Sunday, 26 July 2009
Commission For Mission member Revd. Canon Martin Webster was tonight collated and installed as Archdeacon of Harlow in a service held at Chelmsford Cathedral.
Martin has served in the Archdeaconry of Harlow for the last twenty three years, where he was most recently Team Rector of Waltham Abbey Team Ministry and an honorary Canon of the Cathedral.
The choir from Waltham Abbey conducted by their Director of Music, Stephen Bullamore, led the worship. Martin was collated and installed by Bishop John Gladwin in one of his last functions as Bishop of Chelmsford. Bishop David preached using salt and light as images to describe the ministry that he anticipates for Martin in his new role. Bishop David also spoke about the creativity that Martin will bring to the role, highlighting his love of landscape painting.
Saturday, 25 July 2009
Three exhibitions at three Festivals
Our first three exhibitions were held within a three month period as part of the Pentecost, West Ham and Leytonstone Festivals. Exhibiting artists included: Harvey Bradley, Anne Creasey, Michael J. Creasey, Jonathan Evens, David Hawkins, Rosalind Hore, Henry Shelton, Peter Shorer, Joy Rousell Stone and Peter Webb. The reaction from both the churches involved and from those visiting the exhibitions was very positive. All Saints West Ham have, as a result, offered us a permanent exhibition space.
Spirituality – the heartbeat of Art?
Our exhibition at St Andrews Leytonstone also included a successful Art & Spirituality networking evening where we debated the question, 'Spirituality - the heartbeat of Art?'
Helen Gould, Refresh Project Development Worker at St Andrews, opened the event by saying that the networking event and exhibition launched a new creative programme – Reflect – which will run alongside their newly opened café, Refresh. Their intention being to offer a spiritual haven to the local community.
The evening continued with presentations from three commission4mission artists. Rosalind Hore spoke about her work as the exaggeration of emotion. She reflected on the way in which the medium affects the means by which she conveys emotion; working in clay affords more detail, while working in plaster or concrete requires sweeping lines and folds. She also described her functional work for church festivals and the way in which worship often inspired images and new work.
Mark Lewis spoke about spirituality in art as a sense of aliveness. He highlighted the very different work of Mark Rothko and Stanley Spencer, speaking about the sense of contemplation induced by Rothko's work and the sense of heaven in the ordinary in Spencer's. In speaking of his own work he described his sense of absorption in and fusion with the work as a spiritual experience.
Jonathan Evens argued that, despite reluctance among art critics and tutors to note or engage with religious themes and imagery, there is nevertheless a prevalence of religious themes and imagery to be found in modern and contemporary art. He gave a brief and partial alternative history of modern and contemporary art to illustrate this argument and suggested that this prevalence of themes and images does indicate that spirituality remains a significant inspiration of the visual arts.
Summaries of these three presentations can be found by clicking here, here and here. They led on to vigorous debate which covered the following issues:
• the extent to which spirituality should be the starting point for an artist's work or conversely whether spirituality could emerge from the artist's handling of form;
• the extent to which non-religious themes can convey a sense of spirituality;
• the extent to which traditional religious iconography still connects with the general public or whether artists should seek to create new imagery and forms for the truths of their faith;
• the extent to which the artist bears the potential audience for the work in mind while creating or is absorbed in the work itself without consideration of outside influences;
• the extent to which it is better to display spiritual art within churches or out in the public realm;
• ways of countering the perceived lack of interest or understanding of spirituality within the art world generally; and
• the need for examples of good practice and networks of artists with an interest in both art and spirituality.
Perspectives on commissioning Christian Art
The programme for our Study Day entitled 'Perspectives on commissioning Christian Art' has been finalised. Taking place on Saturday 7th November at Chelmsford Cathedral (New Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1TY) from 10.00am – 2.30pm , it follows our showcase exhibition in the Cathedral (Monday 2nd - Saturday 7th November, Cathedral opening times).
The programme is as follows:
9.45am - Registration & refreshments;
10.00am - Welcome & Introduction to commission4mission;
10.20am - The Very Revd. Peter Judd, Dean of Chelmsford Cathedral – ‘Experiences of commissioning art for Church & Cathedral’;
10.50am - Dr James Bettley, Chair of Chelmsford DAC – ‘Commissioning & the Faculty process’;
11.20am - Three commission4mission artists to be interviewed about their experiences of commissioning;
12 noon - Midday Prayers, Lunch break & Exhibition viewing;
1.00pm - Q&A session involving Peter Judd, Dr. James Bettley & the three artists;
1.45pm - Rt. Revd. David Hawkins, Bishop of Barking – ‘A Vision for the commissioning of contemporary Christian Art’;
2.15pm - Q&A session with Bishop David;
2.30pm: Close & Exhibition take-down.
