Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Easter Activity Stations and Schools

St John’s Seven Kings will be providing seven Easter activity stations throughout the week commencing 4th April for children from Downshall and Newbury Park Primary Schools as part of their RE lessons.

The committee responsible for the Religious Education in all schools in each local authority, with the exception of schools with a religious character, is known as the SACRE (which is the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education). The SACRE in Redbridge has been awarded a NATRE bursary to work with local churches of all denominations to strengthen links with schools.

As a result, the SACRE has been encouraging Redbridge churches to offer to set up either a Labyrinth or other reflective exercises on the theme of Easter and to invite local primary schools to visit the church with their year 5 and 6 classes before the Easter break. Training has been provided on the use of Labyrinth-style activities or reflective exercises in learning about and from the Christian Festival of Easter.

Rev. Geoff Eze, curate at St John's Seven Kings, has led the project at St John's to create a number of different activities for the pupils to take part in as they thoughtfully use the Easter activity stations. For the pupils, this will be an opportunity to understand more about the narrative of Easter, reflect on the meaning of Easter for Christians, and take time to reflect on what some of the Easter concepts mean to them.

Here is an example of one Easter activity station:

Reflection - Can you think of somebody who has put themselves out for you like Jesus did for Christians? Who was that person and what did they do that was special?

Activity - Write a Thank you card.

These Easter activity stations will also be available to people from St John's and the wider community on Wednesday 6th April between 9.00-10.00am and 7.00-8.00pm.

More information about the wonderful work which is done in our communities to help children learn about and from religion can be found through a website created for the National RE Celebration in March 2011, which aimed to raise the profile of Religious Education in the country.


Adrian Snell - Gethsemane.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Windows on the world (147)

Limehouse, 2011


Katie Melua - The Closest Thing to Crazy.

UK Government backs new European trafficking law

Great news from Anti-Slavery International and 38 Degrees:

"We did it! Together we've just won our campaign for the UK to sign up to a new European law to tackle human trafficking. Thousands of you have taken action helping us reach an amazing 47,000 petition signatures!

... the Government announced that they will apply to adopt the EU Trafficking Directive aimed at making it easier to prosecute traffickers and better protect those trafficked. It is an incredible result that they have listened to us all and taken tougher action to ensure we win the battle to end this horrendous crime.

Last Saturday 19th March Anti-Slavery International and 38 Degrees campaigners along with the Independent on Sunday handed in our petition to No.10 Downing Street calling for the Government to back the new law. Check out our Facebook photo album from the day and the excellent news coverage.

It is extremely important that the Government has recognised the need to back this measure and do more to tackle trafficking, sending out a strong message to traffickers today that this crime will not be tolerated."


Mary Mary - Shackles (Praise You).

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Overcoming divisions in the Spirit of Jesus

The ‘peace lines’ in Belfast are walls that “were built in the early 60s, at the height of the “Troubles” – the hardest stage of the fight between the two communities [of Catholics and Protestants] – when Northern Ireland was at the climax of Civil War. At that period only weapons spoke and the paramilitary groups from both sides laid down the law: bombs were smashing Belfast day after day; reprisals were reciprocal ... rancour turned to hatred and life together was no longer possible. The only solution was to physically divide, and let communities close themselves into their own microcosm. Therefore, religious islands, divided by cement barriers erected by the authorities in order to stop the violence, grew up.”

A similar kind of hostility between Jews and Samaritans can be seen clearly in the New Testament. One of the worst insults that hostile Jews could offer to Jesus was to call him a Samaritan (John 8:48). When Jesus was refused hospitality by a Samaritan village because he was going to Jerusalem, his disciples James and John wanted the village destroyed before Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:51-56). The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:33-37) also reveals this division because it challenges the idea held by Jews that it would be impossible for a Samaritan to act charitably. This story of Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well also shows up these divisions in that the disciples are amazed that Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman (John 4:27) and the Gospel writer comments that Jews did not use the same cups and bowls that Samaritans use (John 4:9).

Samaritans claimed that they were the true Israel who were descendants of the "lost" tribes taken into Assyrian captivity. They had their own temple on Mount Gerizim and claimed that it was the original sanctuary. They also claimed that their version of the Pentateuch was the original and that the Jews had a falsified text produced by Ezra during the Babylonian exile. Both Jewish and Samaritan religious leaders taught that it was wrong to have any contact with the opposite group, and neither was to enter each other's territories or even to speak to one another.

All of which makes Jesus’ words in John 4.21-24 quite amazing: “… the time will come when people will not worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem … the time is … already here, when by the power of God's Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is.”

Jesus seems to be saying that the reasons for conflict between Jew and Samaritan are about to be superseded in such a way that both will, in future, be able to worship together. This claim is one that the writer of the letter to the Ephesians repeats in 2.11-18, on this occasion about divisions between Jews and Gentiles: “… Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies. He abolished the Jewish Law with its commandments and rules, in order to create out of the two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace. By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their enmity; by means of the cross he united both races into one body and brought them back to God ... It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father.”

Both these passages focus on divisions being overcome as we come to God the Father in the Spirit. The Spirit that is being talked about is, of course, the Spirit of Jesus, the one who, with his own body, breaks down the wall which separates enemies; the one who, through his death on the cross destroys enmity and unites enemies before God. So, if we are to be ‘in the Spirit’ and are to worship God ‘in the Spirit’, we must do the same by laying down our lives in order to overcome divisions between enemies.

Gordon Wilson was the father of Marie Wilson, one of 12 victims of the Enniskillen Remembrance Day Bombing in 1987. The bombing could have provoked a response of anger and revenge; instead what emerged was an atmosphere of forgiveness and reconciliation because of Gordon Wilson and the way in which he responded to this tragedy in the Spirit of Jesus.
A few hours after the bombing, when interviewed by the BBC, he described his last conversation with his daughter, a nurse, as they both lay buried in rubble. He said: "She held my hand tightly, and gripped me as hard as she could. She said, 'Daddy, I love you very much.' Those were her exact words to me, and those were the last words I ever heard her say." To the astonishment of listeners, Wilson went on to add, "But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She's dead. She's in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night." Historian Jonathan Bardon recounts that: "No words in more than twenty-five years of violence in Northern Ireland had such a powerful, emotional impact."

Gordon Wilson forgave the terrorists who had killed his daughter. He said that he would pray for them. He also begged that no-one took revenge for Marie's death as that could not bring her back. His response to atrocity of the Enniskillen bombings was in the Spirit of Jesus and helped to overcome divisions between Catholic and Protestant as throughout the rest of his life he worked hard to bring reconciliation between people in Northern Ireland including becoming Patron of the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust which works to encourage dialogue and greater understanding between all social, cultural and religious traditions.

What Gordon Wilson did with his life is what we see Jesus doing in this story. Richard Burridge writes that in this story, “we have a real meeting of opposites - of a Jew with a Samaritan, a man with a woman, a rabbi with a sinner, the one ‘from above’ confronting the lowest of the low.” It is a story which “sums up all the bitterness of human separation by race, creed, class, sex, profession, status” and shows us what it means for Jesus to be the bridge, not only of “the gulf between God and the world, but also all the barriers human beings put between themselves.” It was for this reason that God sent his Son into the world, and for this reason there is hope for us all, from Northern Ireland to modern Samaria on the West Bank to here in Dagenham.

