Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Monday, 31 December 2018

Top Ten 2018

This is the music, in no particular order, that I've most enjoyed listening to in 2018:

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Wrong Creatures: "Darkness and despair resonate across Wrong Creatures, the new album by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, as it evokes death and an attitude confronting loss and its effects in life. Wrong Creatures takes on loss and pain with emotional depth and imaginative arrangements, documenting a dark attitude despite fear and despair growing across its deep tracks and musical explorations." (popMATTERS)

Robert Plant - Carry Fire: "With a title that evokes primal discovery and heroic burden, Carry Fire finds Plant nuancing the mystic stomp of yore for darkening times. “New World…” is a wearily surging “Immigrant Song” for the age of xenophobic travel bans; “Bones of Saints” surges with “Going to California” promise, then becomes an anthem against mass shootings. The overall feel is at once ancient and new, cutting Led Zeppelin III‘s Maypole majesty with the Velvet Underground’s careful guitar violence (see the “All Tomorrow’s Parties”-tinged “Dance With You Tonight”), and the patient power of Plant’s golden-god-in-winter singing can be astonishing." (Rolling Stone)

Joy Williams - Venus: "There is something spine-tinglingly thrilling about “Venus,” the fourth full-length solo album from Joy Williams, but the first since the 2014 demise of her Grammy-winning roots duo Civil Wars. You can actually hear the California native, a former contemporary Christian-pop singer, discover who she is as she moves through this unsparingly intimate, deeply moving 11-song cycle. If fans and critics argued about which genre the Civil Wars should be slotted into — folk? country? Americana? — the debate should be less confusing now that Williams has fully embraced her inner Kate Bush (and Peter Gabriel and Portishead), zooming into the present with an ambient sound that elegantly threads together folk authenticity, pop instincts, and trip-hop grooves. Whether standing inside her aching heart in the dramatic “Until the Levee,” letting it bleed on the haunting piano ballad “One Day I Will,” or offering up a breathtaking “What a Good Woman Does,” Williams is never less than truthful. The album closes with the poignant “Welcome Home,” cementing the sense that Williams has found her own." (Boston Globe)

Beth Rowley - Gota Fria: A Spanish weather term 'Gota Fría' struck Rowley as the perfect album title. It describes “long periods of the clouds breaking off and remaining stationary for weeks and then sudden violent clashes of warm and cold currents. I thought it was a beautiful name, and an awesome album title, because the meaning is so bold and a perfect image of my own journey.” A heady fusion of rock, blues and Americana 'Gota Fría' is a startling rebirth, with a confidence that belies that ten-year absence ... 'Howl at the Moon' and 'Only One Cloud', evoke the swarthy drama of Led Zeppelin while 'Brother' and 'Run to the Light' are ember-glowing ballads. 'Hide from Your Love' and 'Forest Fire' splice country-folk roots with the vibe and energy of the Bristol scene that gave birth to her voice while 'Get it Back' is equal parts rock and soul and 'Brave Face' nods to the '70s west coast sound." (Rough Trade)

Bob Dylan - More Blood, More Tracks: "Dylan is at the peak of his talents here and he captured lightning in a bottle with these songs. That’s the thing that really strikes me about this release: how damn fine these songs are ... In terms of the spare backing, it only serves to illustrate what an incredible artistic leap Dylan made here. There’s a reason why this material was considered a “comeback.” The early 70’s were an erratic muddle in terms of his output ... With this batch of songs, Dylan was inspired, focused and reinvigorated. Melodically and lyrically, this was a whole different level than he was operating on before. It’s the sound of an artist taking hold of the reins of his talents and digging his spurs in." (Soundblab)

Switchfoot - Where The Light Shines Through: "We sing because we’re alive. We sing because we’re broken. We sing because we refuse to believe that hatred is stronger than love. We sing because melodies begin where words fail. We sing because the wound is where the light shines through. We sing because hope deserves an anthem." (Jon Foreman)

Gavin Byars - Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet: "The names of more than 165 homeless people who died in London in the past year, were read at the Annual Service of Commemoration at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square last Thursday. The church was packed with friends, family members, homeless charity workers and volunteers. Gavin Byars [and his group played] 'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet' as the congregation was invited to come up one by one and take a prayer card with the name of one person who died." Byars' "anthem for the homeless" "began as a 26-second recording of a nameless rough sleeper." "What makes Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet such a lasting treasure is that, through it, a nameless old man continues to live, as vividly and stoically as one of Samuel Beckett’s homeless characters ... He is confirmation of Beckett’s understanding that “the tears of the world are a constant quality. For each one who begins to weep, someone somewhere else stops.”

Mavis Staples - If All I Was Is Black: "If All I Was Was Black is an album about American perspectives and the compassion it takes to see the world from someone else’s point of view. Tweedy understands that his songwriting credits might lead some listeners to think the album represents his perspective rather than Staples’. “I don’t think I put anything in Mavis’ mouth that she didn’t want to sing,” he told the L.A. Times. “Tweedy knows me,” was her response. A singer of remarkable power and expression, Staples essentially rewrites these songs simply by singing them, imbuing each line with fine gradients of emotion and authority. She emerges as the active agent in the project, delivering these songs from her perspective as a black woman, as an artist, as a daughter and sister, even as a Christian." (Pitchfork)

Gillian Welch - Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg: "As if blown down Broadway by a summer Appalachian wind, enveloped in a melancholic hue and wrapped in a dust-stained blanket, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gillian Welch comes from an earlier time – down from the hills to kickstart a roots revival. Yet, despite looking like she’d been lifted straight off a Gatlinburg porch, Welch arrived in Nashville from LA – Dave Rawlings, her partner, hails from Rhode Island – in search of some kind of rural spiritual awakening after time spent in goth and surf-guitar bands. It didn’t take long for the pair to make their mark and, with the release of their debut album Revival in 1996, start a musical partnership that still remains as strong, vital and nigh-on essential some 20 years later. Made up in essence of outtakes, demos, and alternate takes, Boots No.1 is a welcome twin-album celebration of one of Americana’s benchmark recordings. Producer T Bone Burnett’s trademark sound oozes from every pore, and there’s magic afoot from the off." (Country Music)

