Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Sarehole Mill

Sarehole Mill was a childhood haunt of J.R.R. Tolkien. Born in South Africa in 1892, his family moved to Birmingham in 1896 and lived close to the mill for four years. Tolkien and his brother spent many hours playing around the mill. This and other local settings such as the Moseley Bog provided inspiration for 'Hobbitton' and 'The Shire' in his books The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Tolkien contributed to the restoration of the Mill in the 1960s. Sarehole Mill is part of the Tolkien Trail, which follows the childhood footsteps of the author and the places that influenced his writing. Download the Tolkien Trail leaflet (PDF).

Art in the West Midlands

There is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to art exhibitions in the West Midlands currently:

  • Metropolis: Reflections on the modern city is a major showcase of international contemporary artwork jointly collected by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the New Art Gallery, Walsall and developed in partnership with Ikon Gallery, as part of the £1 million Art Fund International initiative. Now shown together for the first time, these works represent an ambitious and nationally-significant new collection for Birmingham, Walsall and the West Midlands. Visions of the modern global city by some of the world's most exciting artists, Metropolis brings together stunning work by 25 contemporary artists of the highest international standing to Birmingham and includes digital projection, painting, sculpture, photography and mixed media installation.
  • Caught in the Crossfire: Artistic Responses to Conflict, Peace and ReconcilliationThis exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery takes us on a challenging journey from the home front to the frontline and back again, as seen through the eyes of artists, soldiers and people affected by conflict. Visitors travel through divided lands, debate the role of protest art, explore the aesthetics of violence and machinery of war, and reflect upon the aftermath of war where hope emerges and lives are rebuilt. A section of the exhibition focuses on the work of kennardphillipps made in response to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
  • Jacob Epstein and Damien Hirst: Birth, Death and Religion. Though Jacob Epstein died in 1959 – six years before Damien Hirst was born – they both deal with the universal themes of life, birth, death and religion which have been the subject matter of artists for many centuries. The work they both produce around these interrelated concerns highlights the way that artistic practices have changed throughout the 20th century along with our social attitudes towards them.
  • Bellini, Botticelli, Titian… 500 years of Italian ArtThis spectacular exhibition at Compton Verney comprises forty of the City of Glasgow’s greatest Italian paintings – the finest and most comprehensive civic collection in the UK, and mostly unseen outside Glasgow. The works are of the highest quality and richness and chronicle a remarkable time span from 1400 - 1900, demonstrating the gradual move from religious to secular subjects. This outstanding exhibition includes landscapes, portraits and devotional works from the Renaissance. It will be followed by Flight and the Artistic Imagination - an exhibition exploring the instinctive human desire to fly from the classical era to the modern day. Starting with the imaginations of Leonardo da Vinci and Francisco Goya and ending with space travel, satellite images and everyday air travel, it is an exciting exploration of creative responses to flight.

Deacon Blue - The Hipsters.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

At commission4mission exhibition in Harlow

Here I am at the recent commission4mission exhibition in Harlow. Thanks to Maciej Hoffman for the photographs.


Colin Burns - Linger Here.

Performance: An evening of music and poetry

The final event in this year's Barking Episcopal Area Arts Festival was Performance: An evening of music and poetry at Holy Trinity Hatfield Heath. I opened the evening with a selection of poems that included The Mark and Worthship. Colin Burns performed songs and instrumentals from his Emerald and Gold album, as well as new material. Jane Grell read from her newly published Collected Poems Praise Songs. The first half of the programme was brought to a resounding conclusion by the Brass of St Mary's (Sheering) that included both Be Still and Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines. Mal Grosch made a humorous start to the second half of the programme with poems from his new collection entitled Blackfriars. A choir from Holy Trinity and St Mary's reprised songs from the Roger Jones musical David. The evening's varied and thoroughly enjoyable  entertainment concluded with songs, a poem and a story by Jane Grell.


Mal Grosch - Sweet England.  

Monday, 27 May 2013

Parndon Mill and the River Stort Sculpture Trail

Scenes from Parndon Mill and the River Stort Sculpture Trail, including Over The Weir, a raised
walkway in metal and glass, and Flowing Onwards, which uses words suggested by a speech made to mark the opening of the River Stort to navigation in October 1769.


ELO - Mr Blue Sky.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Windows on the world (246)

Wimbledon, 2012


The Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Saints - evolving, personal and alive

Several current exhibitions in London make significant use of the Christian tradition of saints to comment on contemporary issues.

In Iconostasis at the Halcyon Gallery, Mitch Griffiths asks, 'Who are the icons of today? Who are the celestial equivalents of our age?' "Griffiths plays with the notion that our saints have now evolved – no longer heavenly, but worshipped for their unending trials and self-promotion through the media. Griffiths’ figures exist in a state of purgatory – neither holy nor common, famed nor unknown – hanging on the edge of a nirvana which is based no longer on divinity, but instead on a false sense of ecstasy ensued by the rituals and expected behaviours of contemporary society."