It is a terrible irony, and an absolute gift to those who argue that religion causes violence, that Christian faith was in Northern Ireland used as means to divide Catholic and Protestant. Gordon Wilson’s words, spoken in the Spirit of Jesus, helped to turn that situation around. Could our words and actions in the Spirit of Jesus do the same?

Where are the divisions within this local area and how could these be overcome in the Spirit of Jesus? What can you, as Christ’s people here at St Cedd’s, be doing and saying in the local community that would be in the Spirit of Jesus? How can you work in the Spirit of Jesus to encourage dialogue and greater understanding between all the different social, cultural and religious traditions found in this area? Are you willing to ask those questions? Are you willing to pray those questions? Are you willing to be inspired by the Spirit of Jesus to destroy enmity, to tear down barriers, to make peace, and to unite enemies?


U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Airbrushed from Art History (23)

Wallspace, the exhibition venue in the church of All Hallows on the Wall in the City of London which had as its aim to provide a spiritual home for the visual arts in the capital, closed at the end of February. After four very successful years, like many arts organisations currently, they struggled to secure the stable finance needed to ensure their future.

Wallspace achieved a huge amount in the past four years by highlighting the extent to which spirituality features within the mainstream art world and showcasing the breadth and diversity of those artists who express their faith commitment through their work or engage positively with the Church as a patron. The vision for, and achievements of, Wallspace were developed principally by its Director, freelance curator Meryl Doney.
As the email bringing the sad news of Wallspace's demise stated: "There really isn't anything else quite like Wallspace, with its dedicated focus on contemporary art that explored rich and challenging spiritual territory, in its spectacular 18th century sacred setting. We are proud of everything we've achieved since we began in March 2007. From our opening exhibition of Damien Hirst's New Religion, which examined issues of truth and human obsessions, to our final show Commission, which showcased the extraordinary breadth and depth of art in churches across the UK. Wallspace has established a benchmark for quality, variety and vigour."

The highlights from four years of Wallspace exhibitions showcase the breadth of an under-reported rich and challenging exploration of spiritual territory to be found in contemporary art:
  • Damien Hirst's New Religion included an altar holding a cedar cross studded with gem-like pills, a child's skull and a heart wrapped in barbed wire and pierced by needles and razor blades, cast in silver, and a large carved marble pill. One complete set of prints and sculptural objects were displayed in a specially constructed devotional case or reliquary. And, so struck was Damien Hirst with the church's interior that he has also produced three large new paintings made specifically to hang behind the altar at All Hallows.

  • Sokari Douglas Camp's The World is Richer centred around new work for the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery. The Wallspace exhibition featured a number of steel maquettes representing the artist's thinking towards a major public memorial in London's Hyde Park to mark the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade.
  • Sam Taylor-Wood's Pietà, Ascension and Prelude in Air brought together three distinctive film pieces that include biblical and religious references, and spiritual resonances. They explored ideas of presence and absence, performance and vulnerability. The first two films made direct reference to traditional, western Christian iconography. The third presented a musician who is totally engaged with the Bach prelude he is playing, but he is performing the work without his cello. The music and the man are palpably present; the instrument that links the two is absent.
  • For Epiphany Wallspace gathered together 15 contemporary, traditional iconographers who live and work in the UK for what was the first exhibition to get the work of the very best iconographers in Britain together in one place. All the icons shown were contemporary but nonetheless were produced in the traditional manner, using authentic ancient designs and methods. The exhibition was timely, given the current revival of interest in icons and their increasing appearance in cathedrals and parish churches across the country.
  • In Memória Roubada (Stolen Memories) Ana Maria Pacheco, previously Associate Artist at the National Gallery, showed a dramatic 2-piece work for the first time. Her powerful and disturbing painted wooden sculptures Memória Roubada I and II confronted ideas of displaced people and severed cultures - results of the colonisation of Brazil.
  • Visionaries: working in the margins was Wallspace's exploration of the work of visionary painters from Stanley Spencer to the Chapman Brothers arranged so that visitors were 'led' through the work from 20th to 21st century. The paintings looked stunning in the church, setting up dialogues between the artists and across a time span of 85 years.
  • The Collection showed highlights and new works from the Methodist collection of modern and contemporary art. In the early 1960s John Gibbs, an art collector and Methodist layman, realising that many contemporary artists were concerned with themes from the life of Christ, decided to create a collection of such work. With the help of Methodist minister Douglas Wollen, he acquired paintings and reliefs, which became the core of the Methodist Church Collection of Modern Christian Art – described as ‘the best denominational collection of modern art outside the Vatican’.
  • Commission: An exhibition of contemporary art in British churches took the story of commissioning contemporary art for British churches up to the present day. Starting with Henry Moore’s remarkable, and at the time highly controversial, altar for St Stephen Walbrook, the exhibition highlighted the work of 14 artists who have taken on the challenge of a permanent work for a religious space. Major recent commissions for the Lumen Centre URC church and St Martin in the Fields London, and Tracey Emin’s neon artwork for Liverpool Anglican Cathedral were all represented.

Low - Weight of Water.

Anselm Keifer - The Waves of Sea and Love

Viewing Anselm Keifer's current exhibition at White Cube Hoxton after the Japanese tsunami turns the pathos quotient up high as Keifer's work explores the fragility of humanity in the face of oceanic forces.

Keifer's installations commonly form rooms which submerge the viewer in their imagery, an approach which is particularly relevant to his theme of Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen (The Waves of Sea and Love) with its sense of barely keeping our heads above water.

Twenty-four panoramic seascapes hung three deep fill the side walls of the main gallery. These are photographs which Keifer has distressed using various techniques including electrolysis. Peaceful static scenes of beach and ocean are stirred into violent life by these methods and superimposed on each is a gynaecological instrument suggestive of figures running, jumping or swimming in the maelstrom. Five vitrines in the centre of the gallery each hold a book of seascapes over which Keifer has drawn geometric diagrams and mathematical formulae, a reference perhaps to humanity's attempts (ultimately futile in responding to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami) to map and measure the forces of nature. A final work fills the end gallery wall, a massive abstract canvas before which an armed but rusting frigate has been hung. This is, perhaps, the end to which the sea returns the resistence of humanity. In an upper room, Keifer has set a series of smaller-scale photographic seascapes each featuring an image of himself swimming which is to varying degrees overwhelmed by his distressing of paper and image.  

Keifer creates spaces for contemplation. His spaces bring viewers to a full stop through their sublime scale and through the awareness they impart of our place within nature and the cosmos. The title of the upper room series 'I hold all the Indias in my hand' is a quotation from the seventeenth-century Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo who writes of a man gaining a burgeoning consciousness of the universe and his place within it through contemplation of a ring bearing a portrait of his lover. "I hold the starry plains of heaven," he writes, "I hold all Indias in my hand." Keifer's work undercuts our hubris.

Click here to read my meditation on Keifer's Palmsonntag (Palm Sunday).


The Velvet Underground - Ocean.

Prayer - Dedication

On Thursday I dedicated a bench at the Chigwell Row Guide Camp in memory of a former parishioner, Jean Cook.

We reflected that Jean was someone who was full of life and who filled her life with many interests and commitments including guiding, folk dancing, teaching, Townswomen's and Trefoil Guilds, and swimming. Her favourite hymn was ‘O Jesus I have promised to serve thee to the end’ and she found encouragement to do so in Jesus' words from Matthew 11. 28: “Come unto me all who are heavily laden and I will refresh you.” One of the main ways in which she was refreshed was through her friends. Found among her things after her death was a poem that we heard read at her funeral which says that we are all made up of the friends we have and that our lives are richer for the different ways in which others have touched and shaped our lives. That was Jean’s experience because of each of her many friends and it was also our experience because of the effect that Jean had on us. And so we prayed ...

