collection of modern and contemporary art on the life of Christ, in the company of Luke Walton, Culture Programme Manager, Bible Society and Meryl Doney, exhibition curator and Director of Wallspace.

  • Friends of the Methodist Art Collection - Thursday 1 July, 6.30 for 7 – 9pm. Reception and special viewing of the exhibition with an opportunity to meet some of the artists with works in the Collection. All welcome.

  • Methodist Churches Late Opening - Tuesday 6 July, 6 – 8pm. Late night opening and tour of the exhibition, for members of all London Methodist churches.

  • Moot Community Visit - Wednesday 7 July, 7.35 – 8.30. Late night opening for members of Moot Community, St Edmund the King & St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street EC3V 9EA.

Part of the City of London Festival programme 21 June – 9 July 2010. See for details.


Sufjan Stevens - The Transfiguration.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Prayer for the upside-down kingdom of God

Here is some liturgy that I prepared for today's meeting of the Barking Episcopal Area Team (credits at the end):

Opening reflection: “[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.”

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.

Prayer of penitence: 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.

It's a funny thing about humility as soon as you know you're being humble, you're no longer humble. It's a funny thing about life you've got to give up your life to be alive, you've got to suffer to know compassion, you can't want nothing if you want satisfaction.

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

It's a funny thing about love the harder you try to be loved, the less lovable you are. It's a funny thing about pride, when you're being proud you should be ashamed. You find only pain if you seek after pleasure, you work like a slave if you seek after leisure.

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.

Bible reading: Luke 7. 36-50


Prayers of intercession: 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.

Closing prayer: Let it break out like blisters on the skin of this city.
Let it cut to the heart like cardiac surgery.
Let it create more column inches than Idols or Big Brother.
Let it turn more heads in public than Brooklyn Beckham’s mother.

Let it blow in like a hurricane, like a river, like a fire.
Let it spread like a virus, like a rumour, like a war.
Like the raising of a curtain, like the roll of a drum,
let it come to us: let your kingdom come.

Let it hit the road more readily than Eddie Stobart’s trucks.
Let it show up in more suburbs than Blockbusters and Starbucks.
Let it overturn more social norms than Marge and Homer’s Bart.
Let it be driven to more victories than Tiger Woods’ golf cart.

Let it blow in like a hurricane, like a river, like a fire.
Let it spread like a virus, like a rumour, like a war.
Like the raising of a curtain, like the roll of a drum,
let it come to us: let your kingdom come. Amen.

Opening reflection – extract from G.K. Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi & adaptation of ‘The Cave’ by Mumford & Sons. Prayer of penitence – extracts from Donald Kraybill, The Upside Down Kingdom, ‘Trap Door’ by T. Bone Burnett & Matthew 5. 3-11. Prayers of intercession – adaptation of extract from Gerard Kelly, Humanifesto. Closing prayer - extracted from ‘Liturgy: Let your kingdom come’ by Gerard Kelly.

The reflection at the meeting came from Revd. Toni Smith and was the story of a child relating to a tramp in a restaurant where the acceptance of the child was profoundly moving for the tramp, in contrast to reaction of the adults in the restaurant towards him.


Carolyn Arends - I Can Hear You.

United back in the Football League

First bit of good news on the football front that I can report for years! This comes from the BBC's match report:

"Oxford United secured their place back in the Football League after a four-year absence with victory over York at rain-lashed Wembley. Two goals in the space of five first-half minutes put the U's in charge, Matt Green firing them in front from 18 yards with a neat half-volley. James Constable doubled their lead with a fierce left-foot drive. U's keeper Ryan Clarke fumbled in Ben Purkiss's cross to give York a lifeline only for Alfie Potter to wrap it up. Given that Oxford finished third in the Blue Square Premier, eight points clear of York, after topping the league for so much of the season, it was perhaps fitting that they went up."

This comes 24 years after their last Wembley visit when I was there to see them defeat QPR 3-0 and lift the Milk Cup. There has not been a great deal to celebrate since, so it was no wonder that 30,000 fans were in Wembley to will on the U's to victory. Click here for the full match report from the OUFC website.


Oxford United - The Glory Years.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The connectedness of things

This is my most recent Gospel Reflection (based on John 17. 20-end) for the MiLE website:

Geoff Mulgan, Director of the Young Foundation, has written that “seeing the connectedness of things is the starting point for understanding a world that otherwise appears baffling” and “the growing connectedness of the world is the most important social and economic fact of our times.”

