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Saturday, 31 August 2019

A prayer from St Martin-in-the-Fields


"Look with grace upon this country.
Bring wisdom in the face of haste
and humility in the context of dispute"

A prayer from St Martin-in-the-Fields reflecting the widespread concern over the nation’s political and constitutional situation.

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Taize - O, Lord Hear My Prayer.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Windows on the world (511)


Painswick, 2019

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Ricky Ross - Icarus.

Art review: Natalia Goncharova at Tate Modern

My latest review for Church Times is of the Natalia Gonchorova exhibition at Tate Modern:

'the religious inspiration in Goncharova’s work cannot be contained ... and extends throughout the exhibition — most notably, perhaps, in the room dedicated to her theatre sets for Sergei Diaghilev, where magnificent designs can be found for an ultimately unrealised ballet on the life of Christ.

In their book Modernism and the Spiritual in Russian Art: New perspectives, Louise Hardiman and Nicola Kozicharow suggest that “a narrative of Russian artistic modernism in which the engagement of artists, critics, and scholars with the religious and spiritual tradition” was fundamental is characteristic of this period of Russian art. That engagement was, they contend, “the driving force behind some of the most significant artistic innovations of the period”, including the neo-Primitivism of Goncharova. Goncharova believed that her religious works, based on her study of early icons and frescoes, connected her to the heart of Russian culture. That belief, and the reality of its execution, is clearly demonstrated by the heights and depths of this revelatory exhibition.'

Other of my pieces for Church Times can be found here.

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Mike Peters - Breathe.

HeartEdge & St Martin-in-the-Fields at Greenbelt






We were pleased to, once again, make a very positive contribution from St Martin-in-the-Fields to this year’s Greenbelt Festival. St Martin’s Voices gave two Great Sacred Music performances (which attracted their largest audiences there to date), led Night Prayer and a Come and Sing workshop, while HeartEdge organised and led a panel session with Inclusive Church on ‘Wit and wisdom from the Margins’.

The Great Sacred Music performance on 'The Passing of the Year' explored through word and song the passage from spring to summer, autumn to winter. ‘Amazing Grace’ explored great hymns and spirituals from the UK and USA, including Amazing Grace and Abide with me. ‘Come and sing’ was a fun hour-long workshop singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus alongside Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

HeartEdge delivered a session that effectively combined affirmation with challenge which was described by one of those who came as being ‘a brilliant and thought-provoking session.’ The premise of the session was that people and communities so often overlooked — in society and church — have much to teach us about who we are called to be. Ours was a panel of church leaders and thinkers all with lived experience of various marginalisations — disabled, BAME, LGBT+ or single — as we reminded ourselves that the ‘calling from the edge’ is what shapes our prophetic and political thinking best. Our panel members were Revd Sally Hitchiner (Diverse Church), Fiona MacMillan (Inclusive Church), Rev Bev Thomas (Amani Consultancy), and Jackie Elton (Single Friendly Church).

Discussions in the session touched on the idea that the role of the Church (however defined) is to anticipate, in the here and now, the kind of radical welcome and acceptance that will be our experience in the coming kingdom of God – to have a taste of heaven now! It was suggested that, ‘beyond function, diversity in gender, and particularly diversity in sexuality speaks of the abundance of God, the playfulness of God’ and that we ‘understand God, not out of need but, having had our needs met by the eternally abundant God, we relate to God out of sheer delight’. We also discussed reinventing the Church calendar to ensure that single people feel as involved as others.

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Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah.

Heaven in Ordinary

Here's my 'Thought for the Week' for this week at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

Soon after I arrived at St Martin’s I commented that being here had similarities to being at the Greenbelt Festival, but on an ongoing basis.

Several of us have just returned from this year’s Greenbelt Festival. St Martin’s Voices gave two Great Sacred Music performances, led Night Prayer and a Come and Sing workshop, while HeartEdge organised and led a panel session with Inclusive Church on ‘Wit and wisdom from the Margins’. These contributions draw on the cultural, compassionate and congregational strands of our 4Cs, while our music-making generally is a part of our commercial offer. These contributions work well in the context of Greenbelt because the 4Cs have considerable synergy with Greenbelt’s aim of being a festival of arts, faith and activism.

Discussions in our panel session touched on the idea that the role of the Church (however defined) is to anticipate, in the here and now, the kind of radical welcome and acceptance that will be our experience in the coming kingdom of God – to have a taste of heaven now! This was also the main thrust of the Inclusive Church lecture given by Sam Wells earlier in the summer. It remains my experience that there are moments when a sense of heaven breaking in genuinely occurs both here at St Martin’s and also at Greenbelt; and this year’s experience of St Martin’s being at Greenbelt was no exception!

Our prayer for our own ongoing community life can and should be the same – to experience more of heaven in our ordinary ongoing life and experience. Let’s make that our prayer for the Autumn, in particular, as we anticipate all the potential blessings from our Autumn Lecture Series, the HeartEdge conference, our Thinking Differently About God weekend, and much, much more.

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Manchester Orchestra - I Know How To Speak.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Windows on the world (510)


Roslin, 2019

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Bear's Den - Breaker/Keeper.