God our Father, in loving care your hand has created us, and as the potter fashions the clay you have formed us in your image. Through the Holy Spirit you have breathed into us the gift of life. In the sharing of love you have enriched our knowledge of you and of one another. We claim your love today, as we remember Jean in this place where we dedicate this bench to her memory in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

God our Father, we thank you that you have made each of us in your own image, and given us gifts and talents with which to serve you. We thank you for all those whom we love but see no longer, and thank you especially for Jean, the years we shared with her, the good we saw in her, the love we received from her.
Now surround us, Jean’s friends, with your love, that we may have confidence in your goodness, strength to meet the days to come, and a firm hope in your eternal love and purposes for us, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Megurine Luka - O Jesus I Have Promised.

Living the Story (3)

Philip Ritchie has posted on the Living the Story session which I led on Friday and which made use of poems by Carol Ann Duffy, George Herbert and John Berryman.

In this Lent series for the Chelmsford Diocese we have been comparing and contrasting artworks which can be said to be living the Christian story with others that seem to view that same story from the perspective of a non-participant. This is not in order to suggest that one is better than the other but simply to see and explore the different types of insights and understandings which come when your perspective is inside or outside the story.  

It was interesting to note that the course participants had most to say about the two poems - Duffy's Prayer and Berryman's Dream Song 201 - which seemed to have been written from the perspectives of characters without a Christian faith. In the first, they identified with its evocations of moments of particular attention or epiphany which come with a sense of gift or realisation or revelation. In the second, with its sense of the meaningless mundanity of a faithless existence.

It is a source of interest that, as we have sought to explore in this series, so many artists (like those we have looked at in this series, Nick Cave, Mike Nelson, Denys Arcand, Carol Ann Duffy, Philip Pullman) remain fascinated by the stories, beliefs and impact of Christianity at a time when the secularist narrative remains that of the decline of faith. Why this should be can in some measure be gleaned from the works we have explored in the series e.g. the intertwined nature of passion and violence to which Cave responds, the strength for survival in the face of marginalisation that Nelson sees as stemming from belief systems, or the existence of moments of gift or illumination in life that Duffy evokes.

These may not be the principal reasons why those who seek to live the story of Christianity do so but they are undoubtedly among the reasons why Christianity retains an inspirational and provocative place within contemporary culture. Those who seek to live the story have much to learn from the responses to that story of those who don't, both in the significance for our faith of those aspects of Christianity to which others respond and in understanding connections and context for mission.  


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Brompton Oratory.   

Experiential learning and lay training

Experiential learning was fundamental to the ministry of Jesus. He taught primarily by storytelling and without, in the main, explaining the stories he told. As a result, his listeners had to inhabit Jesus' stories and think for themselves about how they would respond as characters within these stories. We see this process in action as Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to a question from his audience and leading to his own question which is designed to provoke personal reflection on how to respond to the scenario and issues explored by the story.

In addition, Tom Wright has comprehensively demonstrated in The New Testament and the People of God and Jesus and the Victory of God how Jesus was also storytelling through the events of his ministry. By his actions and the dramas he initiated and played out he was retelling the story of the people of Israel in terms of himself.

The disciples which he gathered around him were drawn into this story to experience it for themselves and, while he sought to explain what was going on to them as it took place, they often did not understand at the time. How could they have? They were part of a story and process of experiential learning which could not be fully understand until its conclusion was reached with the Ascension. Once Jesus had completed the story and completed their process of experiential learning then they were empowered to begin a new chapter of the ongoing story by ministering confidently in the light of all they had learnt and understood.

Experiential learning is based on the four stages of learning identified by David. A. Kolb:

• Stage 1: Concrete experience – doing;
• Stage 2: Observation/Reflection – reviewing;
• Stage 3: Conceptualisation – concluding;
• Stage 4: Testing – planning.

Ruth Ackroyd and David Major in Shaping the Tools: Study Skills in Theology provide examples of the way in which experiential learning can be used effectively within a church context. For example, they provide a hypothetical example of a new Sunday School teacher giving a first lesson to illustrate the way in which experiential learning can be applied in a church context. They conclude that:
“… learning of the experiential sort is almost inevitably multi-disciplinary. Learning about the content of the syllabus is not enough to make our Sunday School teacher a success. He will also need to pay attention to the teaching methods he uses and subject them to the same experiential learning cycle. He will also come to see that not all of the children in his group learn in the same way … These observations and reflections on experience may lead him to consult books on educational theory where he may learn about such things as individual learning preferences and styles of learning … Again, when planning for the next lesson, his new learning will inform his thinking … The experiential learning cycle also offers a great deal of potential for the Sunday School teacher to learn more about himself so that, as well as learning about the Bible and Christian doctrine, teaching methods and children’s learning, he is also engaging in critical reflection upon his own life.”
They argue that the models of reflective practitioners and critical thinkers are appropriate to facilitating the development of congregations and individuals within congregations. In doing so, they highlight the work of Reginald Revans and Paulo Freire. Revans argues that experiential learning involves the whole being including the religious and spiritual dimension while Freire’s dialogical model of education aims to overcome disabling issues and liberate from oppression .

The Church of England, as a whole, has been learning to place less reliance on full-time stipendiary clergy. Patterns of collaborative working between clergy and parishes have grown. New opportunities for leadership responsibility have become available for self-supporting clergy and Readers, Church Army Evangelists and Ordained and Lay Pioneer Ministries. In addition, the roles such as Pastoral Assistant and Evangelist have been recognised and there are growing numbers of employed and voluntary Children, Youth and Family Workers in parishes. This trend is to be welcomed as a proper expression of the full variety of ministry gifts within the Body of Christ but to continue this trend will require greater use of experiential learning.

At this time when the Church of England needs to, for reasons of mission and deployment, further diversify its education and training provision for lay ministry by licensing or local commissioning of a broader range of lay ministries (e.g. aspects of ministry such as preparation for occasional offices, community work, leading of funerals, inter-faith engagement etc), it will be vital to deliver the greatest level of access possible for lay people to Lay Education and Training in dioceses. To do this too will require much greater use of localised, experiential learning.

Parish ministry has reinforced for me the sense of pressure which most of us experience in everyday life and the difficulty many lay people experience in finding time for more than work, family commitments, and church attendance. In this context, gifted people are often unable to train for ministry because training structures are insufficiently flexible and tailored to fit within their time constraints.

In order to respond effectively a mixed economy of delivery based on the principle of subsidiarity (that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority) will be required including use of accreditation of prior learning (to remove duplication of learning), modular and/or distance learning (to ensure flexibility of timing and location of training), and parish-based delivery for locally commissioned roles (in order that education and training is delivered as close as possible to each local setting). This would create, to the fullest extent possible, tailored learning packages able to overcome access issues through flexible/localised delivery and the use of personalised learning styles.


Pink Floyd - Time.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Windows on the world (146)

High Leigh, 2011


River City People - Say Something Good.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Community Audit outcomes (2)

As part our project to improve the environment along Aldborough Road South, the Seven Kings and Newbury Park Resident's Association (SKNPRA) asked Redbridge Council for a bench near the shops, which has now been provided. The bench was requested to assist those needing to rest when going to and from the local shops and demonstrates that the Council, despite current financial constraints, are willing to consider and support requests from the community where possible.