Mulgan sees connectedness manifested “in the growth of physical links like telecom networks; in rising flows of goods, money, ideas and people; in the interconnectedness of culture and the environment; and in new forms of social organisation.” Yet we can see connectedness manifested firstly in the relations within the Godhead as they are revealed to us through this prayer of Jesus which is recorded in John 17 - “you are in me and I am in you.”

We are then drawn into this interconnectivity found at the heart of the Godhead - “may they also be in us” – in order that we participate in an exchange of love which precedes the creation of the world. This is the source of connectedness of things within the world and it is also the starting point for understanding a world that otherwise appears baffling.

Father, Son and Spirit, may I know love as you know love, may I exchange love as you exchange love, may I live love as you live love, you in me and I in you. Amen.


U2 - One.

Windows on the world (103)

Harlow, 2010


Creed - With Arms Wide Open.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Sculpturetown (2)

'Family Group' - Henry Moore

Gibberd Gallery

Gibberd Gallery

Looking out from Harlow's Civic Centre

'Boar' - Elizabeth Frink
The Style Council - The Paris Match.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

International Crime Writers' Panel (2)

Michael Sears, Matt Lynn and Barbara Nadel

Nick Dobson introducing the panel
Crime Authors Michael Stanley, Barbara Nadel and Matt Lynn provided a fascinating evening as they discussed Crime Fiction worldwide at St John's Seven Kings tonight.
Michael Sears, one half of the Michael Stanley writing team, and Nadel outlined the plots and settings for their latest novels. The three authors discussed their initial inspirations, character development, and writing methods. Each took different approaches to plot development and planning while all three emphasised the discipline of writing and of pressing on when facing writer's block. Issues, such as isolation, counterfeit goods and drug trafficking, were key inspirations for plot ideas, as were exotic and interesting settings such as Istanbul and Helmand.
The audience asked questions to do with the development and delineation of characters, approaches to writer's block, organic and planned plot development, and the mechanics of writing such as schedule and equipment. The evening was organised by Redbridge Library Services.

The Beatles - Paperback Writer.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Gants Hill Arts Project (7)

These are the latest images that I have taken as part of the Gants Hill Arts Project. On this occasion Benjamin Wallis and I were joined by Morag Finch as part of her sabbatical photographic project. Morag got some good photos as part of our painting and photography session and her photos can be seen by clicking here.
Mumford & Sons - Awake My Soul.

Windows on the world (102)

Chelmsford, 2010
Jim White - A Town Called Amen.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Airbrushed from Art History (17)

The roots of abstract art lie in attempts to better express the essence of the spiritual in art and, from a Christian perspective, such art has predominantly been understood from two opposite poles. Richard Davey expresses one pole well when he writes, in Stations: the new sacred art, that:

“For many artists in the 20th century abstract forms have become the most appropriate way through which faith can be expressed. Artists such as Kandinsky, Rothko, Natkin and Webb have utilised the emotional and expressive qualities of colour and line which offer a profound equivalent for the experience of God. Colour, line, texture and form create a unique visual narrative that is not dependent on words and intellectual concepts. Instead they connect directly with the viewer, generating an emotional response to the work.”

Conversely, however, abstract art can also be understood as saying that God cannot be definitively captured in any representational image. God is beyond representation and is always more than the images that are used to describe aspects of God’s reality. In this sense, abstract art has affinities with the ‘via negativa’ which constantly reminds us that God is not as we have experienced or perceived him to be. As a result, abstract can be equated with absence - the absence of representation equalling the absence of God – making abstract art the art ‘par excellence’ of a modernity which declared the ‘death of God.’

Theologian John Dillenberger, and his art historian wife Jane, were particular advocates of abstraction, knowing abstract expressionists such as Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko personally. They came to maturity in the mid-twentieth century, under the strong influence of Paul Tillich’s existentialist theology, and saw in abstract expressionism an inherently spiritual search — which had the virtue of leaving behind the exhausted religious iconography of Western art.

Wassily Kandinsky’s equation of abstract art with spirituality was signalled by the publication of his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art in the year that he painted his first fully abstract work. Concerning the Spiritual in Art argued that abstraction was the best means available to artists for depicting an unseen realm.