To book a place or for more information, contact Jonathan Evens on 020 8599 2170 or email@example.com.
Our first two commissions have been over a year in negotiation but are currently in preparation. The first, is a set of fifteen Stations of the Cross by Henry Shelton for St Pauls Goodmayes (see left for example), which includes a central tryptich incorporating three stations and a resurrection station. The second is for two paintings by Henry Shelton (Crucifixion and Do this in remembrance of me) for the St Lukes Prayer Room at Queens Hospital Romford. This latter commission may also be expanded to include an additional piece by Henry and a sculpture by Rosalind Hore.
Sunday, 19 July 2009
"I have taken something of a comparative approach and a very personal outlook on art and the spiritual. Heartbeat means life. No heartbeat no life. This rings chords with me because although I think that to a great extent all art has the potential to be spiritual … a real authentic spiritual heartbeat occurs when it brings about a certain sense of aliveness (I don’t just mean well-being) a heightened awareness; a depth or altered state of consciousness; a quickening of the human spirit. It’s a struggle to find the right kind of descriptive language to speak of these things, but I think Kandinsky got very close to it when he spoke of “a vibration in the soul”.
To be truly spiritual it has to be something that engages us, unites us, awakens us, gives a deeper loving engagement with life. It is something that sacralises, and at the same time, gives access to an experience of the sacred. It can be both medium and message. I am wary of trying to pin down these experiences because they are subjective and work at different level with different people. But, for the Christian tradition, it is the Spirit that gives life and it is the Spirit that speaks to our heart through the richness of art.
Many artists have always recognized a hidden spirituality in what they are doing. They are aware of an indefinable "other" which inspires artists and leads them into ever deeper creativity. The work of Rothko and Stanley Spencer, although dramatically different, have impressed me deeply….
His paintings have a mysterious contemplative quality; a pure emotional experience… the spiritual power of non-objective art Some have observed to witness these paintings is to submit one’s self to a spiritual experience, which, through its transcendence of subject matter, approximates that of consciousness itself.
One is forced to approach the limits of experience and awakens one to the awareness of one’s own existence… confronted with silence and nothingness… in a very curious sense we are aware of our own heartbeat…
To stand before a Rothko painting (for me) is to be aware of ones own aliveness or being.
Spencer was a devout Christian and believed God resided in all things and the miraculous could be found in everyday events. His paintings proclaim that Christ is in all things. In his paintings, Cookham becomes the setting for scenes from the life of Christ and other Christian narratives.
The ordinary and the everyday takes on a different significance.. we are encouraged to
look it through a different lens. ….not always rose-coloured… but a lens that allows us
to make deeper connections we would otherwise not make. Ordinary situations and things take on a greater significance.
Spencer sacralised everything. To contemplate his art is to enter into the deep resonances sacredness in the world…. It is aliveness..
The words of Ingres are often quoted: “Drawing is the probity of art…” I don’t think that I am the only artist who believes that drawing can be an altered state of consciousness, a form of meditation; a way of evolving to higher levels of awareness.
In the act of drawing, there is a point in time when ones concentration is focussed so intently on the work that time stands still. All distractions disappear. The artists merges with his or her work. One becomes part of the life or spiritual energy of what you draw. In some ways this a very Zen outlook. We draw attentively and we become what we draw. It brings about an intimacy. Seeing and drawing becoming one. It is a kind of love-making. It is a way of loving the world.
Drawing leads you into different kinds of truths (as no doubt painting does). At its best it is always process, a spiritual search with shifting boundaries. Like the religious journey… the journey is in many ways more important than the goal.
My drawing technique searches and often never arrives… line brings form alive but it can also unite and coalesce the deeper meanings of a narrative (e.g. the Stations of the Cross) …
In a very brief and fragmentary way I have tried to discern the ways in which art enlivens me and that this is uniting theme. I can relate to many art forms in this way, particularly landscape. I can relate strongly to the idea of art as prayer (Sister Wendy Beckett speaks of it in these terms).
Contemporary African writer Ben Okri claims that "ALL art is a prayer" and then he adds that it is basically a prayer for spiritual strength. Prayer - difficult though it sometimes is - is a form of communion. A deep engagement. It keeps our spiritual heart beating."
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Tonight was a celebration of new ministry for Commission For Mission committee member Father Steven Saxby as he was licensed by Bishop David, Commission for Mission's Patron, as Priest-in-Charge of the parish of St Barnabas with St James the Greater, Walthamstow.