Friday, 23 August 2019

HeartEdge Mailer | August 2019

HeartEdge is an international ecumenical movement.

We are churches and organisations developing mission.
We focus on 4 areas - commercial activity, congregations, cultural engagement and compassion.
Join us! Details here.

Each month we email you stories and ideas related to our focus: commercial activity, congregations, cultural engagement and compassion. We keep it useful, inspiring, practical.

This month:
  • Shane Claiborne and Omar Saif Ghobash on distorted faiths. Bonnie Miller McLermore on children in church.
  • Alison Morgan on physics and faith, plus Michael Leunig on art and Russell Brand and Bishop Stephen Cottrell on repentance.
  • Tips on trading, and funding - and writing that business plan.
  • Plus from her new book, Ally Barrett on preaching, imagination and improv'.
Click here to read the August Mailer.

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Lianne La Havas - I Say A Little Prayer

Monday, 19 August 2019

Artlyst - Robert Polidori: Fra Angelico/Opus Operantis

My latest article for Artlyst previews an exhibition of photographs taken by Robert Polidori when he was invited to photograph the restored frescoed interiors in the 15th Century San Marco Convent, as well as the building itself: 

Polidori 'was an inspired choice, as he believes that rooms act as vessels of memory. As an acclaimed photographer of human habitats, interior spaces and urban environments, his images reflect on notions of memory and history embedded within architecture ...

this series of photographs Fra Angelico/Opus Operantis present what Polidari has described as an idealized view of time and place as it exists in the mind’s eye, delivering images that invoke stillness and contemplation through their detailed command of colour, texture, light and shade. In this way, his images mirror the contemplative nature of the San Marco frescoes, whether those designed for communal contemplation or those for private meditation in the individual cells.'

The exhibition will be at Flowers Gallery from 4 September to 12 October.

My other Artlyst articles and interviews are:
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Auckland Catholic Music Schola - Pange lingua.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Optimism, realism and hope

Here is the sermon I preached at St Martin-in-the-Fields today:

Boris Johnson must peddle Brexit optimism "as if he were a steroid-boosted cyclist trying to win the Tour de France;" between now and October 31, key Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has argued’. ‘Johnson’s promise to prove “the doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters” wrong, and his claim that “no one in the last few centuries has succeeded in betting against the pluck and nerve and ambition of this country”, is in exactly that vein’.

Whether this is a credible Brexit strategy I’ll leave to you to decide but what it has done is initiate a national debate regarding the nature and value of optimism. For instance, in ‘one of the standout moments in Rory Stewart’s ill-fated campaign for No 10’, Stewart ‘compared his rivals’ defiant optimism about Brexit to a man trying to cram three bags of rubbish in an impossibly-full dustbin while yelling, “Believe in the bin bags!”’

Assessing Johnson’s use of optimism in The Guardian, Tim Lott noted that: ‘Optimism gets things done. It has energy. That is its perpetual triumph over pessimism. But unfortunately, like pessimism, it is skewed. It leads to the very unwelcome emotion that pessimism seeks to avoid by pre-empting it, assuming failure in the first place. This emotion is disappointment – attended by its ugly henchmen, bitterness and resentment.’ That is what Lott anticipates will be the result of Johnson’s optimism over Brexit.

Our Gospel reading (Luke 12.49-56) makes clear that this was not a strategy followed by Jesus who told his disciples plainly that he was about to be killed, that they would be scattered and then persecuted. That, as the effect of what he was about to do would be divisive, they would live and minister in an on-going situation of division and persecution. In a series of addresses that are often read in Advent, he explained that, at some point after his Ascension and the coming of his Spirit at Pentecost, the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed and they would live in a state of persecution. In AD70 the Romans destroyed the Temple, ending all worship there, and the Early Church in Jerusalem, together with the majority of Jews, was dispersed across the Roman Empire. Many of the letters in the New Testament describe experiences of trouble and persecution prior to that point, but, from that point until the Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the religion of the Empire, the early Church experienced the kind of division and persecution about which Jesus had warned.

Jesus was never less than real! In our Gospel reading he confronts us with the reality that once the good news about him gets into households there’ll be no peace and families will split up over it. That reality continues to be the case to this day. However, it may well have been the situation of the Church post-AD70 that he had primarily in mind at the time. He did so in order that his followers genuinely understood the commitment that they were making. That is why whenever he spoke with those who wished to follow him he emphasised the depth of commitment involved; ‘Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple’. There were no false promises and there was no fake news with Jesus.

That level of commitment is necessary because the conflict he describes and the prophecies he makes will, he says, be an opportunity for his disciples to tell the Good News, if they stand firm. For example in Luke 21 we read of his saying: Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be terrible disasters everywhere; you will be arrested and persecuted; you will be tried and put in prison; you will be brought before rulers for my sake. This will be your chance to tell the Good News (Luke 21. 10-13). That is what Jesus looked for from his followers in times of conflict and difficulty and he promised both his support and enabling in doing so: ‘Make up your minds beforehand not to worry about how you will defend yourselves, because I will give you such words and wisdom that none of your enemies will be able to refute or contradict what you say.’