In March 2010 SKNPRA, in partnership with the Fitter for Walking project, undertook a community audit of Aldborough Road South, a key road in Seven Kings linking the High Road and Eastern Avenue via Seven Kings Park. The findings of the Community Audit formed a report which was presented to the Area 5 and Area 7 committees and highlighted issues of traffic speeds, pavement parking, damaged paving, renewal of signage, litter, and seating in public areas along Aldborough Road South.

Since that point SKNPRA and the Fitter for Walking project have been negotiating with the local authority and other groups to implement a number of the recommendations from the report. Outcomes from the report have to date included:
  • the Fitter for Walking project purchasing two plantlocks (planters to which bikes can be locked) for the community garden at St John's Seven Kings and funding leaflets publicising the Church Art Trail for which Aldborough Road South is one of three main link roads;
  • through Redbridge Council's Street Cleansing service, a major clean-up of Aldborough Road South was organised which saw large amounts of rubbish removed from front gardens;
  • a successful funding application to the Area 5 and 7 committees to repair and renovate the bandstand in Seven Kings Park;
  • Tom Platt from the Fitter for Walking project has been working with pupils from Downshall Primary School to discuss the benefits of walking and the important role they can play in the local community in making their streets safer, more attractive and more enjoyable places to walk and spend time in. He has led three walks to Seven Kings Park with the Year 1s.
  • Tom Platt has also started to run an art project with Years 5 and 6 at Downshall School in collaboration with artist Effie Coe from Invisible Dust. Pupils will work with Effie to explore creatively the role they can play in the local community in making their streets safer, more attractive and more enjoyable places to walk and spend time in. At the end of this process Effie will use the children's artwork to inspire a mural for the outside wall of the school. The purpose of the mural will be to make the street a more attractive and vibrant place.
SKNPRA and St John's Seven Kings will be organising a community event, in the community garden at St John's, on Saturday 21st May to celebrate these achievements, open the community garden, provide community information, promote gardening, and hold a Plant and Table-top sale.


Mark Kennedy, Membership Officer for SKNPRA says, "Our aim has always been to work closely with residents in both the areas we represent, together with community groups, council departments and other independent agencies from time to time to achieve one aim which is to actively to improve the communities we live in. The improvements in Aldborough Road South resulting from our Community Audit are our latest initiative to get our hands dirty to improve the road and area for all resident's benefit. We are always on the look out for new members to join our association as the more members we represent the more we can achieve with people giving us their views and support to make the community a better place to live in for all to enjoy."

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Airbrushed from Art History (22)

Iconographer Aidan Hart has argued that "the characteristic feature of last century’s iconography, world-wide, is a shift from a somewhat decadent, sentimental style back to traditional models." Although there were scholarly and social influences helping to effect this revival, he suggests, the return to the actual painting of traditional icons was initiated by just a few iconographers:

"The revival of traditional iconography in Greece is mainly attributable to Photius Kontoglou, who actively used his abilities as a painter, scholar and writer to promote the cause.

Kontoglou was born in 1895 in Ayvali, Asia Minor. After the death of his father the next year he was raised by his mother and her brother, who was abbot of the family monastery. He studied in 1913 at the Athens School of Fine arts, but at the outbreak of the War he travelled throughout western Europe, studying its art, before in due course he came to study and work in Paris. Here he worked as a designer for the "Illustration" publication, from which he received a prize. He began his writing career in 1918 when he wrote and illustrated "Pedro Cazas". In 1919 he returned to his home town where he taught French and technical drawing for two years. In 1922, after the disastrous Asia Minor campaign for which he had been conscripted, he departed to Athens, and married Maria in 1925.

Most of the extant works up to this time are highly accomplished naturalistic works, and generally non-religious in subject matter. Portraits and illustrations predominate. However, there is a discernible growing influence of icons in the simpler, more abstracted style. The earliest overt icon I can find is a Baptism of Christ dated 19232, so it is clear that even in this early time he was being attracted to the Byzantine tradition.

In 1930 he was appointed as technical adviser to the Byzantine museum, Athens. In 1932 he began his fresco painting career by painting, with his pupils Tsarochis and Nikos Engonopoulos, his newly built house in Patisia, Athens.

In 1933 he directed the Coptic museum in Egypt, then the following two years helped clean the wall paintings of Mystra, Greece. From 1937-40 he painted the wall paintings for the Athens City Hall. The most intense time for painting icons and frescos and for writing was from the 1945 until his death in 1965. With his assistants he painted about 5,000 square yards of frescoes, most of which can be found in Athens. Altogether he wrote over a dozen books plus numerous articles. His chief book is "Ekphrasis", published in 2 volumes. This is a painter’s practical manual, and explains techniques as well as the contents of all the major icons."

In Russia Hart writes:

"From the 1930’s, a secret nun named Sister Yuliania (Maria Nikolia Sakalova in the world) was secretly painting icons based on the recently restored medieval icons. Immediately after Stalin officially recognised the Church in 1944, St Sergius’ Lavra was re-established and with it a seminary and academy. Here Sister
Juliania immediately began teaching iconography and restoration to seminarians and monks, and continued to do so until her death in the 1970’s. Hers was the first official academy of iconography in communist Russia and to her is primarily due the restoration in Russia of traditional iconography. It appears to me that her models were taken mainly from the Moscow school of Rubliof’s time (14th and 15th centuries). In
the 1970’s lay people began to come and study under her as well. Her pupils continue the teaching tradition there.

More recently, Archimandrite Zenon has become among the most famous of Russian iconographers. His characteristic feature, at least since the latter 1980’s, has been the choice of inspiration from the Middle Byzantine Era (ninth to thirteenth centuries) rather than Russian models.

Father Zenon was born in 1953 in Pervomaisk of the Nikolayev region where, perhaps significantly, there had been Greek settlements. He later studied at the Odessa arts college, where in his second year he began to paint icons. He then did his military service, as an artist, after which in 1976 he became a monk at Pskov-Pechery monastery.

From 1983 until 1989 he began work on the St Daniel Monastery in Moscow , the new Patriarchal centre. There many Moscow artists began to paint under his direction. A few years ago he was made abbot of an ancient monastery, to restore it and to establish an iconography school in the context of the monastic life. However, after disciplinary action over an ecclesiastical issue he left, with one or two of his monks, to live in a village near the boarder of Estonia and Russia, north of Pskov. Pupils from all over the world still come to study under him, which together with publications of his work and the icons themselves ensure the spread of his influence.

His earlier works, like the St Nicholas Chapel at Pskov, are mainly in the 14th century Russian tradition - particularly the Moscow and Novgorodian schools. Around 1988 works like the St Seraphim side-chapel of the Trinity Cathedral Church of Pskov show a greater influence from the Middle Byzantine period. It should be noted also that there exist in Pskov works from this period, still in the Byzantine style, which doubtless had a direct influence on Fr. Zenon."

Hart writes of Leonid Ouspensky and Fr. Gregory Kroug that few Orthodox "need an introduction to these two painters, particularly perhaps Ouspensky:

"Leonid Ouspensky is known mainly through the many pupils whom he has tutored in Paris, and through his books "The Meaning of Icons", written jointly with Vladimir Lossky, and "The Theology of the Icon", now available in expanded form in two volumes.