Michael McDermott - Out From Under: Since his debut album, 620 W. Surf back in 1991 (when he was tarred with the new Dylan curse), McDermott has released a further ten albums (this is his eleventh) as well as two with Heather as The Westies, the quality of his writing and delivery never dipping. For whatever reason, for two decades, they failed to connect with audiences and constant rejection caused him to question himself and led him into a self-destructive spiral. But then, already turning his life around, with 2016’s Willow Springs everything seemed to click, critically and commercially. The confidence may have faltered, but the talent never has and now, finally, they are aligned and, both personally and musically, he’s become the man he was always meant to be. As he sings on Never Goin’ Down Again, “For the first time it feels, I’m odds on to win.” I’ve placed my bet." (folk radio)

Previous Top Ten's can be found here - 2017, 2016, 20152014, 2013 and 2012.


Gillian Welch - Old Time Religion.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Windows on the world (427)

Palma, 2018


The Civil Wars - Kingdom Come.

Airbrushed from Art History

A special double-issue of Religion and the Arts published by The Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art in 2014 explored the multiple intersections between art and Christianity in Latin America arising from the varied and dynamic art of Latin America and the rich spiritual traditions of Christianity in Latin American identity. Religious themes, narratives, iconographies, and sensibilities in Latin American visual culture in a variety of media and from a range of historical periods and regions of Latin America reveal the interconnectivity of faith, race, ethnicity, and history, as well as the various methodological challenges that these works of art – and their artists – pose in the history of art. 

Such interconnections include reactions against and movements beyond religion, in addition to connections within and between faiths. Here are a small selection of such intersections prompted primarily by the surveys included in Latin American Art in the Twentieth Century:

Enrique Alfèrez was born into a world of art, although his father might not have viewed it that way. His father, Longinos Alfèrez, studied Art in Europe and returned to Mexico where he established himself as a carver of religious statues for churches and hacienda chapels. Longinos considered himself a craftsman above an artist …

It was in 1929 that Alfèrez arrived in New Orleans for the first time on his way to Mexico. The local art life in the French Quarter was so attractive to him that he never made it to Mexico that time. His first commission was to carve statues of Mary and three saints on the facade of the Church of the Holy Name of Mary in Algiers. He befriended Franz Blom, the director of the Tulane University’s Middle America Research Institute and joined him on a trip to Mexico where they made a full-scale plaster cast of the facade of the Nunnery buildings of the Mayan ruins at Uxmal in Yucatan which was displayed at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. He returned to New Orleans as a permanent member of the City’s art community and during the next decade received numerous public art commissions, taught at the Arts and Crafts Club in the French Quarter and directed the Works Progress Administration’s sculpture program.”

In Ecuador, Enrique Alvarez “has gone on to receive widespread national recognition for his artistic merit. In 1998, he was the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2000, was awarded first prize in the Second Latin American Exhibition of Religious Art in New York.

Jaime Andrade, an artist from Quito, Ecuador created the sculpture in mahogany.” "In 1958 [Thomas] Merton commissioned Andrade to do a statue of the Virgin Mary and child Jesus in dark wood for the novitiate library. "A statue," as he explains, "that would tell the truth about God being 'born' Incarnate in the Indians of the Andes. Christ poor and despised among the disinherited of the earth."

Flávio de Carvalho is regarded as one of the precursors of the 60’s ‘Happenings’ in the United States. In 1931, his studies of anthropology and psychoanalysis lead him to carry out the "Experiment n°2": wearing a hat he walks a Christi Corpus procession against the grain. This act is regarded as an insult and Flávio de Carvalho was almost lynched by a hysterical crowd of worshippers, finally owed his safety to the police force. His intention was to test the limits of tolerance and aggressiveness of a religious crowd.

In 1933, he founded the Modern Artists' Club (CAM). He stimulated the cultural life of of São Paulo and took part in the creation of a discussion space on different areas, bringing together artists, composers, writers and psychiatrists. Within this framework, he founded the Theatre of the Experience and directed the "Ball of the dead God", an experimental theatrical and dancing show for which he created everything : text, adornment, costumes and play of light. The actors, almost all black people, were wearing aluminum masks and executing dynamic and surrealist movements. Considered as subversive this play, very influenced by the Dadaist movement, was prohibited and the police force closes the theatre in spite of the mobilization of more than 300 intellectuals.”

Christian Chicana feminist artists used their work to challenge the patriarchal society that they live in and even the patriarchal society of Biblical times. Through their work they promote a strong, prominent feminine figure, one who does not need a man to survive. They offer a role model to women of all ages and hopefully promote a new-found interest in young people’s religion by renewing faith in a traditional religious figure.

Not only that, but the Virgin of Guadalupe is depicted as a brown women, so these artists are challenging cultural and race barriers as well.”
Antonia [Eirez] had an unshakable belief in the power of people to create. 

Everyone can draw, paint and create, she said. When we create from our core, we are like God. Even if the end result is a purple paper chicken, the creative process itself can transform your being. Antonia saw this transformation happen in people who never imagined they could create art.”

Julio Galán “is aware of the world around him and he adapts it for himself. Although his creations revolve around his personality and image, he never stops including references to the culture where he developed, particularly religious culture.

With these references that could be considered alien to the space he inhabited —the space of his dolls, disguises and make-up— he appears, and paints himself or adds symbols of his personality to appropriate some images …

The artist recreates the image of the Last Supper including himself in it, painting in a Christ child with his own face peeking out from the childish features, painting the adult Jesus Christ but dressing him in clothing like Galán’s. The artist’s face transformed in other images reveals his proximity to Catholicism and at the same time the distance he puts between that and his own doctrine.