Yet in reaching this conclusion Kandinsky had to journey from representational art to abstract art. He began his career painting representational works and gradually removed all representation from his paintings until they were fully abstract. Therefore his way into abstraction was from representation and there is a story told about Kandinsky which illustrates this transition, although the story itself may be apocryphal. In this story Kandinsky entered his studio to be confronted by a glowing and emotive combination of colours and lines without any obvious subject. He saw what appeared to be a fully abstract painting and was struck by the intensity of emotion that it evoked. On closer inspection however he realised that the painting was in fact one of his landscapes which had been turned upside down.

So, Kandinsky’s first fully abstract works derived from representational images and it is possible to get a sense of how this occurred by comparing two paintings depicting soldiers; his representational St George and the Dragon and his semi-abstract Cossacks. We can get a sense of how he proceeded if we look at the representational image with blurred vision (perhaps because we have removed our glasses). Immediately, we lose our sense of what the figures in the image represent because we cannot see sufficient detail to recognise them but we can still see generalised patches of colour and the shape and direction of objects within the picture. It was this that Kandinsky painted. As he himself said: "I applied streaks and blobs of colors onto the canvas with a palette knife and I made them sing with all the intensity I could..."

Kandinsky sought to express in his initial abstract Compositions his belief in a coming catastrophe with spiritual consequences and because he began with a figurative image of disturbance, such as the Deluge, he was able to retain that same sense of disturbance in the combination of colour and form that he painted. Looking at his Composition VI, which we know derives from an image of the Deluge, we cannot, by looking at the painting, state that we can see a representation of the flood but we can talk in terms of a sense or feeling of conflict and impending doom that pervades the swirl of shapes and colours which form the painting. As in this instance abstract art often communicates most powerfully at the level of our emotions conveying to us a sense of a state of being – conflict or doom, peace or grace – without specifying a specific source for this sense or feeling or emotion.

Kandinsky then, despite his more esoteric spiritual beliefs and investigations, initially created abstract art by abstracting from apocalyptic biblical images. Composition V is an abstraction on the theme of the resurrection of the dead where it is possible to see glimpses of angels blowing their trumpets and the towers of a walled city. More than these vestiges of representational imagery however, the work conveys a sense of infinity as the context for resurrection.
Kandinsky used abstraction to express a sense of coming disorder but, if we look at the work of some Cubist artists we can see the opposite; use of abstraction as a spiritual search for a sense of order and harmony.

Many artists in the early part of the twentieth century were searching for the universal rules that underpinned works of art. The deconstruction of representational art that occurred through movements such as Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism and so on was, in part, the attempt to discover these fundamental rules. While Expressionism and Fauvism were movements focusing primarily on effects of colour, Cubism was a movement that experimented with form. Cubism worked with the fundamental forms of cubes and circles, lines and curves and several Cubist artists came to locate in Christian Art the rules that they thought governed the use of these fundamental forms in art. One such artist is Albert Gleizes who positioned his shapes on the canvas in relation to the height and width of the canvas and then rotated them to create a spiralling movement within the painting that keeps the eye constantly moving from shape to shape.

His sense that the mathematical means for determining the positioning of forms within the frame of the canvas derived from that developed within Christendom during the ‘Dark Ages’ in Western Europe can be seen in the way that he uses these methods to create an image of, for example, Christ in Glory. These paintings are firstly harmonious spiralling combinations of line and colour which secondly indicate a sense of figures equating to traditional images of God. These emerge from the combination of forms and are revealed as eternally united by the continual rotation of shapes within the picture frame.

Similarly, in the catalogue of the From Russia exhibition, Yevgenia Petrova writes, of Kasimir Malevich that, “the quest for one of the 20th century’s most innovative creators for new themes and a new artistic language had its source in the realm of his religious notions.” In The Avant-Garde Icon Andrew Spira seeks to demonstrate how icons underpin the development of nineteenth and twentieth-century Russian art.

During this time new ideas grounded in a radical revolutionary secularism were providing a strong challenge to the values of a society steeped in religious, faith-based traditions. Great artists such as Malevich and Larionov offered an ambivalent response to their religious heritage. Whilst they rebelled against its stifling conservation and credulity, they were also profoundly influenced by its nationalist, populist, aesthetic appeal and, ultimately, its spirituality. Malevich in particular aimed to raise the status of contemporary art to that of icons. He pared his imagery and colour down to black on white, shape on background. He spoke of his Black Cross as an icon of the new time and hung it across the corners of a room in the space traditionally reserved for an icon in a home. His black shapes represent the weight and substance of humanity in the weightlessness and void of the universe.