Ouspensky has an interesting history. He was born in Russia, where he fought as a teenager with the Red Army. He and some of his comrades were captured by the White Army, who were fleeing the Reds at the time. In the midst of their flight the White soldiers decided to dispose of all their captives, and so lined them up and proceeded to shoot them. Their captain stopped them in time to save the young Ouspensky. He was subsequently taken by them to Germany, where he worked in a mine for some time. Later he went to Paris where he studied art, and began painting icons. Later he came to be known not only as a painter but as a teacher of the craft, as well as a writer and a lecturer on the theology of icons at the St Serge Institute in

Among Ouspensky’s best known pupils is the American, Thomas Doolan, now the monk Father Simonas. In our own country another pupil, Mariamna Fortunatto, is known for her teaching the art of iconography.

The other key figure for the Russian tradition in Europe is Fr. Gregory Krug, who lived also in Paris and often worked with Ouspensky. He was born in Petersburg in 1908. His father was Lutheran of Swedish origin and his mother was Russian Orthodox. They later moved to Estonia. Raised in the Lutheran tradition, the future Fr. Gregory became Orthodox at the age of 19. In 1928 he studied art in Tallin, then later in Tartu. In 1931 he left for Paris, where he studied further at the Academy of Art, under Milioti and Samov. But his icon-painting career began when he learned to paint icons with Federov, Stelletsky and Sister Jean (Reitlinger).

During the war he suffered psychologically, from depression I think, and was hospitalised. With the help of his spiritual father he recovered enough to leave and become a monk at the Skete of the Holy Spirit. There for the next twenty years of his life he dedicated himself to icon-painting. He also painted frescoes in churches outside the skete, notably, along with Leonid Ouspensky, the Russian Patriarchal Cathedral in Paris. In this country the monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex has the largest number of his icons. He died in 1969."

Juha Malmisalo, in In Pursuit of the Genuine Christian Image, has written about the revived icon in Lutheran churches, with a specific focus on the work and influence of Erland Forsberg.

She argues that the 20th century:

"was a century of re-evaluation in terms of the artistic, cultural, and religious values of Byzantine religious art. The modernist artistic era put a value on the originality and folkloristic authenticity of Eastern ritual art, which has often been stripped of its original cultic frames and re-located in museums, galleries and collections as objects of artistic contemplation rather than retaining their role as a means of worship and source of spirituality. This development, or change, or expansion of context and use affected both Sweden and Finland, and indeed the whole of Western Europe."

Interestingly, she writes: "the new icon production began concurrently with the stylistic turn from non-presentational modernism to the re-emergence of the pictorial, the presentational, and the narrative in the field of the Fine Arts ... the modernist idea of folkloristic authenticity and appreciation of the naïve did not create an open space of possibles in Sweden and Finland until the 1960s and 1970s."

Forsberg’s desire was "to take in public the position of a genuine and true Old-Church traditionalist icon painter in the social fields accessible to him":

"It was a fight for recognition since, according to him, contemporary church art had failed in its mission. He attempted to create new standards, to turn the positive and negative poles, the power structure of the field of contemporary Lutheran church art production, upside-down by maintaining that it was the revived icon – and not the individualism, "chaos", and "hopelessness" of modernist church art – that represented true Christian Art: the positive, the hopeful, and the age-old."

Forsberg attempted "to become a consecrated icon painter within Lutheranism and to bring new Byzantine pictorial forms and evaluations into Swedish and Finnish contemporary church art."

"Forsberg’s teacher, Uniat Father de Caluwé, is understood as the inheritor of a tradition carried on by the Old Belief Confessors Gavriíl Frolóv and Pimen Sofronov … the chain … through the Old Belief Confessors, the keepers of the original tradition ... proceeds to the Uniat Father and on to the Lutheran Erland Forsberg, to Kjellaug Nordsjö, and to Lars Gerdmar, who uses Forsberg’s name as a means of legitimization."

Yet, a "chain-like presentation of the discipleships is far too simplified to describe the actual network of sharing ideas and influences," Malmisalo writes:

"Nordsjö, for example, would be presented in a commercial connection not only as Forsberg’s pupil, but also as one of de Caluwé’s and others’. Her schooling includes art studies "in the early years" (i unga år) in Oslo and Rotterdam. Gerdmar, in his brief autobiography, puts an especially high value on his contact with Leonid Ouspensky. Moreover, an open letter of recommendation introduces him as a student of art history at the University of Lund, and of icon painting at the New Valamo monastery in Heinävesi, and as an assistant in conservation work. Even the essential elements of Sofronov’s Old-Believer habitus were re-formed when he established connections with Catholics."

In Great Britain Hart suggests that virtually all Orthodox iconographers have been working in the Russian tradition:

"Mention could be made of Fr. David of Walsingham, perhaps known most for his icons of British saints, and his pupil, Leon Lidament. We have already mentioned Mariamna Fortunatto, whose teaching on the theology and the practice of icon-painting has been of great service over the past decades. Although I do not know her work personally, I understand that Matushka Patsy Fostiropolos is busy. The nuns of the Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex have under the inspiration of Father Sophrony been producing for fifteen years portable icons, frescoes, mosaics, carvings, enamels and embroidery. And then there are numerous other iconographers in various stages of development painting as much as their family or work commitments allow. In the last ten years Sergi Feodorof, a pupil of Fr. Zenon, has become well known through his commissions for Anglican and Catholic cathedrals and abbeys."

In 2007 the Wallspace gallery gathered together 15 contemporary, traditional iconographers who live and work in the UK for what was believed to be the first exhibition of its kind as, while there have been survey exhibitions of icons from other places in the world (such as Russia, Greece and the Balkans), there had never before been an opportunity to get the work of the very best iconographers in Britain together in one place. Not all of the iconographers in Epiphany were UK-born, but they were all working here. And while all the icons shown were contemporary, they were nonetheless produced in the traditional manner, using authentic ancient designs and methods.

Epiphany included works by some of the best current practitioners of traditional iconography, including:

Matushka Patricia Fostiropoulos, who teaches iconography at the Orthodox Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom in central London. Fostiropoulus was first introduced to icons during her training in education and dance. In the early 1970s, having been received into the Orthodox Church, she went to Paris and studied with Russian iconographer Leonid Ouspensky. Since then she has painted icons, both large and small, for individuals, churches and cathedrals as well as, more recently, teaching iconography at the Orthodox Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom in central London.

Aidan Hart, visiting tutor for The Prince's School of Traditional Arts and lecturer at the Cambridge University International Summer School. Hart has been a professional icon painter, carver and fresco painter for over 20 years. Born in England, he was raised in New Zealand, where he gained a degree in English literature and later worked as a professional sculptor. On becoming a member of the Orthodox Church he returned to England and for 12 years explored as a novice the monastic life. He has studied the art of iconography in Britain, Thessalonica and Mount Athos. Among his major commissions are works in the collections of HRH The Prince of Wales and His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeios. He has had icons and frescoes commissioned in over 15 countries. He  runs two icon courses a year in Shropshire. He has lectured widely, has had numerous articles published, and has curated four exhibitions of old and new icons.

Dr Guillem Ramos-Poqui, a founding member of the Association of Iconographers of Ireland, and a Patron of the Association of British Iconographers. Ramos-Poqui has taught and given demonstrations on the technique of icon painting in numerous museums and monasteries in Europe and the United States, and has undertaken many church commissions. He was Head of Fine Art at Kensington and Chelsea College, London (1990-2004). He now paints full time and also teaches advanced painting at Morley College. His book The Technique of Icon Painting, was first published in the UK by Search Press in 1990.