Some of his works are inspired in ex-votos, or tin devotional folk paintings, done to thank the Virgin Mary or some saint for a miracle that saved the life of the painter or cured some disease as had been fervently prayed for, and that generally describe in a drawing or painting the scene of the miracle.”

Paul Giudicelli is a Dominican painter who “graduated from law school and taught in college. He served a public office stint as governor of his home state. In 1945, he was appointed coordinator of Humanities at Mexico's National Autonomous University and college ambassador to South America in 1946. Between 1964 and 1970, he acted as Secretary of Public Education. He launched the Dominican modern novel into a brand-new narrative method (inner monologue) and the alteration of temporary stages, as seen in his work At the Edge of Water (1947). The novel spins a yarn about the life of a hinterland rural town in the state of Jalisco, his home state. His characters, prisoners of their own religious beliefs and a sense of guilt, are shaken by the developments of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. He conveys his story using a taut and sumptuous prose and was also a member of the National College and Language Academy.”

Alfredo Guttero “displayed creative talent at an early age; starting with music but later turning to art. Following his family's wishes, he began a legal career, but left it to become a painter, under the encouragement of Ernesto de la Cárcova and Martín Malharro. In 1904, he received a grant from the Argentinian government to study in Europe and lived in Paris until 1916, where he studied with Maurice Denis and participated in the Salon. Following that, he lived in Segovia and Madrid, with brief stays in Germany, Austria and Italy and visits to virtually every other part of Western Europe, ending with a major exhibition in Genoa.

After more than two decades away from home, he returned in 1927, where he remained intensely active during the five years remaining until his death. He became the Director of the "Plastic Arts" division of the local Wagner Society and created the "Hall of Modern Painters", where he introduced the works of Miguel Carlos Victorica and Demetrio Urruchúa, among others. Together with Raquel Forner, Alfredo Bigatti and Pedro Domínguez Neira (1894-1970), he created the "Cursos Libres de Arte Plástico". In 1931, he exhibited at the "First Baltimore Pan-American Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings". Much of his time and energy was spent promoting Modern Art in opposition to the reactionary forces prevalent at that period.”

“Painting in colonial Brazil was scarce, and low quality, worth it for the iconography. Landscape was discouraged for fear that it could facilitate greed in enemy powers. With the economic progress of Bahia and Minas Gerais in the 18th century, a few painters appeared from the region, mostly in religious art, such as José Teófilo de Jesus and Mestre Ataíde.

His post-colonial vision shows the marks of slavery in modern Brazil, the contradictions and the added value. Violence is in the scenes of the Passion, because the flogged Christ of [Alberto da Veiga] Guignard is the slave on the pillory post. In a view of Ouro Preto, Guignard creates a fictional portrait of Aleijadinho, showing his work and imagining his personality to proclaim the Afrodescendent pillar of Brazilian culture. Guignard, like Lasar Segall, projected the work ethos of the black person in Brazil.” 

The work of Frida Kahlo “uses the tradition of votive art – part of her heritage was Catholic – and can be an open prayer for courage: "Tree of Hope, Keep Firm", she writes across a painting of a parched and treeless landscape. To write the past is to hold a memory. To write the present is to stand witness. To write the future is to cast a spell, and this was my prayer, to spell motherhood with three letters: a-r-t.”

The singer and composer Roberto Carlos was involved in the circulation of symbolic assets through the installation of Adoração (Worship) by the visual artist Nelson Leirner. The intersection between this universal musical icon, with strong mediatic and popular appeal and a piece of contemporary art, assigned to produce political effects, has given us the opportunity of understanding how and why the musician was chosen to signify, in the incipient symbolic assets market of the sixties, the contradictions of pop art, transplanted to the political reality of the Grupo Rex, in which Leirner was inserted. For this, the visual artist chooses, to resignify the young talented musician, a code belonging to popular Christian iconography, inserting him in a game of reference that surpassed the popular binomial current culture and erudite culture.

“Another feminist artist that creates unique and unconventional portraits of the Virgin of Guadalupe is Yolanda Lopez. Lopez is known for creating three distinct images of Mary, the most well-known called Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe or Virgin Running (Q&A). This image is quite different from both the conventional Virgin, as well as Alma Lopez’s portrayal of the Virgin. In this first painting, Yolanda Lopez portrays herself as a strong, active young woman ready for anything. The Virgin has some traditional aspects such as the blue cloak with gold stars and the halo around her body, but overall, this is not the traditional, submissive, down gazing Virgin of Guadalupe. She is shown running with white tennis shoes, crushing both the Satan-like snake in her hand, and the angel beneath her, the angel used to hold her up in traditional images. Lopez is demonstrating that women do not need anyone to hold them up; they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.”

Miguel Ángel Ruiz Matute “studied in the National School of Fine Arts, then transferring to Mexico where he studied at the San Carlos Academy till 1951.He was participated with the architectural group of Juan OGorman in the mural decoration of the library of the City University at UNAM. He then integrated with a group that worked with the muralist, Diego Rivera in the collaboration of the mural in the Teatro de los Insurgentes. In his return to Honduras, he was given the Pablo Zelaya Sierra award in 1954. He was director of the National School of Fine Arts. In 1955, he moved to Spain, England and Italy where he combined his artistic labor with the diplomatic.

He worked with a variety of themes including religion, the historical, portraits that mystified their characteristics. His works are done in an expressionist style. During his first stages as an artist, Miguel Angel was an objective colorist. Then through his Spanish experience, he manifested himself.

Osvaldo Mesa brings viewers to Africa via Cuba in his large installations, crowded with paintings and sculptures. “Richly painted backdrops define a space in which a multitude of objects rest--painted and twine-wrapped bottles, sticks and rocks that resemble the tools of healing and divination found in the sacred spaces of traditional African mystics.

Such fetishes made the journey to Cuba with people who were brought there as slaves and combined their spirituality with aspects of Christianity to create the Santeria religion. Mesa's work is a sophisticated reworking and rediscovery of this process. Aesthetic rather than religious, it retains some of the cosmic power of its source.”