The situations in which we are called to do this change throughout history but what is unchanging is the call to tell the Good News whether in situations of military defeat, as in the post AD70 situation for the Early Church, or in times of victory, as with the beginnings of Christendom post-Constantine. Today we seem to be called to do so in a political and social situation which has shifted towards the mind-set of populism, with its emphasis on national interests and the erection of walls and tariffs to protect ‘us’ against ‘them’. Whatever we think of that situation, Christ calls us to tell the Good News of God’s love shown in Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection with all its implications for society through the coming of the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ warning that his disciples will experience not peace but division is clearly realistic rather than optimistic but it also contains, within the arc of his warning and within the pattern of his actions, a hope for the future which is optimism built on realism. The warnings Jesus gives about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and so on, for example, include a quotation from Micah 7.6, a passage in which the prophet warns of imminent crisis and urges that the only way forward is complete trust in God. The prophet says although his experience is of division, ‘I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.’

The Biblical witness, as our Vicar has regularly reminded us, is that the place of setback, hardship and failure is also the place of revelation and relationship. From the exile of 585 BC onwards, God’s people have habitually experienced renewal emerging out of times of setback, hardship and failure. Jesus saw a crisis coming for those to whom he spoke; a crisis of which his own fate would be the central feature. He would be rejected and killed but would rise from death before ascending to his Father and sending his Holy Spirit on all who follow him. Jesus realistically prepared his disciples for the experience of despair and loss when he was crucified and of later hardship and persecution following his Ascension.

He did so because he was absolutely sure that they would experience a depth of relationship with God in their troubles. That, like him, they would come through the valley of the shadow of death into an experience of the kingdom of God - of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven – that is resurrection. God’s presence in the time of trouble and God’s resurrection of Jesus and, through Jesus, his people, provides the basis for Jesus’ hope about the future, which for those who believe is not just optimistic, but realistic.

Optimism is generated by our energy (or bravado) moving into an unknown future, whereas hope is generated by God’s initiative in Christ reaching back into our present. Slavoj Žižek has argued that ‘In our predicament every direct optimism is a fake’. This is because ‘the only bearers of true hope are those who dare to confront the abyss we are approaching’. That is a realism which accords with that of Jesus. Similarly, Jürgen Moltmann who wrote a Theology of Hope based on lived experience as a prisoner-of-war, said that ‘Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present’. ‘There is no pleasant harmony between us and reality … due to our unquenchable hope’. Hope keeps us un-reconciled, ‘until the great day of the fulfilment of all the promises of God’. The Church is intended to be ‘the source of continual new impulses towards the realization of righteousness, freedom and humanity here in the light of the promised future that is to come’. Our hope should ‘provide inexhaustible resources for the creative, inventive imagination of love’.

We do so, to quote our Vicar, by modelling what the kingdom of God (our term for an alternative society, our language of God’s future now) means and entails in visible and tangible form – that is a community living by faith and in whose life are seen the things God makes possible: ‘The church has to believe it’s about more than spirituality and it has to let its financial needs and the material poverty of many it encounters become entry-points to new adventures, new relationships, new discoveries in God’s kingdom. What are needed now are communities of ordinary virtues, but ones infused with grace: thus trust, honesty, politeness, forbearance, and respect are the bedrock of such communities, while tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and resilience are among its abiding graces.’

In 2004 Clay Sinclair quit his day job to pursue an art career full-time. Having become an internationally recognised artist with his provocative pop paintings on perspex, dealing with issues of power, prestige and possessions, in 2014, for the sake of true riches, he willingly, and with no loss of dignity, opted to become a little poorer and more obscure by relocating to Stroud, where he opened a gallery. Over the past few years has been exploring the possibilities of fashion and the positive impact it can have on individuals, communities and environments.

In 2016, the day after the Brexit referendum, he tongue-in-cheekily declared The People’s Republic of Stroud as a call to community unity after witnessing some horrible post-Brexit abuse towards a refugee charity shop next to his gallery. The People’s Republic of Stroud, along with associated t-shirts, has become a unifying brand that is now firmly established in terms of its ethos and visual identity. Using organic cotton, fair trade and transparent production suppliers, along with local screen-printers he has created a brand that not only brings the community together, but has become a model for sustainable and ethical fashion. To move this successful, inclusive and ethical fashion brand beyond the five valleys of Stroud he has now launched The People’s Republic as an ethical and philosophical clothing brand which aims not only to clothe the world with ethical, sustainable and revolutionary fashion, but also help facilitate the connection between ourselves, others and the planet..

Clay’s enterprise is an experiment of hope in times of division; in a time when we experience not peace but a sword and when peace with God means conflict with the world. God’s initiative in Christ means the future is already secure. We don’t have to create it, we just have to imitate God’s future now; a realisation that provides a realistic basis on which such communities of hope can be built. So, may hope provide us with inexhaustible resources for the creative, inventive imagination of love. May hope keep us un-reconciled until the great day of the fulfilment of all the promises of God and may we all embrace the true nature of Christianity becoming witnesses to the future of Christ. Amen.

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Daniel Amos - Strong Hand Of Love.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

HeartEdge at Greenbelt - Wit and wisdom from the margins

HeartEdge is back at Greenbelt again this year:

PAGODA
SATURDAY 15:30
WIT AND WISDOM FROM THE MARGINS

People and communities so often overlooked — in society and church — have much to teach us about who we are called to be. Join a panel of church leaders and thinkers all with lived experience of various marginalisations — disabled, BAME, LGBT+ or single — as we remind ourselves that the ‘calling from the edge’ is what shapes our prophetic and political thinking best.