Spira's argument is not that the Russian avant-garde from the Wanderers to the Suprematists (and Malevich, in particular) were Christians or that they painted icons but that their appreciation of icons, their creation and their meaning, affected the aspects of the development of their work, their artistic practice and their philosophical understanding of the meaning and value of their art. Spira notes that:"although evidence of [the] receptivity [of avant-garde artists] to icons is more hidden than evidence of their rejection of the Church and its trappings, it is arguable that the tradition of icon painting was integral to the shaping of their work. As with children who rebel against their parents but turn out to resemble them, the art of the avant-garde often showed striking similarities to icons in looks, mannerisms and even in deeper sympathies."

In his book God in the Gallery, Daniel Siedell argues that iconography has been an influence of the development of Modern Art citing Kandinsky, Malevich and Mark Rothko as his key examples. The contemporary icongrapher, Aidan Hart, has made the same claim citing Constantin Brancusi, Henri Matisse, Vincent Van Gogh and Cecil Collins, among others, in addition to those cited by Siedell.

Hart's argument has three main aspects. Firstly, positive comments made by these artists regarding key aspects of iconography. Secondly, the adoption in Modern Art of many of the main stylistic techniques of icongraphy such as flatness, inverse perspective, multi-point perspective, isometry, radience etc. Thirdly, the use of abstraction as a language to express objective metaphysical truth, the essence of things. Brancusi is Hart's key witness for his Rumanian Orthodox upbringing and practice and for his aphorisms on the role of the artist such as, "The artist should know how to dig out the being that is within matter and be the tool that brings out its cosmic essence into an actual visible essence."

Similarly, Mark C. Taylor wrote at the beginning of his Disfiguring: Art, Architecture, Religion:
"All of the major abstract expressionists were deeply interested in religion and actively incorporated spiritual concerns in their work. Moreover, such involvement with religion is not limited to postwar American art. From the beginning of modern art in Europe, its practitioners have relentlessly probed religious issues. Though not always immediately obvious, the questions religion raises lurk on or near the surface of even the most abstract canvases produced during the modern era.

One of the most puzzling paradoxes of twentieth-century cultural interpretation is that, while theologians, philosophers of religion, and art critics deny or surpress the religious significance of the visual arts, many of the leading modern artists insist that their work cannot be understood apart from religious questions and spiritual issues."

The Abstract Expressionists worked with contrasts of light and dark and were less concerned with form and more concerned with colour. Barnett Newman created glowing zips of colour and Mark Rothko windows or doors of light. In both there is a sense of light beyond, of an opening into the light of the divine. In both, however, something darker can also be found. Pamela Schaeffer has written:

“I found it especially fascinating to ponder some of the purer abstract works - such as the rich, dark, imageless canvases of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko - in relation to the apophatic tradition in Christian mysticism. Masters of that tradition, sometimes called the via negativa, choose words like nothingness, darkness and obscurity to symbolize God, the wholly other Absolute who is unknowable by means of the intellect but approachable through love."

Rothko’s later paintings have often been understood as depictions of the absence of God and the darkness of the world; an impression reinforced by Rothko’s suicide on the day that the Tate received those paintings. Newman’s and Rothko’s somber, borderless canvases suggest deep silence and infinite void, yet somehow, too, evoke a sense of presence and mystery. Newman made no attempt to hide his spiritual interests. In 1943 he wrote, "The painter is concerned . . . with the presentation into the world of mystery. His imagination is therefore attempting to dig into metaphysical secrets. To that extent, his art is concerned with the sublime. It is a religious art which through symbols will catch the basic truth of life."

Roberto Balzarotti noted, in a lecture for the William G. Congdon Foundation, “the fact that in the same period (the 1960s) three eminent proponents of Abstract Expressionism – Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and William Congdon – were working on painting cycles on a subject specifically Christian [i.e. the Rothko Chapel in Houston, TX, by Mark Rothko; the Stations of the Cross by Barnett Newman; and William Congdon’s painting], which was a truly unique circumstance, even more so given that they reached this common end following paths and motives that were absolutely different, and in any case completely independent from each other.”