“An artist, activist, educator, and scholar, [Amalia] Mesa-Bains, who is 74, creates large installation works comprising dozens, at times hundreds, of objects: photographs of friends and family, strings of beads, scientific instruments, perfume bottles, her personal medical equipment, holy cards, her wedding veil, Mexican flags, her father’s glasses and mother’s necklace, statuettes, fabric and clothing, sugar skulls, crucifixes, calendars, stamps, candles, shards of glass, dirt, scattered woodchips, plants. At the beginning of her career, she took inspiration from home altars and Day of the Dead ofrendas, adapting them for her own artistic aims. Her installations are sacred spaces imbued with memory: of the dead, of history and all its atrocities, of innocence lost, of the mystical and mythological.”

“He created a large impact on the Brazilian avant-garde movements, especially after he participated in the 1922 Semana da Arte Moderna in São Paulo which ignited new trends in the Brazilian Modernism movement. From 1922-1930 Vicente do Rego Monteiro was associated with Léonce Rosenberg's Galérie de l'effort Moderne, showing in a variety of solo exhibitions.

He illustrated two books depicting modern art centered on the regional culture of Brazilian natives and their traditions; one in 1923: Legendes, croyances et talismans des Indiens de l'Amazone and one in 1925: Quelques Visages de Paris. In Vittel, Rego Monteiro focused on religious themes, influenced by Fernand Léger.

During early 1920’s he started developing his “relief” style where is paintings looked like sculptures. They are two-dimensional and look like they are carved into the surface. A multitude of his relief paintings were of religious themes such as “A Crucifixão” (The Crucifixion), which is one of his most famous works. "A Crucifixão" and "A Descida Da Cruz" along with several of his other religious paintings feature figures that are forlorn, mourning, and crying, the color of the paintings also being very muted; which is very different from his brightly colored ceramics of indigenous. Because of their style, most of his religious-themed works are similar to Ivan Mestrović's "melancholic deco".”

Rodolfo Morales’ “work has been described as dream-like, fertile and heavily based in folklore. It often depicts indigenous people, especially women set amongst rural buildings, churches, town squares and arcaded shops. His style is influenced by María Izquierdo (1902-1955) and French painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985).

By 1985, Morales had earned enough money to stop teaching and to return to Oaxaca where he was able to dedicate himself to both his art and to restoration. Using income from his art he founded the Rodolfo Morales Cultural Foundation devoted to restoration of buildings in his hometown of Ocotlán. In all, he funded the restoration of fifteen churches including the 16th century Convent of Santo Domingo and a 17th-century church in the town of Santa Ana Zegache, as well creating cultural spaces throughout Oaxaca's central valleys. His most important restoration project was the former convent of Ocotlan which was converted into a municipal complex.”

José Clemente Orozco "painted the theme, Cristo destruye su cruz, three times in his life, twice as murals — one of which still survives at Dartmouth College — and once on a 4’ x 3’ canvas." The image has been understood both as saying “It is finished!” to the violence that destroys and oppresses and as a denial of "the sacrificial destiny meant for him."

“Through his art, Roche Rabell showed the world our culture, the African roots, our religion as well as the relation between politics and culture in the American continent.

The painter explored aspects of the Puerto Rican identity and its environment with the same intensity that he did with himself. That is why he would also depict the most intimate aspects and vulnerabilities of human beings in multiple self-portraits. The human figure had a central position in his production.”

Diego Rivera "did not represent religious images unless they were useful as social observations ... The most that he came close to portray religious messages was at the murals in Chapingo, where his images functioned as a catechism exhorting a new generation of Mexican farm workers and agricultural planners to uphold a modern nationally, constructive, self-respecting way of life, based on the credo "exploitation of the land, not of man."" Nevertheless, it has been noted that his Detroit Industry Murals "are rife with Christian themes and utopian symbolism."

Soledad Salamé, American, born in Santiago, Chile in 1954, currently lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.

From 1973 to 1983 Salamé lived in Venezuela. At this time she was exposed to the rainforest, a pivotal experience in her artistic development which continues to be a source of inspiration. As an interdisciplinary artist Salamé creates work that originates from extensive research of specific topics. In pursuit of intensive research, Salamé has since travelled widely in the Americas, Europe and Antarctica.”

“The concern of this artist, born in Chile and educated in Chile and Venezuela, is the environment and the political and spiritual aspects of its preservation or destruction. “

"[David Alfaro] Siqueiros painted some fifteen portraits of Christ ... on August 2, 1963, he inscribed the following quote from the most devout of Italian painters, Fra Angelico, in the back of his painting Cristo del Pueblo: "May only he who believes in Christ paint Christ." And in another occasion, during his imprisonment, he declared: "Was Jesus Christ not, like me, a victim of social dissolution, a persecuted man?" On August 9, 1963, from his cell at a crime prevention facility, Siqueiros inscribed the following words regarding the Via Crucis on the back of his painting, Mutilated Christ: "First, his enemies crucified him 2000 years ago. Then, they mutilated him from the Middle Ages on, and today, their new and true friends restore him under the political pressure of communism post-Ecumenical Council. This small work is dedicated to the latter."

“The exhibition Mundus Admirabilis e Outras Pragas, which was shown at Galeria Brito Cimino in São Paulo in November 2008, on the other hand, is an example of the more poetic, less direct critique of [Regina] Silveira’s works, which also characterises Tropel (reversed). Here the artist installed a fully decked table with a white tablecloth and the finest porcelain ready for a luxurious, celebratory dinner. But both the tablecloth and porcelain were covered with large, black insects, projected onto the surface of the serving dishes, carafes, glasses and plates. The entire dinner service was on a tablecloth cross-stitched in the style of the northeastern Brazilian state of Ceara, where the women in many towns still master this traditional, local craft.