Dr Stéphane René, the foremost exponent of the Contemporary Coptic style, an associate of the Temenos Academy and also teaches at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts. René has practiced Coptic Iconography since the early 1980s. He spent six years in Cairo, as an apprentice in the studio of the late Coptic master Prof Isaac Fanous Yossef, the founder of the Neo-Coptic School. This unique style of Iconography draws heavily on its Pharaonic artistic heritage as well as modern art theory, yet remains deeply rooted in Orthodox Christian theology. René is the foremost exponent of the Contemporary Coptic style in the western hemisphere. He received his PhD in 1990 from the Royal College of Art, London and has worked extensively in the USA and Europe for the Coptic, as well as Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
Silvia Dimitrova who was born in Pleven, Bulgaria and won a place at the prestigious School of Applied Arts at Troyan at the age of 13. She graduated in 1989, and then studied icon painting in Sofia under the tuition of Georgi Tchouchev, the grand master of Bulgarian icons. In 1999 she was commissioned by Downside Abbey to paint the Icon of St Benedict and, in 2000, worked as artist-in-residence at Wells Cathedral - with a commission to paint the Stations of the Cross for the Millennium. Silvia was shortlisted for the European Women of Achievement Awards 2000 for contributions to the Arts. Since then she has been working on both private and public commissions including St Paul's Cathedral, London and Hertford College, Oxford.

Sister Petra Clare, who is inspired by the vision of renewing the ancient skete tradition within mainstream western monastic life at the Sanci Angeli Skete, Marydale, Cannich, Inverness-shire where she now lives and works. She has completed icons for, among others: The Bishop of Aberdeen, Rt Rev Mario Conti; Cambridge University Catholic Chaplaincy; Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland; Walsingham Pilgrimage memorial book and the St Barnabas Society.

Sister Nadejda (Owiny), who was born in Moscow, where she studied textiles and decorative arts. She taught in the Faculty of Textile at the Stroganoff Art Institute and worked at the State Conservation and Restoration Workshop. Marrying and coming to Britain in 1976 she worked in the Textile Conservation Laboratories at Hampton Court Palace, and joined Cecil Collins's master class in drawing and colour at the Central School of Art and Design. Since 1981 she has been a member of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral parish at Ennismore Gardens, where she trained in iconography under Mariamna Fotounatto, former pupil of Ouspensky. In 2002 she took a monastic vocation and went to Russia to undertake an intensive course in Icon painting. She now lives as an anchorite and paints icons for churches and individual commissions.

Sister Esther (Pollak), who is a member of the Benedictine Community at Turvey Abbey in Bedfordshire. She is co-founder and president of the British Association of Iconographers. She has undertaken many commissions for icons, and runs courses at Turvey Abbey and elsewhere. She is also attached to the Greek Catholic Melkite Parish in London. This, together with her involvement with icons and Orthodoxy, is part of the calling of her Benedictine Foundation to work and pray for the unity of Christians from both eastern and western traditions.

The Revd Regan O'Callaghan, who is originally from New Zealand and completed his further education in England with an MA in Christian Ethics at Kings College, London and then studied for Ordination in the Church of England at Westcott House, Cambridge. During his ordination training he spent five months on exchange to the Venerable English College in Rome, as well as one month's study at the Tantur Ecumenical Centre in Israel. Regan has been based at St John's on Bethnal Green since September 2003 as a self-supporting priest. He has studied iconography in the studio of Sr Bernadette Crook for the past five years. He is a member of the British Association of Iconographers. Regan's commissions include icons for Diocesan House, London, St Paul's Covent Garden and an icon for St Paul's Cathedral.
Hart concludes:

"We can characterise twentieth century iconography first, by a return to traditional models in the Orthodox countries, and second, by the reintroduction of the icon tradition itself to the west. Though we might regret icons being bought and sold as art objects on the commercial market, at least this process, along with often secular scholarship, has brought the icon tradition and Orthodoxy in general much more into the western public consciousness. Icons have a life of themselves, independent of the reasons people might buy or sell them.

Thirdly, and I think this is what concerns us most, there was and is still, a growing feeling that in fact we might not have returned to the tradition as much as we thought we had. Having effectively lost the tradition, we are finding that it is not so easy to regain it in all its subtlety and profundity. We need to dig deeper still, to understand the icon’s timeless principles so that new icons can be more authentic, can go beyond the extremes of fearful copying and impatience “to do one’s own thing” before humbly imbibing the tradition."

Arvo Part - Magnificat.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Windows on the world (145)

High Leigh, 2011


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Airbrushed from Art History (21)

Daniel Johnson Fleming wrote that his book Each with His Own Brush: Contemporary Christian Art in Asia and Africa (Friendship Press New York, 1938) was "the first attempt … to bring together pictures of Christian paintings from various lands." He wrote:

"Now that Christianity has become ecumenical (or, in the literal sense of this word, has gained a foothold in all parts of the inhabited earth), one expectantly surveys the younger Christian communities of the world to see what use the church has made of form and color in the expression of her life and faith. This expansion of Christianity into the non-Christian world opens up a new significant period, not only in the expression of the spirit but also in art."

Fr. Sergio Ticozzi, PIME, wrote in Tripod in 2008 that "the new schools of Christian painting in China, Japan, Korea, Indochina, Indonesia and India … succeeded in translating with the brush all the poetry of their art, so spiritual, and celebratory of the Christian mysteries. Theirs is an art perfectly Christian and deeply indigenous!" Similarly, Fr. Joseph Schad, SJ, has written that: "The history of the Society of Jesus is marked with examples of Jesuits encouraging indigenous artists to take Christian imagery and make it their own. In India, the Philippines, Japan, Mexico, and Paraguay, this process found beautiful and powerful expression in religious art."

Archbishop Celso Costantini (1876-1958, later a Cardinal), who was the Apostolic Delegate to China beginning in 1922, was one of those who sought to inculturate the Christian faith in indigenous cultures. His own artistic talent and expertise in the fields of sculpture and architecture greatly contributed to his efforts. He wrote in 1940:

"One day, in 1929, I went to visit in Peiping the personal exhibition of the painter Chen Yuandu. I noticed that this young artist showed a special mastery of his craft, good talent, together with a very solid background in the national style of painting. What I enjoyed most was the spirit and poetry that his paintings expressed. It could be said that he turned lines into scale and the colors into music. I invited him to come to the Delegation's quarters, and I talked to him about the Virgin Mary and the Bible. I showed him several pictures of the early Italian painters and handed him religious works of art for study. After a few days, he painted a picture of the Virgin Mary adoring the Child Jesus, and showed it to me. This beautiful picture in the Chinese style, which has been published in almost all the missionary magazines, became the first symbol of the new Chinese Catholic painting. At Pentecost in 1932, Mr. Chen received baptism and joined the Catholic Church, taking the name of Luke."

Fr. Ticozzi continued the story: "Luke Chen Yuandu (Chen Xu, 1902/03-1967) was later invited to teach in the Art Department of Furen [Fu Jen] Catholic University in Beijing. He formed a group of Catholic artists. Their work has enjoyed considerable success, both in Beijing and in the West. Among his students were Lu Hong Nian, Wang Su Da, Zeng San, Xu Qi Hua, Monica Liu, and other artists. The Art Department of Furen Catholic University produced more than 180 works of Christian art. From 1935 to 1938, the Art Department organized three exhibitions each year for consecutive years. In 1938, at the instigation of Mgr. Costantini, it also organized and conducted a series of itinerary exhibitions in Budapest, Vienna and the Vatican (Rome)."