Balzarotti also notes that Congdon was the only one who “adhered to a specific faith, Roman Catholic Christianity.” Congdon was a contemporary of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock who painted in the style of the action painters and abstract expressionists while living and exhibiting in New York but then faded from view as he went abroad. After traveling the globe on a spiritual quest, he settled in Assisi, where he had a conversion experience and became a Roman Catholic. His most impressive paintings following his conversion are a series of over 150 crucifixes, which became more and more abstract over the years. He lived in an abandoned Benedictine monastery, while painting with bold strokes of colour and scale.

In An American Artist in Italy Rodolfo Balzarotti notes that Congdon compared his work to:
“that of his ‘brothers’ in Action Painting, painters like Pollock or Rothko. “I was born a painter in that same tremor, or thrill, of self-abandonment to the things simultaneously see and captured as the medium of painting itself, in which every appearance was already transfigured in the unpredictable miraculous birth of the image … the image, in the last analysis, of myself … there was a coincidence of rage, of having to erase a world in order to rip out of one’s innards as though giving birth the image of a new life.”

This led, Balzarotti notes, to “a phase of crisis and bewilderment, which seems to alienate him completely from the world that had been his until then.” After this phase, “Congdon began working intensely, accompanying his painting with a stringent reflection on what he was doing. His isolation, far from constituting a closing off, enabled him to let his language as an Action Painter evolve independently of what was happening on the public art scene in the 1970s and 1980s, increasingly conditioned by the phenomenon of the market, fashion, and the ephemeral.”

Jean Bazaine was a Catholic whose reading of Bergson was implicit in his abstract imagery of plunging, swirling forms. Bazaine was closely connected with the 'personalist' philosopher Emmanuel Mounier and his review Esprit which was at the forefront of debates between Catholicism, Marxism and a nascent existentialism before the Second World War.

Natalie Adamson writes that although his own painting would only make the transition from figuration to a fully “non-figurative” style between 1941 and 1944, Bazaine used his exhibition reviews for two significant press forums that were defined by their progressive Catholic outlook (the monthly journal Esprit and the weekly newspaper Temps présent) as a means of contributing towards the reinvigoration of the sterile, anachronistic formulas of art sacré in offering new, possibly non-realist, modes of representing spiritual experience.

It is as an inspired creator of works enriching the entire history of modern religious art, writes James Kirkup, that Bazaine will best be remembered, by believers and non-believers alike: the windows in the church at Asay (1943-47) in Savoie, the facade mosaics (1951) and windows (1954) of the church at Audincourt in the Jura (1954), the church of Villeparisis (1961) and a reception centre at Noisy le Grand (1955). Bazaine's vivid, dynamic works irradiating the sombre ambulatory and apsidal chapels of St Severin Paris are, according to Kirkup, one of the most wonderful series of stained-glass windows in France. These windows represent the seven sacraments of the Church, portrayed as essential forms from nature in all its glory and symbolising Water, Fire and Light, sacred emblems of Divine Grace. An appropriate biblical verse is inscribed beneath each.

Bazaine organised the clandestine, semi-abstract exhibition 'Twenty Young Painters of the French Tradition', held in defiance of the Nazis at the Galerie Braun in May 1941. This exhibition included The Lunatics (1938) by Alfred Manessier who became, in the 1950s, as Sarah Wilson writes, one of the most prominent painters of the School of Paris, a doyen of both 'lyrical abstraction' and the renewal of sacred art in France after the war. In the words of Werner Schmalenbach he was 'after Georges Rouault the only great painter of Christian art in our age':

“The 'Young Painters' combined the Cubist grid and Fauvist colour, the inheritance of Picasso and Bonnard, with semi-abstract, often religious themes; Charles Lapicque had pioneered the style with his Christ Crowned with Thorns as early as 1939. It was not until 1943, however, on a three-day retreat with the writer Camille Bourniquel that Manessier, then aged 32, experienced his profound religious conversion at the abbey of Notre Dame de la Trappe de Soligny (Orne).

The rigour of the Cistercian Trappist regime and the link between its services and the rhythms of days, night and the seasons were keenly felt by the increasingly ascetic artist. The monks' chant inspired perhaps his greatest early painting, Salve Regina, a work constructed with vertical slabs of singing reds, oranges and blues.

Manessier's works such as The St Matthew Passion (1948) continued to bring not only religious but liturgical and musical elements into purely abstract colour compositions. Titles invited readings of predominantly abstract works: in Barabbas (1952) a menacing purple circle approaches the sign for Christ - a crown of thorns - with explicit metaphorical intent. Both Manessier and Bazaine were influenced by a renascent Bergsonism: images of flux with diagonal axes in their work evoke floods of light and water, and are distinct from contemporary 'all-over' experiments in France and the United States.