The insects range from abnormally large cockroaches, mosquitoes and flies to grasshoppers and scorpions. The variety of insects can be seen to represent a mix of references to the Biblical plagues that devastated Egypt (grasshoppers and mosquitoes) and the “bestarium” of the Middle Ages, to the presence of insects in absurd modernist literature by authors like Franz Kafka and the Argentinean authors Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar - not to mention everyday, contemporary ‘bugs’. It was the same Mundus Admirabilis with which Silveira ‘occupied’ Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil’s free-standing cubic glass building in Brasilia in 2007, transforming it into a gigantic insect cage with the domineering presence of giant insects representing a disturbing, universal image of global plagues of all ages. With this shift from Biblical mythology to the daily dinner table, and references to the absurd tradition in European as well as Latin American literature, Mundus Admirabilis symbolizes the plague as the universal phenomenon of classical mythology, but also the very present plagues of modern society, like corruption, war, AIDS or environmental catastrophes.

The Saints’s Paradox (1994) where an impossible situation is established: A small wooden figure of a saint has been given a large distorted shadow not belonging to himself but to the statue on the monument to the brutal General Duque de Caxias in São Paulo.”

Much of Nahum B. Zenil's “works use mixed media on paper or oil on canvas. He preferred to paint on canvas until the materials compromised his health. He quickly returned to collaging on paper. He often uses his image to relieve pressures he felt as a child growing up homosexual in a small town and to comment on contemporary Mexican society. His works illustrate a duality between himself as an "other" and his relationship with the Catholic Church. Within Zenil's mixed media pieces he uses mainly himself as the subject. He pictures himself in his images with many religious figures such as the Virgin of Guadalupe. Within his images are many re-worked traditional Mexican forms like the retablo and ex-voto styles. Zenil was inspired by the works of artists such as Frida Kahlo and Jose Guadalupe Posada.

These influences can be seen in his works, Frida in My Heart and With All Respect, in which the artist actually used the image of Frida Kahlo in his paintings. According to the website glbtq archive, they state that "In a number of ways, Zenil has looked to the art of Frida Kahlo, with its strong dose of self-examination and criticism, as a beacon of inspiration. The portrait of Kahlo is sometimes incorporated into Zenil's works and he creates a lively dialogue between his own portrait and that of Kahlo, whose art has often been seen as representing the triumph of will over adversity." Zenil saw Frida art as a form of salvation, which he used to escape from his everyday life. Zenil's art allowed him to purge himself of the pressures he felt growing up gay, in a small town as a child. The pressures continued to follow him into his life in Mexico city, and as a teacher until he quit, to pursue his art full-time. Many of his works look at a variety of themes and relationships among race, religion, Mexican history, cultural designation, colonialism, male subjectivity and homosexuality."


Scott Stapp - The Great Divide.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Sister Wendy Beckett RIP

My latest piece for Artlyst is an appreciation of the life and writing of Sister Wendy Beckett who has died aged 88:

'I first encountered Sister Wendy Beckett in the pages of ‘Modern Painters’, the art magazine founded by the art critic Peter Fuller which ‘celebrated the critical imagination; stood up for aesthetic values and had a particular focus on British art.’

An early piece would have been a review of an exhibition by Norman Adams in which she suggested that a mystical sense of oneness was making itself visible in his work. In ‘The Way of the Cross and the Paradise Garden’ she noted a radiance of joy conveyed by ‘angels somersaulting through a dazzle of colour bars, crosses of light, that proclaims the marvellous oneness of the Death of Christ and His Rising.’

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:

The Civil Wars - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Windows on the world (426)

Alcúdia, 2018


Beth Rowley - Gota Fria.

Review: Edward Burne-Jones and Seen & Heard

My latest exhibition review for Church Times covers Edward Burne-Jones: Pre-Raphaelite Visionary, at Tate Britain and Seen & Heard: Victorian Children in the Frame, at Guildhall Art Gallery.

'Offering us a visual narrative for the huge cultural shift in how society viewed, and treated, children over the course of the “long 19th century”, “Seen and Heard: Victorian Children in the Frame” plunges us into the maelstrom of innovation and exploitation, compassion and sentimentality, which characterised Victorian society.'

'Tate Britain’s exhibition, by bringing together more than 150 works in different media, including painting, stained glass, and tapestry, presents Burne-Jones as the polymath that he would have appeared to be to his contemporary audience; to whom he was a designer and decorative and fine artist with an exceptionally wide range of literary reference.'

The review also considers the legacy of the Victorians, a legacy that I also examined in a review for ArtWay of Adrian Barlow's book Kempe: The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe:

'The legacy and reputation of many significant Victorians is complex and contradictory because their often great achievements were fashioned on the oppression of Empire and the superiority and arrogance which fuelled aggressive expansion presenting exploitation of others and their natural resources as being the introduction of civilisation.'


Rush - The Garden.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

HeartEdge: December Mailer

HeartEdge is an international ecumenical movement of churches and other organisations developing mission focused on commercial activity, congregations, cultural engagement and compassion.

Our monthly Mailer is a "smorgasbord of ideas, inspiration and resource focused around HeartEdge 4 C's."

This month:
  • "If the cafés are open on Christmas Day, then the churches should surely be. And we should not be celebrating a sort of 'Narnia' Christmas, fantasizing about the good old days, whenever they were. We are celebrating Christmas this year in a world at war, full of uncertainty, inequality and injustice." Lucy Winkett on being open for Christmas.
  • Plus - a Christmas group work resource, a look at community meals, and the Library of Things
  • Also - Henri Nouwen, 'Spirit Level' authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett on social status, Simon Sinek on power dynamics, 2019 trends and Chine McDonald on identity politics.

Gungor feat. All Sons & Daughters - Oh Light.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Community Carols & other Services at St Martin-in-the-Fields

Here are the details of the main services at St Martin-in-the-Fields in the final week of Advent and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day:

Community Carols
Tuesday 18 December 2018
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Join us for this joyous celebration of the Christmas season, featuring well-known carols specially chosen by those who work around Trafalgar Square. The service is led by Revd Dr Sam Wells with the Choral Scholars, Occasional Singers and Children’s Voices of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Doors open 5.45pm. All are welcome. No tickets required but come early to be certain of a seat.