With Revd Sally Hitchiner (Diverse Church), Fiona MacMillan (Inclusive Church), Rev Bev Thomas (Amani Consultancy), Jackie Elton (Single Friendly Church) and chaired by Revd Jonathan Evens (HeartEdge, St Martin-in-the-Fields)

In association with HeartEdge, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Inclusive Church and Single-Friendly Church

In addition, and also on Saturday 24th, singers from St Martin-in-the-Fields, with their Director of Music Andrew Earis, will explore through word and song some of the great music of our religious heritage in ‘Great Sacred Music’ - https://www.greenbelt.org.uk/artists/st-martin-in-the-fields-great-sacred-music/.

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St Martin's Voices - Gloria.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Windows on the world (509)


Bourton-on-the-Water, 2019

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The Velvet Underground - Beginning To See The Light.

Art Unbound at Painswick Rococo Garden































Painswick Rococo Garden is the country's sole surviving complete rococo garden. Designed in the 1740s as a fanciful pleasure garden for Benjamin Hyett and his guests, this hidden valley offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and intriguing garden buildings.

Art Unbound is a curated exhibition of contemporary sculpture designed to complement this exquisite Garden’s unique history. This is a brand-new partnership between the Rococo Garden Trust and renowned curator Anna Greenacre which sees 18 fantastic sculptors working in a variety of media, showing their work in this little piece of paradise in Gloucestershire.

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Prince - Paisley Park.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

The Centurian and Stormtrooper Crucifixion

The latest Visual Meditation for ArtWay is by Tim Harrold on his own piece entitled The Centurian:

'The Centurion is in part a response to Stormtrooper Crucifixion by Ryan Callahan, which was part of the Stations of the Cross exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook in London in March 2018. This controversial artwork gained much publicity. The Centurion would not have been made were it not for the discovery of a toy Stormtrooper among the collected junk in my studio. So when it was found, I began to think about making a piece that offered an alternative to Stormtrooper Crucifixion.

The Centurion is an assemblage using a mixture of found objects, paint, and printed and handwritten material. It sits in an old drawer from a German chest of drawers ...

The Centurion depicts an icon of contemporary pop culture – a Stormtrooper character from the Star Wars movie franchise – playing the part of the centurion at the crucifixion of Jesus. The casting of the toy Stormtrooper as the centurion seems only natural. Both represent oppression and empire. Both represent regimentation and tyranny. Both represent control by fear. The hand coming through the door is Christ’s. Jesus said, “I am the door.” Here he is reaching into the centurion’s life through his death and resurrection, through his sacrificial blood and healing wounds, through the portal between the dimensions of heaven and earth.'

In the wake of the ill-informed controversy regarding the exhibition of Stormtrooper Crucifixion, I wrote a piece setting out some of the reasons why such a piece should be exhibited in a church - https://joninbetween.blogspot.com/2018/03/how-does-crucified-stormtrooper-glorify.html. Tim Harold's The Centurian and his  ArtWayVisual Meditation demonstrate the value of conversation rather than censorship in regard to controversial works.

More of Tim Harrold's work and writings can be viewed on the ArtWay site. See Looking for clues: the cryptic, the puzzling and the parabolic in the search for meaning and John Espin & Tim Harrold: The Doors of Perception. My review of Tim Harrold's The Perceptualist Eye exhibition at the Wellhouse Gallery can be found here.

The next exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook is Exiles, a body of work by London based Italian photographer Matilde Damele from 17th to 24th September 2019. Taken on the streets of London with her Leica camera, Damele’s black and white photographs evoke and pay homage to great Masters of Photography such as Henri CartierBresson, Diane Arbus and Saul Leiter. For this exhibition, the artist has enlarged and transferred a number of her images onto the challenging surface of the black plastic bin bag. The uneven surface of these art works emphasises the individuality as well as the ephemerality of each of our lives. She will display these as sculptural art works within the circular space of the church, filled with yesterday’s news and discarded packaging, to express how many consider their lives to be cheap, valueless and disposable.

Other of my pieces for Church Times can be found here. My writings for ArtWay can be found here. Those for Artlyst are here and those for Art+Christianity are here.

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The Call - Scene Beyond Dreams.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Windows on the world (508)


Epping, 2019

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Eric Whitacre - Sleep.


Thursday, 8 August 2019

Selling Virtues, Marketing Civilization, People's Republic, Sparks & Mene Mene

Creative Boom have an excellent summary of Micah Purnell's Selling Virtues project:

 photography by Adrian Lambert

'A giant billboard in the heart of Manchester celebrates its first anniversary amid evidence that national wellbeing is adversely affected by outdoor advertising.

Artist and designer Micah Purnell’s empowering ‘YOU ARE ENOUGH’ billboard offers a cleansing antidote to what he considers harmful advertising practice.

"Capitalist ideology imparts the idea that we are only worthy of love and belonging once we buy into their product or service," says Manchester-based Purnell. "Advertising reinforces this idea with the assumption that we are inadequate - essentially stealing our love of ourselves, and selling it back to us at a price."