Steven has been tremendously supportive of Commission For Mission since its inception. He suggested our name, introduced Henry Shelton's work to the Waltham Forest Deanery, linked us up with St Andrew's Leytonstone, and in September will display Henry's Stations of the Cross in St Barnabas as part of the E17 Art Trail. Henry was among those community representatives welcoming Steven into his new role and did so on behalf of Commission For Mission.
A Church Holiday Club set
'Jesus in the Garden'
In the second presentation from the Art & Spirituality networking evening at St Andrews Leytonstone, where three artists addressed the question 'Spirituality - the heartbeat of Art?', Rosalind Hore speaks about her work as the exaggeration of emotion:
Monday, 13 July 2009
What follows is the text of Jonathan Evens' presentation in responding to the question 'Spirituality - the heartbeat of Art?' at the Art & Spirituality networking evening held at St Andrews Leytonstone:
"Sooner or later, if you love art, you will come across a strange fact: there is almost no modern religious art in museums or in books of art history. It is a state of affairs that is at once obvious and odd, known to everyone and yet hardly whispered about ... a certain kind of academic art historical writing treats religion as an interloper, something that just has no place in serious scholarship ... Straightforward talk about religion is rare in art departments and art schools, and wholly absent from art journals unless the work in question is transgressive. Sincere, exploratory religious and spiritual work goes unremarked. Students who make works that are infused with spiritual or religious meanings must normally be content with analysis of their works' formal properties, technique, or mode of presentation. Working artists concerned with themes of spirituality (again, excepting work that is critical or ironic about religion) normally will not attract the attention of people who write for art magazines ... An observer of the art world might well come to the conclusion that religious practice and religious ideas are not relevant to the art world unless they are treated with scepticism."
So writes James Elkins at the beginning of a book entitled On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art. On that basis the answer to tonight’s question would seem to be a resounding “no”. And yet, as Elkins also notes, these attitudes are odd, because there is a tremendous amount of religious art created.
Timothy Potts suggests in Beyond Belief: Modern art and the Religious Imagination, that “the pervasiveness of broadly religious and spiritual themes in twentieth-century Western art may at first seem to stand in contradiction to the secularization of so many aspects of life and culture during our times.”
“The religious underpinnings of so much Western art before [the twentieth] century – from its subject matter to its sources of patronage and its devotional purposes – are obvious and uncontentious,” he continues, but with the art of the twentieth century the religious dimension becomes “altogether more subtle, often more abstract and inevitably more personal.” Spirituality, while continuing to be pervasive, becomes less obvious and the perception grows that it is “not relevant to the art world.”
My answer to tonight’s question therefore is to point to the pervasiveness of religious and spiritual themes in twentieth century and contemporary Western art and in the remainder of my time that is what I aim to do by giving a whistlestop and inevitably partial tour of these religious themes and some of those artists that have used them.
The catalytic encounter of Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin in Brittany in 1888 resulted in Post Impressionist paintings exploring the Catholic soul of Breton peasants. Bernard and Gauguin shared their new style with Paul Sérusier who, together with fellow art students including Maurice Denis, formed the Nabis.
Denis became one of the most significant artists in the French Catholic Revival, being prominent in the Nabis, as a Symbolist, and, through his Studios of Sacred Art, contributing to a revival of French Sacred Art. Denis’ influence was felt among Symbolists and Sacred Artists in Belgium, Italy, Russia and Switzerland, in particular.
A second circle of influence within the French Catholic Revival gathered around the philosopher Jacques Maritain. His book Art and Scholasticism was influential and he organised study circles for artists and others including the Expressionist Georges Rouault, the Surrealist Jean Cocteau, the Futurist Gino Severini, the Dadaist Otto van Rees and abstract art promoter Michel Seupher. His writings were also significant for the community of artists which formed around the sculptor Eric Gill at Ditchling, which included the artist and poet David Jones. Jones further developed Maritain’s ideas of images as signs in his paintings, poetry and critical writings.
A third circle of influence gathered around cubist pioneer Albert Gleizes, including Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone (who played significant roles in the development of Modern Art in Ireland) and Australian potter Anne Danger. Like Eric Gill at Ditchling, Gleizes formed a Catholic arts colony to further his ideas which embraced both painting and society seeking to identify natural rhythms for both.
A final circle of influence developed around the Dominican Friars, Marie-Alain Couturier and Pie Régamey, who insisted that the Roman Catholic Church call for the great artists and architects of their day to design and decorate its churches. The involvement of artists such as Marc Chagall, Férnand Leger, Le Corbusier, and Henri Matisse in churches such as Assy, Ronchamp and Vence was proof of the effectiveness of their approach and ministry. A similar approach was taken in the UK by George Bell and Walter Hussey which saw artists such as Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Hans Feibusch and Cecil Collins decorating churches.