In 1947, Manessier received a visit from Georges Rouault, who advised him to take up stained-glass design: from 1948 to 1950 Manessier worked on six windows for Saint Agathe des Breseaux, Doubs … Manessier has left his mark in stained glass in many beautiful churches in France and beyond, such as Saint-Pierre de Trinquetaille in Arles (1953), Notre-Dame de la Paix (Le Pouldu, Brittany, 1958), the Saint- Die cathedral (Vosges), and the convent of the Sisters of the Assumption, Rue Violet, Paris (1968-69), together with commissions in Basle, Fribourg, Essen, Cologne, Bremen and elsewhere.”

Bazaine and Manessier together founded the Association pour la Défense des Vitraux de France (the "Association for the Defense of France's Stained Glass").

Manessier wrote of seeking:

“a sort of transfiguration of the real which nourishes painting with a breath of the spirit. It's the passages between things which interest me. Something circulates amongst all forms of human experience ensuring a profound unity. I try to force myself to make that unity appear.”

Similarly, write Peter Serracino Inglott and Gino Gauci in Sacred Art in Malta 1890 - 1960, the “superb and profoundly conceived abstract work” of Alfred Chircop “wells up from a solidly Dominican formation and uncompromising following of the motto: contemplata aliis tradere.” To Dominic Cutajar, “Chircop's catharsis is tied to the cosmic transcendentalism popularised in Catholic intellectual circles by Teilhard de Chardin.”

Chircop’s paintings have been described as “outbursts of creative energy” which suggest “birth and growth, sprouting and blossoming.” “With their transparencies, quasi-magical overlaying of paint, outbursts of energy and light, and the impeccable workmanship through the wielding of the artist’s brush seemingly akin to lithe fingers caressing the strings of a harp,” writes Emmanuel Fiorentino in Alfred Chircop: Paintings 1999 – 2001, “they still manage to transfigure the core of their emotions away from any material grasp in order to let it ascend into the ethereal realm for which they offer intimations away from the crudeness of mortality.”

As a result, “the tenuous vision residing in his abstracts, consistently evolving throughout the greater part of his career, has come to tap the rarified stratosphere of a spiritual dimension, truly and justifiably lending them the epithet of landscapes of the spirit.”

Religious painting in Australia was quickened, writes Robert Hughes in The Art of Australia, by Eric Smith:

“Smith is a Catholic, and religious belief is the core of his art. His abstract work between 1956 and the present day records a continuous struggle to intensify religious experience through non-figurative techniques. The sacramental calm of his colour remained, but form became increasingly fragmented. The Moment Christ Died, 1958, is a slow explosion of flakes of colour, suggesting the separation of soul and body at the point of death. In Christ Is Risen, 1959, a figure emerges from an ecstatic flurry of energy; Smith’s human images seemed usually half-dissolved in light or blur of motion, and their bristling clusters of line were far removed from the solid, deliberate forms of earlier paintings,

By 1960 the breakdown of form was complete … The paintings with which Smith won the 1962 Helena Rubinstein Scholarship are, in some ways, a return to the structural concentration of his 1955 religious paintings. But their intensity is amplified by a more complex space and an increased poignancy of emotion, as in a gravely conceived Crucifixion, 1961 … Leaving aside the gold-leaf-and-angel merchants, there is no doubt that Smith is the first Australian artist to meet his religious impulses on a serious level of inquiry.”

Richard Kenton Webb is a contemporary British artist who has “a passion for the space; the essence of the place; a mirroring of emotion; and other abstract qualities of the land itself.” For him abstract art is about “a search for equivalents.” “As we investigate a place,” he writes, “there are many sensations that we register – the springiness of the turf underfoot, the roughness of the rock on your fingertips, the wind and rain or the scent of a rose in the morning. We can play down such sensations, but they are always there. So, how can we capture these ‘illegible’ impressions and record the non-rational, poetic associations that we experience as painters?” Abstraction provides the “different tempos, shapes, size, mood, colours and forms” needed to express how you feel about the view before you and go beyond the superficial or what is on the surface.