The fourth Advent Candle is lit.
Sunday 23 December 2018, 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Crib Family Service

A lively service of readings and carols particularly suitable for younger members of the family and including the Blessing of the Crib.
Monday 24 December 2018, 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Parish Carol Service

A beautiful candlelit celebration of the Christmas story.
Monday 24 December 2018, 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Parish Carol Services

A beautiful candlelit celebration of the Christmas story.
Monday 24 December 2018, 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Midnight Mass

The climax of all our Advent preparation and Christmas worship as we light the Christmas candle and welcome the Christ child.
Monday 24 December 2018, 11:00 pm - 11:59 pm

Eucharist Service

Join us as we celebrate Christmas with our combined English and Chinese congregations.
Tuesday 25 December 2018, 10:30 am - 11:30 am

The BBC Radio 4 Christmas Appeal with St Martin-in-the-Fields raises money to transform the lives of homeless and vulnerably housed people across the UK. The St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity directly supports people through The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields and across the UK through the Vicar’s Relief Fund (VRF) and the Frontline Network.

'On Christmas Night' - A Christmas Celebration from St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Martin's Voices - Recorded in St Martin-in-the-Fields 4th - 5th September 2018. This brand new recording from St Martin's Voices, St Martin-in-the-Fields, has just been released. Directed by Andrew Earis, with organist Ben Giddens, this CD is a mix of the traditional with modern arrangements, and is the perfect gift for any music lover.


St Martin's Voices - The Christ Child.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Windows on the world (425)

London 2016


Rumer - Aretha.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Lifelines: Notes on Life & Love, Faith & Doubt

Great to have the launch of Lifelines: Notes on Life & Love, Faith & Doubt by Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney at St Martin-in-the-Fields this afternoon.

'Life is beautiful . . . and baffling. Any new day may be lit up with beauty and wonder but the next overcast with pain and sadness.

Our time on earth is shot through with questions so vast that we can’t get our minds around them. Humans have always tried to find ways to respond to those questions. It’s usually called ‘wisdom’, and before writing was thought up, it was handed down in stories.

Some of this was bottled in religion and became congealed into creeds and regulations. That’s all right for some, but many of us don’t want to be told what to believe, we’re shy of certainty, suspicious of authority.

We still live with the questions though. Like how the big moments – the birth of a child or the death of a friend – can leave us wondering about how to live in the small moments.

That’s what this book is about. A collection of fieldnotes on how we can live this life, and live it well.

From poets and songwriters, activists and artists, from people with faith, and people without. We’ve nicked their best ideas and added some of our own. Clues and pointers, rather than terms and conditions.'

Martin Wroe studied theology before becoming a staff writer on The Independent and the Observer. He won a Sony Gold Radio Award for the Radio 1 series The Big Holy One, and co-authored, with Malcolm Doney, The Rough Guide to a Better World. The author of several poetry books that no-one has noticed, he also produces collections of stories about people in the north London community where he lives. He is a volunteer vicar in his local parish and a contributor to Thought for the Day on Radio 4. He keeps chickens.

Malcolm Doney trained as a fine artist at what Jarvis Cocker called St Martin’s College - now Central Saint Martin’s UAL - before pursuing a writing career in journalism, advertising and broadcasting. He has written ten books, including, with his wife Meryl, Who Made Me? , a sex guide for seven-year-olds. He is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought, and Radio 4’s Something Understood. He lives in the village of Blythburgh, Suffolk, where he is a volunteer priest in the parish church, sometimes joined by his horse, Neville.


Harry Baker - Paper People.

HeartEdge in the New Year

'At the heart. On the edge.' - Hamilton, Wednesday 6 February 10 am - 3.30 pm

We invite you to 'At the heart. On the edge', a day hosted by Rev Joanne Hood, Minister of St John's Parish Church of Scotland, and Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the- Fields, which includes theology, ideas, solutions and support for re-imagining Church. A programme has been developed jointly by St John's Church and St Martin’s.

Among those contributing are: The Very Rev Ian Barcroft, Rev Ross Blackman, Rev Liz Crumlish, Revd Jonathan Evens, Rev Dr Doug Gay,Kenneth Johnston, The Most Revd Mark Strange, Andy Turner and Rev Dr George Whyte. The event also features Rev Dr Robin Hill on ‘Sing with the Swing Band’.

The day, to be held at St John's Church on Wednesday 6 February 10 am to 3.30 pm, will introduce: HeartEdge, which is a growing ecumenical network of churches and other organisations working across the UK and overseas, initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields. HeartEdge aims to catalyse Kingdom Communities:
  • For those working at the heart of commerce, culture and community
  • With those at the margins and on the edge
  • Building association, learning, development and resource.
To register for your free ticket click here.

Inspired to Follow Workshop - Thursday 14th February, 2.00pm, St Martin-in-the-Fields

How to explore the Christian faith using a more open-ended approach? How to engage a more visually-focused culture? ‘Inspired to Follow: Art and the Bible Story’ is one resource developed by St Martin-in-the-Fields.

The discipleship course uses fine art paintings from the National Gallery, a Biblical story and a short theological reflection to help people explore the Christian faith today. Learn about the genesis of ‘Inspired to Follow’ and discuss its use with Revd Jonathan Evens, St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Free to HeartEdge members, £10 for others. To register click here.

For more information contact Jonathan, Associate Vicar for Partnership Development, at

Nazareth Community Workshop - Wednesday 27th February, 2.30pm, St Martin-in-the-Fields

The Nazareth Community was established at St Martin-in-the-Fields in March 2018, now with over fifty members, from the congregation and other churches.

The workshop will be led by Revd Richard Carter, and is an opportunity to learn about the life of the community, and to consider how it could be applied in your own contexts. The afternoon will mirror the Saturday morning sharing time, and will begin in the church.