Standing proud in the heart of Manchester’s university district, Purnell’s 22x13 foot installation towers above the streets below – giving a refreshingly affirming message to passing students and commuters. The design has enjoyed a full academic year aside St Peter’s House, and by popular demand is set to remain for a second year, and now, Purnell plans to spread more visually prominent empowerment messages throughout the wider boroughs of Manchester.

"The World Economic Forum has found evidence of negative links between national advertising and national wellbeing," notes Purnell, "moreover, research professor Brené Brown has found that the one thing keeping us from love and belonging is the fear that we are not worthy of love and belonging. She found that those who fully experience joy and live wholeheartedly have the courage to accept their imperfection – recognising and believing that they are enough. We are all enough, but sadly, it’s harder to believe this when we’re bombarded by toxic messages suggesting we’re not. Through my ‘Selling Virtues’ project, I invite everyone to hold these cynical commercial intrusions to account and play a bigger part in their own happiness and wellbeing."

Now seeking funding to expand his ‘Selling Virtues’ project, visit Micah Purnell’s campaign page at sellingvirtues.co.uk.'

Purnell's project is designed to stimulate debate partly through its use of the approaches of advertising and design to communicate its anti-consumerist message. As a contribution to this debate I want to also highlight four other people/projects engaging with similar issues.

The theme of Purnell's project chimes with the experience of Maciej Hoffman, who turned his back on advertising in order to paint. absolutearts.com report:  

'For fifteen years Maciej Hoffman worked for one of the biggest Polish advertisement agencies in the country, which after communism started with its capitalistic adventure. Providing conceptual and creative work in the planning of marketing campaigns, Hoffman participated in creating marketing spots, press and radio campaigns and outdoor advertisements. Several years ago Hoffman left the world of business and came back to his basic and important occupation, painting.

In his series "Marketing Civilization," are observations of the contemporary style and content of life looked at from the perspective of the necessity and omnipresence of consumption. Our needs were mostly reduced to intellectually comfortable and psychologically exhausting contenting ourselves with the consumption of the world instead of giving something from ourselves to create the world. Our everyday lives became dominated by work and pursuit of products attacking us from the store shelves and by the pictures that are generated for the needs of this invasion. The reality under the thumb of the economy gave birth to a culture which would rather sell images created by others than create its own ones.

Hoffman's paintings refer to the composition of press advertisements and to the search for a stronger influence on people. Thus the poster-like flatness of the background and the strong color which, in the marketing world, makes the message clearer and attractive to the product. It is Hoffman's attempt of drawing the attention to what the world looks like from this perspective.

"Marketing Civilization" touches on how the advertisements ruthlessly use the symbols and appropriate them for commercial needs. Symbols and authorities which are deeply rooted in our consciousness are a pretext for pushing you any product, a beverage, a screw or even "an independent opinion" just by putting in the ad a man dressed up in a white lab-coat or wearing a dog collar.

On the other hand, we all function in this reality, with relationships built by the marketing and advertisement world which can be brought down to the fact that you always find yourself in one of the roles, a buyer, a seller or a person being sold. You can indeed exist as a product. Your absence in this chain of relations condemns you to a kind of nonexistence.'

Rather than leave marketing for painting, plexiglass pop painter Clay Sinclair has recently launched his own range of ethical, sustainable and revolutionary fashion utilising the kind of provocative texts that characterise his paintings. 

Sinclair paints 'backwards', directly onto the reverse side of Perspex (or Plexiglass) giving his work of bright and strongly contrasting colours a luminous appearance. Often starting from pastiches of classic works, he incorporates provocative textual elements that use puns, flip old sayings on their head, or offer unexpected answers to rhetorical questions in order to challenge perceived orthodoxies. Others make heavy use of masking and scalpel work to form dense areas of vivid, alternating colour.

Sinclair's humorous, playful and gently mocking work reflect human and societal concerns regarding our relationships to one another and themes of wealth, power, and ego. Works by Lichtenstein, Hirst, Klimt, Da Vinci, Picasso and Michaelangelo and images of celebrities from Barack Obama to Elizabeth Taylor have all formed the basis for his paintings, subverted through cartoonish imagery and textual puns.

He has now launched The People’s Republic which believes that it is possible to live in this world without the need for violence towards each other and the earth. It believes we have the power to live engaged, healthy, passionate lives that have purpose and meaning which are not only good for ourselves but is good for all other life on this planet. The People’s Republic’s mission is to not only clothe the world with ethical, sustainable and revolutionary fashion, but also help facilitate the connection between ourselves, others and the planet.

Michael Gough is Strategy Director for Sparks, a brand and design agency that works best for ambitious organisations with rich histories and complexity helping them connect with a changing audience while discovering and expressing what matters now.

He says 'there are two aspects to good branding', 'brand promise is all about the client's shop window – what the world sees'. '"Brand promise is knowing who you are talking to and why you're relevant," whereas the experience is all about what the audience – the customers or the consumers – think of the brand.' '"Good brand communications bring brand promise in line with brand experience."'