Mark Brooke has written that Kenton Webb’s paintings: "have a calm, assured sense of purpose. They are reduced to a stripped down essential. Colour with delicate variations. A word he often uses is "equivalent' to indicate the solutions open to the artist.... The carefully prepared canvas, often with lead white ground laid on in several coats, allows the paint when applied to seem translucent. The small intricate brush lines suggest the uneven, inconsistent and broken patterns of men's lives which somehow, when fused together, form a greater significant whole. Light will find its way through, if we can be still and see the colour.”

David Thistlethwaite writes: "Here are spaces to get into - real finite ones, where the early Creation is alone and quiet with its maker, and his Spoken Word beams intelligence and perspective into the uniformed waste - and pools of reflected gold hint at the beginnings of response.'

By contrast, Clay Sinclair is an artist who is fascinated with vibrant colour, symbolism and the potential to change. He has a unique way of painting ‘backwards’ on to perspex/ plexiglass which gives his paintings a stunning luminosity and purity of colour. He regularly uses text and loves to provoke with each piece he creates. The end results are stimulating and are often laced with a little humour. His inspiration primarily comes from observing the way we are and how we relate to each other and our environment. Issues of ego, relationship and society are themes that regularly appear and influence his work.

Sinclair says: “My paintings aim to be more than just wallpaper. I seek to create work that will engage, stimulate and provoke the viewer. By painting on perspex, my art is vibrant and luminous, but by frequently using text I force the art to be viewed as more than just an ascetic object.”

Leafa Janice Wilson notes the flawless finish and pure, unashamed colour of his works set within a geometric compositional structure:

“Where there is no physical texture on the surface, there is definitely an undulation created by different depths and colour temperatures that make these works operate effectively as highly textured and painterly works.

The colour throughout Sinclair’s works balances up the realism he provides us by the allusions to the recession and his seemingly apologetic approach to having to price his works. There is a certain intensity to the words permeating his works, which leads me to question if the absence of words would have made the same kind of visual impact on first glance … Sinclair’s keen eye for design and visual balance is reminiscent of beautiful urban images of city lightscapes.”

Makoto Fujimura's work combines traditional Japanese painting technique with a Western approach to abstraction. Born in Boston in 1960, Fujimura earned his B.A. at Bucknell, then went on to receive his Master of Fine Arts and Doctorate degrees from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, where he studied the Japanese traditional technique of Nihonga. This technique uses ground minerals such as azurite, malachite and cinnabar mixed with animal hide glue applied to handmade paper. Western artists who have influenced his work include Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.

Kristen Frederickson, in an essay written for a 2004 exhibition of new paintings by Fujimura inspired and informed by T.S. Eliot's last poem, 'Four Quartets', wrote: "There is a component of these paintings that cannot be seen except by the naked eye: photographic representation is an inadequate translation, perhaps more for these works than most art. As the eye travels from one moment of the painting to another - from a glistening river of blue to teardrops of green, streaks of vermilion to a shimmering layer of gold leaf falling perilously across the surface - there is an element of utter abstraction and peace that belies the intense training and experience required to produce these paintings." Similarly, Fujimura has written, in 'Gravity and Grace': "We now begin to realize what we do is only temporary and indefinable. Incomplete gestures must be made, because reality beckons us to respond. Beauty, however peripheral, insists that we remain faithful to who we are, as we are."

In 'Beauty without Regret' Fujimura wrote: "The layers of azurite pigments, spread over paper as I let the granular pigments cascade. My eyes see much more than what my mind can organize. As the light becomes trapped within pigments, a "grace arena" is created, as the light is broken, and trapped in refraction. Yet, my gestures are limited, contained, and gravity pulls the pigments like a kind friend.

Every beauty suffers. A research scientist friend once told me that the autumn leaves are most beautiful on the trees by the roadside because they happen to be distressed by the salt and pollution. Every sunset is a reminder of the impending death of Nature herself. The minerals I use must be pulverized to bring out their beauty. The Japanese were right in associating beauty with death.

Art cannot be divorced from faith, for to do so is to literally close our eyes to that beauty of the dying sun setting all around us. Every beauty also suffers. Death spreads all over our lives and therefore faith must be given to see through the darkness, to see through the beauty of "the valley of the shadow of death".

Prayers are given, too, in the layers of broken, pulverized pigments. Beauty is in the brokenness, not in what we can conceive as the perfections, not in the "finished" images but in the incomplete gestures. Now, I await for my paintings to reveal themselves. Perhaps I will find myself rising through the ashes, through the beauty of such broken limitations."

Iona - Treasure.