Fr. Schad wrote about the mission work among the Aborigine peoples undertaken through the Kutjungka Catholic Church at Wirramanu in the Balgo Hills, Australia:

"The bright, acrylic paintings of Balgo are much like stained-glass windows that tell bible stories through brightly colored pieces of glass. The … placement of these articles and figures, the colors, and Aboriginal design elements give an extraordinary character to these works ...

In the works of certain artists, such as Matthew Gill, this integration and interplay of Aboriginal and Christian imagery occurs … successfully and beautifully. Using the earthy reds, yellow ochres, and black and white of traditional cave drawings, Matthew Gill produces striking images of biblical narrative, such as the parable of the Prodigal Son and Pentecost. His paintings have been exhibited in Australia and abroad, but some of his most important initial works hang in the church in Balgo ...

Gracie Mosquito, another artist who lives and works in Wirramanu, is an active member of the parish. Her earlier works, some created in collaboration with other artists, portray similar Christian themes. One of her banners depicts the Holy Spirit as a beautiful bird rendered in pastels, reminiscent of Native American design. There are streams of tear-like drops seemingly emitting from the body of the creature. When asked about the meaning of these stylized droplets, she said that they were blessings flowing from God that envelop the Spirit and are simultaneously "sent out" from the Holy Ghost to all Christians ...

Linda Syddick … lives in a community just outside Alice Springs, more than 500 miles east of Wirramanu. Her works masterfully incorporate a classic dot design in untraditional color combinations. A catalogue describes one of Linda's more explicitly Christian works as a depiction of "the spirits of Aborigines in heaven praying for Aboriginal people on earth." This same overtly religious aspect of Linda's work is also apparent in some of her other paintings, most notably a representation of the Ascension, in which Christ, poised for flight, is brilliantly clothed in yellow ochre robes punctuated with golden crosses, all pointing toward heaven."

The ELC Art and Craft Centre at Rorke’s Drift, Natal, was established in 1962 and had a significant impact on the development of South African art and craft in the 1960s and 1970s. This influence continued in the 1980s, through the graduated students who have filtered into many areas of South African cultural life. Graduates of the ELC Fine Art Course have gone on to work as administrators and educators at virtually all of the existing art centres in the country.

The Art and Craft Centre was established in 1962 by Swedish artists Ulla and Peder Gowenius, who were employed by the Church of Swedish Mission. A Fine Art School was included in the activities and during its 20 years of existence many students from all over of Southern Africa have attended of which many have won national and international acclaim. Rorke's Drift has been the home of worlds famous artists like John Muafangejo, Azaria Mbatha, Bongi Dlomo, Pat Mautla and others and today there are such recognised artists and crafters like the weavers Philda Majozi, Emma Dammann, in the ceramic studio like Gordon Mbatha, Joel Sibisi, Elizabeth Mbatha.

Such initiatives led over time to the formation of Christian Art Associations such as the Asian Christian Art
Association (ACAA) which was founded in 1978 to encourage the visual arts in Asian churches:

"At that first consultation of artists in Bali, the aims of the Association were clearly stated, as follows:

" To encourage artists to express Christian concern through their art in an Asian context.
" To coordinate the activities of individuals and groups in the Asian region who are working on indigenous
art forms.
" To provide a means of communication and information.
" To work with churches, with the Christian Conferences of Asia and with other bodies seeking to witness to Christian faith in Asia.

This association was the result of many conversations between artists and theologians in Asia. Theologians who appreciate the creative mind of the artists as expressed in their works have also inspired and helped artists in their theological reflections which are manifest in their paintings, sculptures and dances. The Christian Conference of Asia has played a significant role in facilitating the birth of this very important ecumenical association of artists in Asia, which has enriched the ecumenical movement globally.

In the last twenty years, many exhibitions have been held not only in Asian countries, but also in Europe,
North America and Australia. Members have been assisted to exhibit their works nationally and internationally." (WEA Connections, September 2010)

Several books, such as Christian Art in Asia, Bible through Asian Eyes, and Christ for All People: Celebrating a World of Christian Art, have been produced by those, such as Masao Takenaka and Ron O’Grady, who have been involved in ACAA and which testify to the mission and talent of numerous artists worldwide.

Three significant artists with links to ACAA include He Qi, Jyoti Sahi and Sadao Watanabe:
  • "He Qi was a professor at the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary and a tutor for master candidate students in the Philosophy Department of Nanjing University. He is also a member of the China Art Association and a council member of the ACAA. He has been committed to the artistic creation of modern Chinese Christian Art since 1983. He hopes to help change the "foreign image" of Christianity in China by using artistic language, and at the same time, to supplement Chinese Art the way Buddhist art did in ancient times. In his works, He Qi has blended together Chinese folk customs and traditional Chinese painting techniques with the western art of the Middle and Modern Ages, and has created an artistic style of colour-on-paper painting."
  • "Jyoti Sahi was born in 1944 in Pune and studied art for four years in London, at the Camberwell school of Arts and Crafts. On returning to India, he taught art at the American International School in Delhi, and the Blue Mountains School in Ooty, South India. In 1967 Jyoti joined Dom Bede Griffiths, and Laurie Baker at Kurisumala Ashram in Kerala, where there was the idea to create a community of people interested in relating Indian Christian life to the cultural traditions of India. Jyoti set up the Indian School of Art for Peace (INSCAPE) in 1983, with the idea of relating art to Indian spirituality. Jyoti has been running art workshops, and art retreats for groups who want to relate art practices and spiritual insights in the Indian context. Groups of students as well as pilgrims to Indian Ashrams have spent time at the Art Ashram exploring the creative dimensions of their life, using extended art practices as a means to self discovery."
  • "Born in Tokyo in 1913, Sadao Watanabe began by specializing in the art of "Katazome" (stencil printing). He studied under Soetsu Yanagi and Keisuke Serizawa. In 1947 he won the first prize from the Japan Folk Art Museum; and the Kokugokai Prize in 1948. A one-man show was held at the Portland Art Museum in 1962 and his works were exhibited in the Modern Print Show at the 1972 Winter Olympics, Sapporo, Japan. Taught printmaking in Oregon and Minnesota and in 1976 visit America again at the invitation of the Lutheran Church. One man show at the Grace Cathedral, San Francisco in 1977. In 1981, received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Linfield College, Oregon. Watanabe's works are in numerous collections including the New York Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Vatican Museum of Modern Religious Art."
Jide Chord - Romeo and Juliet.

Prayer - Thanksgiving

Three prayers collaging lines from the likes of Anselm, Karl Barth and William Temple, among others:

O Lord God our Father. You are the light that can never be put out; and now you give us a light that shall drive away all darkness. You are love without coldness, and you have given us such warmth in our hearts that we can love all when we meet. You are the life that defies death, and have opened up for us the way that leads to eternal life. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, in the light that shines in the darkness and which has never been extinguished. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, in the light that shines in the face of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and which reveals your glory. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, in the light of the Holy Spirit which inflames our hearts and inspires our worship. Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Now and for ever. Amen.