In Cecilia Vicuña's early paintings, "religious icons are replaced by personal, political and literary figures, and some were previously exhibited in her 1973 exhibition (Pain Things & Explanations) at London’s ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts)." Her exhibition at England & Co begins with a group of these "paintings from the early 1970s that narrate her own history, interwoven with that of Chile and Salvator Allende. These use a painting technique Vicuña learned in the late 1960s from the Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington; and were initially inspired by the naive and subtly subversive images made by 16th Century indigenous artists in Latin America after the Spanish conquest when they were forced to paint angels and saints for the Catholic Church."
Michael Landy: Saints Alive is the culmination of Landy’s position as the National Gallery’s current Rootstein Hopkins Associate Artist in residence.

"Landy’s imagination has been captured by images of saints in the collection; the colourful and detailed portrayal of their lives, their attributes, and stories of their single-mindedness and strength have provided powerful stimuli for Landy’s work. Towering over visitors, the seven large-scale sculptures swivel and turn, in movements that evoke the drama of each saint’s life. Saints Apollonia, Catherine, Francis, Jerome, Thomas – and an additional sculpture that takes a number of saints as its inspiration – fill the Sunley Room alongside collages on paper that show the creative process on which Landy embarked to arrive at the kinetic sculptures.

The large-scale sculptures are formed of re-imagined fragments of National Gallery paintings cast in fibreglass, painted and assembled with the surprising addition of metal cogs, wheels, defunct fan belts and motors that Landy has accumulated from junkyards, car boot sales and flea markets. Landy has reworked the two-dimensional images into energetic three-dimensional pieces, creating elements hidden from view in the original paintings, such as a saint’s back or the fullness of folds of drapery. Keen to involve visitors and to facilitate interaction with the works, Landy has devised foot pedal mechanisms that crank the works to life."
Richard Dorment, reviewing the exhibition for the Daily Telegraph, concludes:

"Landy’s interest in saints who were willing to suffer and die for their beliefs doesn’t seem so remote from the subjects he’s been dealing with throughout his career. What makes his take on the world so interesting to me is that he rejects both the materialism of Marxism on the one hand and of consumerism on the other in favour of a third possibility, that we can live our lives according to spiritual values, placing our trust in things we can’t see or touch or own – whether that entails religious belief or not.

What an artist."


James Macmillan - Padre Pio's Prayer

Paintings, photographs and poetry

I am currently showing a selection of works on paper plus a selection of Windows on the World photographs as part of the commission4mission exhibition at 20 Broadwalk, Harlow Town Centre CM20 1HT as part of the Barking Episcopal Area Arts Festival. The exhibition continues until Monday 27th May (10.00am - 4.00pm).

I will then be giving a poetry reading as part of Performance, an evening of poetry and music, 7.30pm at Holy Trinity Hatfield Heath also on Monday 27th May. Colin Burns, the Holy Trinity and 6 Villages Choir, Sheering Church brass band plus the poets Jane Grell and Mal Grosch are also contributing to Performance. 


Colin Burns - I Wait For You.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Stations of the Cross by Valerie Dean

An exhibition of 'Stations of the Cross' by Valerie Dean is currently at the Diocesan Office for the Chelmsford Diocese (53 New Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1AT). Valerie's 'Stations' will be in the Boardroom at Guy Harlings until Friday 26th June. Visits are by arrangement during normal office hours, as the boardroom is in regular use. Please check access before you visit by ringing 01245 294400. Valerie is keen to discuss ways of making these Stations available for any church that would be interested in having them. For more information see
Valerie came back to England, in the summer of 2007, after living for 27 years in Belgium. There, she studied art for six years and had various exhibitions, in and around Brussels. On returning to England, she became involved in the Kent arts scene and exhibits, regularly, in the Francis Iles gallery, in Rochester. She work in acrylics and her technique is usually to put materials and colours on canvas or board, to see what emerges. It is a dialogue between the artist and her materials. Because of her background, this often consists of figures around a religious theme. They just appear! Very often, people seem to want to appear in her paintings, a little like the pictures in the fire that she used to see in her childhood. At other times, she finds that buildings and places she knows inspire her.
In addition, commission4mission will be exhibiting at 20 Broadwalk  Harlow Town Centre CM20 1HT from 1.00pm tomorrow until 4.00pm on Monday 27th May as part of the Arts Festival for the Barking Episcopal Area ( This exhibition which features work by 11 of our artists is a pop-up in a vacant shop giving us a High Street location for work which both explores and celebrates our faith. On Saturday 25th May we are hosting a lunchtime reception at the exhibition to which you would be most welcome. The reception follows on from the morning of Art Talks being held at St Paul's Harlow ( where Bishop Stephen Cottrell and commission4mission member Mark Lewis will speak about the work of Stanley Spencer and John Piper.