'For Michael, listening is the first and most important part of his work with clients. Sparks identifies what the organisation does, and crucially why it does it, as it's usually the 'why' that helps to distinguish them from their competitors.' At a headline level, he says, 'what we're interested in is an honest, authentic representation of a particular client.' 'This honesty and transparency is rooted in the gospel, he says. "The gospel calls us to be real about ourselves and honest about ourselves. I think that's a direct extension of our business model. The client can be authoritative and genuine in what they stand for in their brand."'

'Michael believes the language used in the Christian context is inherent to the subculture, but doesn't translate well in the mainstream: "Our challenge always to our faith-based clients is to make them think about what the mainstream culture is. We think about how we can lift that from the assumptions of a Christian subculture, turning that into something meaningful, engaging and relevant to the mainstream culture."

For Sparks, it's all about helping clients see that opportunity to speak in a relevant way about an authentic Christian framework, but in a language that is engaging to a wider audience.

"The problem is the Church has an assumption about its culture, which sometimes gets in the way about people engaging and meeting with the true biblical expression of who Christ is. Lots of language we use in a church context is tied exclusively to this culture – it has little meaning outside."

I think the more we can do to help people outside of the Church to engage with the biblical text, the more we move away from this subcultural context and engage with the truth of the gospel."'

One project that did combine the approaches of art and advertising to help people outside of the Church engage with the biblical text was Mene Mene, a collaborative art project by Pippa Hale (artist), David Hawkins (artist and former Bishop of Barking) and Stuart Tarbuck (marketing and communications strategist) for Situation Leeds in 2005.

Mene Mene located 13 texts in various formats around Leeds city centre such as CELEBRATE WITH ME, MEN FAINTING WITH FEAR and GO THROW YOURSELF INTO THE SEA. The statements were drawn from New Testament texts and filtered throughout the city in a variety of formats from high profile banners and adverts on bus shelters, to more intimate plaques on benches and handwritten signs. Some were affirming and instructive, whilst others are more predictive and challenging.

This collaborative art project investigated the relevance of ancient biblical sayings in a contemporary city by recommitting words back into the public arena. Transferring texts out of church and back into everyday life, where they were first spoken, gave the words new resonance. Texts were abstracted from their original context and as they entered the public square evoked different responses as people brought their own reactions to the work: for some, the phrases were hardly noticeable – just more consumer targeted advertising, for others they were reflective and thought provoking.

Mene Mene embraced an open and diverse interpretation of phrases which have been subsumed into our everyday language, whilst at the same time prising open a local space usually dominated by global marketing to provide a place to think. 

That is one achievement common to all those highlighted in this post; they are prising open spaces usually dominated by global marketing to provide a place to think.

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Autumn Lecture Series 2019: The Quality of Mercy


The Autumn Lecture Series for  2019 at St Martin-in-the-Fields is called The Quality of Mercy. In a time of increasing conflict, division and blame this series will explore the concept of mercy in our world today and what part it needs to play in issues of race, equality, truth and justice and how literature, music, poetry and drama can help shift perspectives and help us see the wider world through others’ eyes.

In this series St Martin’s brings together renowned writers, artists, theologians and speakers to address how and if we can discover a mercy that will lead to a deeper humanity and true transformation. The lectures will be followed by the chance to ask questions and a reception in the café in the crypt for further discussion. For those unable to attend we hope to record the lectures so they will be available on the St Martin-in-the-Fields website and the new Heart Edge website.

We look forward to welcoming you and those you know who may be interested in coming. It is free and open to all and you can reserve a place with Eventbrite: stmartininthefields.eventbrite.com.

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Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me.

HeartEdge update

With 90 plus churches and organisations in the movement HeartEdge is demonstrating our potential to be an ecumenical and international network of churches and other organisations. We are growing an international support network for developing commercial work, cultural activity, compassionate response to social need and congregational life (the HeartEdge 4Cs).

Our vision is of a global movement renewing the local church, sustaining lively and dynamic communities in a thriving society. As such we have an ongoing programme to resource our members and are seeking to regularly add to our resources, as we want HeartEdge to be a useful community, a ‘go-to’ resource, and a source of energy and encouragement.

Collaboration and sharing of experience is what makes HeartEdge such a valuable network – our interactive events are therefore particularly appreciated. In May, we held our first HeartEdge Introductory day outside the UK, in Amsterdam, working with two of our member churches in the Netherlands. Closer to home, in June, we led introductory days in Newcastle and Derby. We’ve also held two consultancy days in the past two months, and are planning others in the autumn; let us know if that would be of interest to you and your church.