Thank you, Jesus, for a mother’s unfailing love, for her unstinting devotion and steadfastness, for her wisdom and support, and for always ‘being there’ in times of happiness and stress. Thank you for love and forbearance, for laughter enjoyed and sorrow shared. Thank you, Jesus, for the comfort of a close friend; for the sharing of life and our deepest selves along the Way. Thank you for peace given to each other sincerely, and received beautifully; for open arms in which the love of God shone. Help us remember your gifts and be glad to give you praise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O Lord our God, from whom neither life nor death can separate us from those who trust in your love, and whose love holds in its embrace your children in this world and in the next, so unite us to yourself, that in fellowship with you we may be always united to our loved ones whether here or there. So give us courage, constancy and hope. May we so know and love you that we rejoice in you and if we may not do so fully in this life, let us go steadily on to the day when we come to that fullness. None of us is a great Christian; we are all humble and ordinary. But your grace is enough for us. Let the knowledge of you increase in us here, and there let it come to its fullness. Let your love grow in us here, and there let it be fulfilled, so that here our joy may be in a great hope, and there in full reality. Amen.


U2 - Magnificent.

Where is your heart?

This was my Ash Wednesday meditation, suggesting, for Lenten self-examination, the question 'Where is your heart?':

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6. 21

Treasure - Iona

Consider the flowers of the field
In their beauty
More lovely than even the clothes of a king
Consider the birds of the air
Flying high, flying free
You are precious to me

Where your treasure is
There is your heart

If a son asks his father on earth
For fish or for bread
Who among you would give him
A snake or a stone
How much more does the Father above
Have a heart full of love
For the children that He calls His own

Where your treasure is
There is your heart

Matthew 13: 44-46 (The Message)
"God's kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic — what a find! — and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field. Or, God's kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it."

The Pearl of Great Price – Peter Rollins

Where is your heart?


Caedmon - Beyond The Second Mile.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Airbrushed from Art History (20)

The interviews which James Romaine carried out for Objects of Grace provide an interesting survey of artists expressing their faith in and through contemporary art and those that they view as peers or influences.

Dan Callis is a visual artist/educator whose work includes painting, drawing, and installation. Currently, his work explores issues of visual hybridization, arising from the interaction between artifice and ecology, spontaneity and the mediation.

When he spoke to Romaine, Callis explored connections between his work and that of Anselm Keifer:

"There is a strange sense of longing and mourning, also a sense of reckoning. The layering of imagery and material makes the work operate somewhere between memory and vision ... The work is so grounded in the history of painting and at the same time it transcends the issues that have hamstrung painters in the last two decades. This what I hope for my work. To acknowledge my traditions and use those traditions as a vehicle (or at least the fuel) to break free of the current orbital confines ...

Memory is made in place. Place is the ecosystem for memory. memory is story, individual and/or collective, and that occurs in place. This is history. That idea has been the common connection of all my work, the idea of memory, location (place) and community ...

I understand part of my role as an artist is to be a storyteller and I understand this role to be a redemptive act. I think that is one of the things that our works share: this belief in the redemptive quality of the art. The redemption comes, in part, from remembering. I would hope to evoke something forgotten, something important yet forgotten. I see that in Keifer's work. I also see in his work the role of the artist as a mediator or facilitator between memory and place ...

As a culture we are creating images at such a rapid pace and the bulk of these images are purely for consumption. Our memories are so meshed in the audio and visual drown of our commodity economy that we desperately need places to slow down, to reflect, to remember. And in this remembering there can be mourning, there can be celebration, and there can be reconciliation. I hope in some way my work locates or fixes the viewer in the space they are occupying and at the same time transcends that space. Keifer's work does that for me."

Callis thinks it is very exciting and dynamic time in the contemporary art world which is ripe with opportunity:

"With artists like Keifer, Robert Gober, or Kiki Smith, there are serious, spiritual questions being asked. It appears that we continue to be in a major period of flux and that means everything is up for question. As an artist of faith I believe it is paramount that we maintain a relevant place in the conversation. I think of the Southern California artist Tim Hawkinson, who showed in the 1999 Venice Biennial and ... Whitney Biennial. He and his wife, Patty Witkin (an accomplished painter and professor at UCLA) both are committed artists of faith and very active in the contemporary scene. I also think of Canadian artist, Betty Spackman, and her Austrian collaborator, Anja Westerfrölke. Both women are strong and committed believers and very active in the European art scene (including exhibiting their work at Documenta)." 

Albert Pedulla is a sculptor who makes mixed media installations and who has shown his work at museums and alternative spaces including the Museum of Fine Arts - Houston, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, City Without Walls, and many college campuses across the North East of America.

Pedulla views his work as questioning some of the Enlightenment foundations of Modernism and its self-satisfaction at the same time that Modernism is still the vocabulary he has to use in order to be engaged woth or relevant to this time. One of his disenchantments with Modernism is:

"The idea that could be created in an autonomous sphere that has nothing to do with the rest of life ... The artist, like anyone else, has to consider the consequences of their work. I think that, to a certain extent, the Modernist artist has done a disservice to culture and the public by not giving back to culture something that is of use ...

a holdover from the Enlightenment and Modernism ... holds that the real truth is in analytic proof that can be factually verified. This reduces Truth to fact ... Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence for which is still unseen ...

What is seen is the subject; the content is hidden except to those who are willing to discern it. In Wall Object #4 (With Fire and Light), the fire which is unseen to the viewer creates the marks which are seen. The illumination is created by a light source which is unseen. The idea, the faith ... also relates to the act of art making in general. It suggests the prayerful attitude that an artist can bring to her work. The artist's work can be a visual manifestation of an invisible prayer. By faith, the artist's prayers may be seen."

As a younger artist, Pedulla was very interested in the work of Sol LeWitt:

"He does many of his works directly on the wall, and my work is also directly on the wall. I find his work to be optically very beautiful but LeWitt's work is less critical of Modernism. I think my work is arguing with him at the same time it is engaging Modernism."

One artist he is very interested in is Robert Gober:

"Even though his work looks very different than mine, he seems to have a similar ambivalence about Modernism and is engaged in the question of true spirituality as contrasted with the clinical, closed, spirituality of Modernism. So I feel a certain kindred spirit with his work. Yet, on the surface, I don't think people would categorize us together."

Tim Rollins says:

"What is funny is that artists like Serrano and Gober, and even Mapplethorpe, were maybe trying to transcend the limitations and boundaries of denominational organized religion by creating these critiques, in which they engaged and challenged church traditions and doctrines. Many people mistake critique for sacrilege. I often wonder what Christ would have thought of Piss Christ? I think he would have agreed with the ethos of it, to be frank. I mean, most people think Piss Christ is a glorious image, glowing, and they're just ready to shout and get down on their knees and pray until they do find out that it is urine. It is a critique. You have a cheap plastic crucifix that represents how Christ was sold and how Christ really had to suffer rejection and hung out with literally the scum of the earth. But the light that comes out of it, and how you can make something that beautiful. When I see particular works, like Piss Christ, I moved by the pathos of them. They're not just vandalizing, or attacking people's faith. It's an honest engagement of what these individuals have been though, often negative encounters with the church ...

Is there something they could say to the artist to persuade them that perhaps this isn't the most beautiful, or this isn't the way to engage with religion or with God? ... That's why it is very important for us to make things that are beautiful, that are glorious, but that can be critical and vital and political simultaneously. Only beauty - love made visible - can change things. I think that is the ethos of Jesus as well. People come to church and they want some of this. I see it in their faces when the choir starts singing and this glory radiates. I see their longing like, "There is something going on here that I have never felt before and I want to feel." We as human beings are biologically wired for spiritual ecstasy. And we try to get it in every form but a one to one connection with the Almighty. I think art is a way to summon that connection. The glory of God - this is what we seek to demonstrate in our art. This is what I feel in front of great works of art."


The Blind Boys of Alabama ft Lou Reed - Jesus.