Switchfoot - More Than Fine. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Art Pilgrimage and Jean Cocteau

A further article has been published by ArtWay in the series that I will be writing following visits to sites which are of interest in exploring the relationship between modern/contemporary art and faith.

This series began with a report of visits to sites in the South of France and has continued with visits to  St Christopher's Hospice to see the work of Marian Bohusz-Szyszko and to Notre Dame de France to see their murals by Jean Cocteau. My Art Pilgrimage will continue next year as the focus of the sabbatical I will take then.

Other pieces I have contributed to ArtWay include:


Ed Sheeran - Lego House.

Windows on the world (245)

Boulogne, 2012


Bob Dylan - Caribbean Wind.

Timelines covering philosophy, bible, history, theology

Click here for a post about Tim Hull, the creative genius behind the St John's Timeline Project. Tim is producing a series of Timelines covering philosophy, bible, history, theology and populating these timelines with some serious videos from the best scholars across the country.


Albert Ayler - Truth Is Marching In.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Originality: a misnomer inhibiting creativity

Ken Robinson makes an excellent case in today's Guardian for his argument that Michael Gove values creativity but doesn't understand it.

The nub of his argument is that: "creativity is not a linear process, in which you have to learn all the necessary skills before you get started. It is true that creative work in any field involves a growing mastery of skills and concepts. It is not true that they have to be mastered before the creative work can begin. Focusing on skills in isolation can kill interest in any discipline. Many people have been put off mathematics for life by endless rote tasks that did nothing to inspire them with the beauty of numbers. Many have spent years grudgingly practicing scales for music examinations only to abandon the instrument altogether once they've made the grade.

The real driver of creativity is an appetite for discovery and a passion for the work itself. When students are motivated to learn, they naturally acquire the skills they need to get the work done."

Where I disagree with him, however, is when he defines creativity "as the process of having original ideas that have value." The idea that we have original ideas is, I think, a misnomer which inhibits widespread creativity; a view which has been enhanced by reading the brilliant little book by Austin Kleon called Steal Like An Artist. Some of Kleon's arguments against the notion of originality can be read here.

Giles Fraser is, as ever, also well worth reading arguing that art and religion are too important to be placed in the hands of those who seek reductionist explanations of their value and taking issue with Maria Miller's argument that our focus must be on culture's economic impact. He compares this with the sort of realist propaganda with which communism specialised saying they both want to turn art into advertising.

He quotes Herbert Marcuse saying, "The power of art lies in its power to break the monopoly of established reality." His fascination with religion is its ability to do precisely the same:

"That it is able to suggest there is more to reality than the flat-footed empiricism of those who believe that if you can't count it, touch it or weigh it, it doesn't exist. In an age where religion has made itself look so foolish, art carries the torch for the sort of transcendence that art and faith once shared."

The essence of art and religion is not in trying to be original but, "to say things that cannot be said."


Thea Gilmore - I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine.

Community Information Day / Plant & Table-top Sale

We had a very successful Community Information Day combined with a Plant and Table-top Sale today at St John's Seven Kings which, as can be seen from the above photos, was a way of bringing our diverse local community together over Pentecost weekend as part of the Pentecost Festival's Biggest Birthday Party Ever initiative. Despite dire weather forecasts earlier in the week we had a dry morning in our Community Garden, with occasional glimpses of sunshine for good measure.

The Community Information Day was organised by the Seven Kings & Newbury Park Resident's Association (SKNPRA) and featured information stalls for: 5th Seven Kings Brownies, ASNET, Downshall Pre-School Playgroup, local churches, Goodmayes Quranic Study group, Kumon, National Blood Service, Newbury Park & Seven Kings Ward Councillors, Redbridge Labour Party, Redbridge Swimmers Association/Barkingside 21/Ilford Historical SocietyRedbridge Voluntary Care, Scouts & Rangers, Seven Kings Conservatives, Seven Kings Park User's Group, Seven Kings Safer Neighbourhood Team, Shine Dance Class, SKNPRA, Sophia Hubs and St Johns Road Neighbourhood Watch.

The Plant and Table-top Sale, ably organised by the Social and Fundraising Committee at St John's, had a wide range of stalls, excellent refreshments and was packed throughout the morning.

The event enabled the local community to support the ongoing work of St John's whilst enjoying the event as a whole. The Community Information Day brought our community together strengthening existing relationships and, for many of the groups present, introducing them to new users or volunteers.


Noah And The Whale - Give A Little Love.