Looking ahead our main activities continue to involve sharing, connecting, consultancy and developing:
  • Interviews: Our latest online resources are firstly, a conversation with Bishop Michael Curry and Xolani Dlwati, Dean of HeartEdge member St Mary the Virgin Cathedral Johannesburg, responding to four questions inspired by HeartEdge - https://www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/heartedge-interview-bishop-michael-curry-and-dean-xolani-dlwati/. Secondly, an interview with Sam Wells recorded during the HeartEdge event in Amsterdam in May 2019, when Sam was asked about ‘being with’, the social outreach of St Martin-in the-Fields and the ethos of the HeartEdge movement -https://www.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/sam-wells-being-with/.
  • Greenbelt: We will be at Greenbelt with a panel session on ‘Wit and wisdom from the margins’ with Revd Sally Hitchiner (Diverse Church), Fiona MacMillan (Inclusive Church), Revd Bev Thomas (Amani Consultancy), Jackie Elton (Single Friendly Church). People and communities so often overlooked, looked past or downright ignored – in society and in the church – have so much to teach us about who we are called to be. Join a panel of church leaders and thinkers all with lived experience of various marginalisation – whether disabled, BAME, LGBT+ or single – as together we remind ourselves that the 'calling from the edge’ is what shapes our prophetic and political thinking best, enabling us to be most truly who we might be – as individuals, as society, and as the church. Venue – Pagoda, 3.30pm, Saturday 24 August.
  • Website: Over the summer the HeartEdge website goes live – for connecting with others and finding resource. It will include new information about our network visible to all, a simpler joining process, and a new members’ only section, where you will be able to find resources and other churches like you more easily. The new front pages will have a lighter and more appealing feel, and give more information about our growing network; there are more details about our 4Cs, what we do, and our membership benefits. We will update when its ready. We hope you’ll find it helpful.
  • TryTank Experimental Lab: New HeartEdge member, TryTank Experimental Lab is helping to expand the HeartEdge network in the US by sponsoring the first year of membership for 20 US congregations to join the network -https://www.trytank.org/heartedge-usa.html.
  • HeartEdge Conference: In October we welcome US theologian Winnie Varghese, asset-based community worker Cormac Russell, and many other exciting contributors for a two-day conference – a gathering of the HeartEdge community in Edinburgh (2 & 3 October – see attached flyer). The programme includes Sam Wells delivering the annual Chalmers Lecture series. This includes Sam’s lecture on ‘Entertaining Angels Unawares: It is More Blessed to Receive’ which is on 1 October, so you may want to consider coming early to hear that too! This two-day intensive will pack in lots and prioritise practical input and resources. We’ve kept costs down and there’s a subsidised rate for HeartEdge members – we hope you’ll be able to attend (register here - https://tickets.myiknowchurch.co.uk/gb/ODYyLTEz/t using the special rate for members). Initial media coverage can be viewed at:https://www.lifeandwork.org/news/news/post/1213-us-theologian-to-speak-at-edinburgh-conference; http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/events/heartedge_conference; andhttp://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/2019/rev_dr_sam_wells_to_examine_renewal_in_the_church_during_chalmers_lectures.
  • Within Conference: To be held at Church of the Servant King, Milton Keynes on 8 October. This will be a day run alongside the Watling Valley Partnership and the Diocese of Oxford, to explore a breadth of different approaches to spirituality. Includes input from Sam Wells and St Martin's Voices. Tickets can be booked here:https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/within-tickets-64982817356.
  • ‘At the heart. On the edge': A day hosted by Rev Edward Carter, Vicar of St Peter Mancroft, 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 the Diocese of Norwich, St Peter Mancroft and St Martin’s. The day will be held at St Peter Mancroft on Wednesday 12 February 2020, 10 am to 3.30 pm. Register athttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/at-the-heart-on-the-edge-tickets-67692954449.
As of November last year, London Diocese designated St Martin-in-the-Fields a resource church, with HeartEdge as the resource offered. As a result, in October we are thrilled to be welcoming Revd Catherine Duce as Assistant Vicar for Partnership Development; the role will support the revitalisation of mission and ministry across the Diocese of London by offering HeartEdge events, networks and resources to the capital's churches.

This month we say thank you to Georgina Illingworth, our first Sheppard Scholar, and in September welcome Jessica White, who will be the Sheppard Scholar for the HeartEdge team during 2019/20. Jessica will be joined by other Sheppard Scholars at St Peter’s & All Saints Nottingham, St Peter Mancroft Norwich, The Parish Church of St Cuthbert’s Edinburgh and St Martin-in-the-Fields.

There is a huge amount we want HeartEdge to do! We are grateful for all you bring to this story, helping create a movement for change. I hope we get the opportunity to work together in the months and years ahead. So, do contact me to discuss ways your church could tap into HeartEdge resources more fully, including Consultancy Days, visits, Mission Model workshops, and more!

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Mark Heard - Rise From The Ruins.

Exhibition of Contemporary Religious Art

Although it is over, it is still worth checking out the Exhibition of Contemporary Religious Art that was recently held in the Exhibition Hall of the Angel Ayala Memorial in Madrid.

The exhibition aimed to answer a series of questions that many people who love art and culture can ask themselves: is there today a religious art that responds to the same parameters that define avant-garde art? Are there contemporary artists who develop themes similar to those that, throughout history, have shaped and transmitted the main symbolic values ​​of Christianity?

The curator's answer was that we can indeed find a series of contemporary artists, who express, through the most avant-garde abstraction, their intense relationship with God. And, in turn, they transmit that sensation to the one who tries to interpret that message, allowing the one who looks at the work, also to enter into direct connection with God. As St. John Paul II said, "Art must make the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God, perceptible - even more fascinating as possible." This exhibition allowed a deep reflection of the transcendent, based on the creative effort of these artists.