The session will include: Welcome and introduction; Prayer & silence; Talk; Q&A; Refreshments; Small groups; and Close. There is the option to stay on for Bread for the World, at 6.30pm- a key component of the community’s worship.

Tickets are free for HeartEdge members and £10 for others. To register click here.

For more information, contact


Julie Miller - River Where Mercy Flows.

Tearing down, raising up, at the heart, on the edge

Here is my sermon from this morning's Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Picture a massive road building project cutting through hills and valleys to create a new straight, level road. The vision from Isaiah that John the Baptist quotes in our Gospel reading (Luke 3: 1 – 6) is one that seems to require bulldozers. It reads like the specification for a new motorway or by-pass. “Get the road ready … make a straight path for travel.” “Every valley must be filled up” and “every hill and mountain levelled off.” It doesn’t sound very environmentally friendly but, like the current project on the A14, may result in major archaeological finds.

John the Baptist uses this image to describe his role in preparing for the coming of Jesus. His aim is for the whole human race to see God’s coming salvation. The idea is that everything that would obscure or obstruct sight of God’s salvation would be torn down or raised up so that throughout the entire world there would be no obstacle able to prevent people from seeing God’s salvation. Everyone should be able to see Jesus because there would be nothing impeding our view; no mountains blocking our vision and no valleys from within which we would be unable to look out. The purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry was that everyone should clearly see who God is and what God does. Picture a vast flat expanse across which the light of Christ can be seen from wherever you stand and you will get the intended idea.

By quoting from Isaiah, John is making clear that he is recovering the original vision for God’s people to be a light to the nations. When Abraham was called by God he was told that he would become a great and mighty nation and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. The nation founded through his obedience to God’s call was to be a blessing to all nations. The people of Israel were reminded periodically of this call, as in Isaiah 49:6 where we read:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

The prophecies collected together in Isaiah also show the kind of place that Jerusalem was intended to become; a place to which all nations could come to hear from God:

“Many nations will come streaming to it, and their people will say,
‘Let us go to up the hill of the Lord, to the Temple of Israel’s God.
He will teach us what he wants us to do;
we will walk in the paths he has chosen.
For the Lord’s teaching comes from Jerusalem;
from Zion he speaks to his people.” (Isaiah 2. 2b & 3a)

Instead of that vision coming to pass, by the time of Jesus, the Temple had become a symbol of Jewish identity with all sorts of people excluded from worship unless they conformed to the detailed requirements of the Mosaic Law. The Temple and the worship in it prevented the free access to God that God wished to see for people of all nations.

In Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion and post-resurrection commission to his disciples, we see him tearing down barriers that prevented sight of God and raising up those whose position in society excluded them from worship. In his ministry Jesus expressly went to those who were excluded from Temple worship, including them both by accepting them (and teaching that they will enter the kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders) and by healing them so they could actively return to the Temple worship. When he died the curtain separating people from the most holy place in the Temple was torn in two, showing that access to God was now open to all. Jesus also prophesied that the Temple itself would be destroyed and that when this happened his disciples should take his message of love to all nations.

As an Iona Community liturgy puts it, Jesus was ‘Lover of the unlovable, toucher of the untouchable, forgiver of the unforgivable, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, writing heaven’s pardon over earth’s mistakes. The Word became flesh. He lived among us, He was one of us.’ As Christ’s followers today, we inherit the task of putting into practice what Jesus has achieved through his life, death and resurrection. We are the people today who are called to work towards that Isaianic vision of nations streaming to learn what Israel’s God wants them to do, settling disputes among the great nations, hammering swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, and never again preparing to go to war. To do that we follow the up and down vision of Isaiah and John the Baptist; taking down barriers and raising up those who have been brought low.

As was the case for Jesus hearing John the Baptist quote the vision of Isaiah, we too stand at a point in history when the need of a broad and challenging vision for change is placed before us. Our Vicar Sam Wells has suggested that we live in a world that is pervaded by beauty, goodness, energy, creativity, trust, gentleness, joy and love but which is poisoned by violence, hatred, cruelty and fear. What our world needs most of all are communities of trust and support and love that show the kind of life that is possible when we believe that God is with us and rest in the hope that God’s ways will finally prevail.

We don’t have to invent these communities because God has already done so – in the call of Abraham and Jacob to be God’s people Israel, and when the Holy Spirit was sent on the dispirited apostles on the day of Pentecost. We’ve been given thousands of them all round the country and millions all round the world. We’ve been given the church. Yet we also live at a time and in a society where the church is getting smaller; and the church is getting narrower. Those who regularly attend worship are much fewer; and the church’s reputation and energy are becoming associated with initiatives that are introverted and often lack the full breadth of the gospel.

The vision that John the Baptist shared with Jesus in his time was an up and down vision of tearing down and raising up. That vision was necessary preparation for seeing Jesus but when we see Jesus we gain a different vision; an in and out vision, a vision of centre and circumference, of being at the heart and on the edge. By being in the godhead, Jesus was in the heart of God but chose to be on the edge by becoming a human being. Although he remained in the centre of God’s will by being the embodiment of the very heart of God, that led him to place himself on the edge as he took onto his shoulders the weight of the world’s sorrows and found himself temporarily separated from God. Jesus gives us a vision of being both at the heart and on the edge.

We have claimed that vision for ourselves here at St Martin’s seeing ourselves as being at the heart of London, the nation, and the church, while also seeing our calling as to be alongside those on the edge through being excluded, ignored or oppressed by society or church. We have then created in HeartEdge, our ecumenical network of churches, a means of sharing that vision more widely by fostering, catalysing and facilitating renewal on a national scale.

HeartEdge seeks to catalyse kingdom communities – i.e. it aims to foster, not to impose; it sees the kingdom as God’s gift to renew the church, rather than as a mission-field to be conformed to the church’s image; and it sees churches as lively and dynamic communities, rather than defensive and narrow congregations. At over 50 churches, HeartEdge is already big enough for communities to mentor one another, to offer consultancy days to one another, and for larger gatherings to offer an exchange of ideas, encouragement and challenge. We aspire for it not to create clones of St Martin’s, but to become the national embodiment of those committed to the vision to be ‘At the heart. On the edge.’