The exhibition was curated by the painter María Tarruella Oriol , who had already directed the exhibition “ART + FE. Christians in Contemporary Art ”, in 2011 on the occasion of the World Youth Day in Madrid. María selected a series of works by artists, Spaniards, such as Alberto Guerrero, Josép Cárceles, Matoya Martínez Echevarría or Alejandro Mañas and others, such as the Liberian Eugene Perry, the Chilean Sarai Aser, the German Veronica von Degenfeld or the Japanese Julie Quin, along with many others.

Since its foundation, last year, the Karol Wojtyla-S Institute. John Paul II, could not ignore his interest in the world of art that he expressed in his "Letter to Artists", dated 1999. In it, St. John Paul says that, "To convey the message that Christ He has trusted, the Church needs art.”

This exhibition showed that artists who express themselves through abstraction have found a suitable channel to express their relationship with God.

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Lucrezia Orsina Vizana - Sonet vox tua - Protector noster

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Liverpool Cathedral: Art, Faith and Modernity

Sacha Llewellyn and Paul Liss have been responsible for significant exhibitions in recent years which have enabled the prodigious talents of Winifred Knights and Evelyn Dunbar to be reviewed. Through Liss Llewellyn Fine Art, they have, since 1991, been engaged in a wider work of restoring to prominence those in the artistic circles of which the likes of Knights and Dunbar were part. These were artists for whom spirituality and religion were often a central element within their inspiration and practice and, therefore, it should be no surprise that Liss has now brought works by these artists together in a linked series of exhibitions under the title of ‘Art, Faith and Modernity’.

The artists included in this touring series – the second of which is at Liverpool Cathedral from 6 – 30 August 2019 – are symbolists and muralists who were successors to the Pre-Raphaelites by dint of finding inspiration in works of the Italian Renaissance. The exhibition at Liverpool Cathedral includes works by Evelyn Dunbar, Sir Thomas Monnington, Winifred Knights, Rachel Reckitt, Helen Blair, Sir Frank Brangwyn, Edward Halliday, Barnett Freedman, Clare Leighton, Francis Spear, John Tunnard, Glyn Jones and Charles Mahoney

A comment by Thomas Monnington on Allegory, part of the collection of the Tate, two sketches for which are included in this show, sets the scene for the dilemma that, in a secular age, faced artists with spiritual sensibilities who were inspired by religious art. When first asked by the Tate about this work, Monnington wrote that is was a personal interpretation of the story of the Garden of Eden. When later pressed to elucidate further, he then denied that it was based on the Garden of Eden but claimed it as ‘an attempt to express in pictorial form my attitude to life – almost my faith’ (letter of 2nd April 1957). Liss suggests that ‘Monnington’s attitude was typical of his generation’ as, ‘although religion was not a defining ingredient of his art, the search for meaning in a wider spiritual context was’.

While this may reflect the attitudes of the artists whose work is shown here, the works themselves primarily utilise Biblical imagery, with the only works that are more abstract and conceptual being those by Rachel Reckitt and John Tunnard. Some pieces derive from church commissions, such as Frank Brangwyn’s Study for central panel of Nativity window, St Mary the Virgin, Bucklebury, Berkshire and Francis Spear’s Christ Derided, but several others reflect personal inspirations rather than commissioner’s requirements.

Despite this, religious commissions were forthcoming for Knights, Monnington and, unhappily, Glyn Jones, as well as Brangwyn and Spear. Monnington and Geoffrey Houghton Brown reflect the influence of Maurice Denis, through his writings and teaching on L’Art Sacré. The work of Helen Blair and Knights show modernist methods applied with particular aplomb to Biblical scenes. A version of The Good Samaritan by an unknown artist set at the Belgian Front at the end of WW1 is particularly evocative and highly unusual.

‘Art, Faith and Modernity’ has been selected as one of the ten best summer collections by the Daily Telegraph and the Art Newspaper. This interesting exhibition of modern works, loosely grouped under the umbrella of religious art, draws attention to one of the richest – though under-researched– aspects of 20th century British visual culture and calls for a reassessment of the place that religious art occupied in 20th century Britain.

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Noah and the Whale - Give A Little Love.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Foyer Display: Dan Kaszeta





The changing monthly display by the artists' and craftspeople's group in the Foyer of the Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields for August is by Dan Kaszeta. Each month a different member of the group or artists linked to it will show examples of their work, so do look regularly to see the changing display.

Dan’s photographs were all taken on the same day in October 2010 during a visit to Liwonde National Park in Malawi, a 212 square mile park known for its wildlife. He explains: 

‘It was the end of the dry season and animals were concentrated around the Shire River, practically the only remaining water until the rainy season began after this visit. Susannah Woodd of this congregation was the driver during this small safari. 

The elephant in the first photo was quite unconcerned with our presence. The second photo was shot at considerable distance. The remaining elephant photos are of a group that were crossing through the forest. We were very lucky to spot them. I approached on foot only to have the group stop, turn on me, and decide that they did not like me. They were making stark eye contact with me and did not trust me. It was best for me to retreat.’ 

All of the photos were shot on slow-speed ASA 50 Fuji Velvia colour slide film, known for its rich colour saturation in bright sunlight, and were subsequently scanned to create “Giclee” prints.

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Hothouse Flowers - I Can See Clearly Now.