HeartEdge seeks to share the vision that the heart of the gospel is that God is most often made known among those on the edge and that the church is at its best when it speaks to the heart but takes risks on the edge. This vision not only renews the church but, through that renewal, speaks into the ways in which our world is poisoned by violence, hatred, cruelty and fear offering renewal of society more widely.

The visions of taking down and raising up and of being at the heart and on the edge are Advent visions; visions that that enable us to see Christ’s coming. Isaiah and John the Baptist tell us that God is seen when barriers that exclude are taken down and those who have been brought low are raised up. Jesus’ revelation of God shows that those at the centre can be alongside those on the edge and will be changed as a result.

So, God is seen through an up and down vision that has a vertical axis and also an in and out vision which has a horizontal axis. Pushing these analogies as far as possible the vertical axis equates to the north-south axis on a compass while the horizontal axis equates to the east-west axis, meaning that all the points on the compass are encompassed by these visions. As Isaiah prophesised, all people will see God’s salvation, or, as John Oxenham has it, ‘In Christ there is no east or west, / in him no south or north; / but one great fellowship of love / throughout the whole wide world.’ May that vision become reality for us. Amen.


Christ's Hospital Choir - How Shall I Sing That Majesty.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Encounter Series Videos

Encounter Series

The Autumn Lecture Series at St Martin-in-the-Fields featured lectures which focused on the theme of encounter. How are we changed by the people, events or objects we encounter when we meet them face-to-face? How do prejudices shift? How are new insights born? What inspires us to new ways of being and relating to God and to others? How do we become who we truly are through those we meet? How do we encounter God in our lives? In each of these lectures prominent and inspirational leaders, thinkers and practitioners speak from a personal but also public perspective about the way such encounters have changed the course of their lives.

This year, for the first time, we recorded the Autumn Lecture Series. Videos of Encounter 2018 are now available through our website. A study guide produced for churches wishing to use the videos with their congregations is available from

To watch Sam Wells introducing the Series click here

To watch Richard Carter introducing the speakers click here

To watch Rowan Williams Encountering the Other click here

To watch Christianity Encountering Islam (filmed at Baitul Futuh Mosque) click here

To Watch Encountering London click here

To watch Encountering Jesus of Nazareth
click here

To watch Encountering the Sacred click here

To watch Encountering God click here
The Encounters exhibition by Nicola Green which was shown at St Martin's during the Autumn Lecture Series is accompanied by a book published by Brepols publishers titled Encounters: The Art of Interfaith Dialogue.


Artlyst interview & ArtWay meditation

My latest interview for Artlyst has just been published. This interview is with Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker, editor-in-chief of ArtWay, a website which seeks to stimulate reflection on the role of images in church and open up the world of the visual arts to the Church.

In this interview, I discuss with Marleen the inspiration and vision for ArtWay, the legacy left by her father Hans Rookmaaker and her plans for new projects. Marleen intends ArtWay to showcase and open up what has been and is being written about art, whether popularly or scholarly, philosophically or theologically, meditatively or liturgically oriented. In this way, she hopes it will be a platform for reflection about art and to stimulate dialogue enabling the Christian world to become familiar with the quality art that is increasingly available:

'Christianity to me is about all dimensions of life. The world with everything in it is God’s creation, and Christ gave his life to redeem all of reality. This means that all of life is ‘Christian’ and may concern Christian artists, whether they portray the beauty of a bird in the sky or the outrage of a refugee having to live without the comfort of a place she can call her home. This broader view of the Christian life was at the basis of much Dutch 17th-century art – which had its roots in Calvinism – in which various genres besides biblical scenes gained prominence, such as portraits, landscapes and still life's, church interiors, domestic scenes and genre paintings.'

The interview includes Marleen's reflection on the writings of Hans Rookmaaker and so this interview joins two earlier interviews - with Jonathan A. Anderson and Alastair Gordon - which also include reflections on RookMaaker's legacy.

My latest visual meditation for ArtWay has also just been published. Gilly Szego's Mother and Child
prompts reflections on the reality that migrants 'are not fundamentally a threat and a danger': 'They are fundamentally a good thing. We’re all migrants or the sons and daughters thereof; Jesus was a migrant too. To forget that is to forget who we are and to forget who God is.'

My other ArtWay meditations include work by María Inés Aguirre, Giampaolo Babetto, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Alexander de Cadenet, Christopher Clack, Marlene Dumas, Terry Ffyffe, Antoni Gaudi, Nicola GreenMaciej Hoffman, Giacomo Manzù, Michael Pendry, Maurice Novarina, Regan O'Callaghan, Ana Maria Pacheco, John Piper, Albert Servaes, Henry Shelton and Anna Sikorska.

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:

Kamasi Washington - Truth.

Windows on the world (424)

Kelveden Hatch, 2018


M Ward - Miracle Man.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Foyer Display: Inga Tolchard

‘The drummers’ (2015, acrylic on canvas, 92cm x 62cm) and ‘The fan girls’ (2015, acrylic on canvas, 80cm x 60cm) by Inga Tolchard

St Martin-in-the-Fields is home to several commissions and permanent installations by contemporary artists. We also have an exciting programme of temporary exhibitions, as well as a group of artists and craftspeople from the St Martin’s community who show artwork and organise art projects on a temporary basis.

One of the initiatives from this group is a changing display of work by the group members or artists linked to the group. Each month a different artist shows examples of their work, so, if you are able, do return to see the changing display.

Inga Tolchard is a London/Kent based artist. This pair of paintings is set in Bermuda and show a local parade in Hamilton. The paintings, showing local Bermudians, are based on reference photographs taken in Hamilton.


David Axelrod - Songs Of Innocence.