Expressionist artists such as Emil Nolde, Christian Rohlfs and Albert Servaes painted biblical scenes with an emotional intensity that was often more than the institutional churches at the time could accept. Georges Rouault added to this expressionist intensity with a compassionate Christian critique of contemporary society. Italian Divisionism and Futurism also included a strong strand of sacred art through artists such as Gaetano Previati, Gerardo Dottori, and Fillia.
Wassily Kandinsky created abstract art by abstracting from apocalyptic biblical images and felt that abstraction was the best means available to artists for depicting an unseen realm. Kasimir Malevich was not only influenced by the tradition of Russian icon painting but also by the underlying principle of icons – the presence of an Absolute in the world – to develop the Suprematist aim of self-transcendence.
Daniel Siedell writes that “for these and many other avant-garde painters well into the twentieth century, including Russian immigrants John Graham and Mark Rothko, modern painting functioned like an icon, creating a deeply spiritual, contemplative relationship between the object and viewer.” The influence also went the other way too, as Abstract Expressionist William Congdon converted to Roman Catholicism and used this style to create deeply expressive crucifixions.
Iconographer, Aidan Hart, notes that a revival of traditional iconography occurred in the twentieth century; led in Greece by Photius Kontoglou, in Russia by Maria Sakalova and Archimandrite Zenon, and in Europe by Leonid Ouspensky and Fr. Gregory Kroug. More surprisingly, a Lutheran tradition of iconography has also developed in Scandanavia led by Erland Forsberg.
Evangelicalism found artistic expression through the folk art of the American South with artists such as Howard Finster and Sister Gertrude Morgan gaining significant reputations. Such artists have often been both naive and visionary in their style, an approach that also characterised the work of New Zealand artist Colin MacCahon and British artist, Albert Herbert.
Other significant visionary artists using Christian themes and imagery have included Stanley Spencer, F.N. Souza, Betty Swanwick, Norman Adams, Roger Wagner and Mark Cazalet.
In response to the growth of Christian Art on the Asian continent, the Asian Christian Art Association was founded in 1978 to encourage the visual arts in Asian churches. Australia encouraged contemporary religious art through the establishment of the Blake Prize in1951. From that date until the present, its judges have chosen as prize winners artists and works which reflect the movement in Modern Art from the figurative to the abstract. Wojciech Wlodarczyk notes that one special aspect of Polish Art in the 1980s was its links with the Roman Catholic Church. Martial law forced the entire artistic community to boycott official exhibition spaces and instead places of worship hosted exhibitions. This period was marked by a profound interest in the whole question of the sacrum in art and was characterised by the work of Jerzy Nowosielski with its thoughts on the nature of religious art.
Finally, on this whistle-stop tour, there has been extensive use of Christian imagery by BritArt artists such as Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Mark Wallinger, and Sam Taylor-Wood. In their work, Christian iconography and narrative is often used as a frame for the artist’s critique of contemporary life including politics and culture.
As was argued at the beginning of this talk, issues of religion have been largely overlooked in the social and cultural history of twentieth-century art. As curator and author Daniel Siedell has argued, we need "an alternative history and theory of the development of modern art, revealing that Christianity has always been present with modern art, nourishing as well as haunting it, and that modern art cannot be understood without understanding its religious and spiritual components and aspirations."
Saturday, 11 July 2009
St George & the Dragon (detail)
Peter Webb has provided photographs of his latest commission, a painting of St George and the Dragon for The Bishop Stopford's School in Enfield.
Peter was Head of Art at The Bishop Stopford's School until his retirement. To judge from the Wikipedia entry on the School he is fondly remembered both for his artworks and his personality. Peter painted many portraits of staff at the School on their retirement most famous artwork among the School community, completed with the help of the sixth form, is his statue of Bishop Stopford which is made out of papier-mâché on a galvanised chicken-wire frame. His Supper at Emmaus also hangs in the School where it has now been joined by St George and the Dragon.
The new commission came about as a result a Jack Petchey award won by a teacher at the School, which was then used to commission the painting. The painting was dedicated on St George's Day earlier this year.
An additional painting by Peter used to hang in the School. This was his The Denial Of Saint Peter, featuring a likeness of the then Chaplain Lowry in the role of the Disciple Peter. On his retirement this painting was moved to its current location in St Marys Woodford.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
The panel for the evening - Mark Lewis, Rosalind Hore and Jonathan Evens
Peter Webb & Mark Lewis in discussion
Michael Creasey & Rosalind Hore
Viewing the exhibition
Viewing the exhibition
Last night's Art & Spirituality networking evening proved an intriguing and stimulating event as we considered the question, 'Spirituality - the heartbeat of Art?'.
Helen Gould, Refresh Project Development Worker, opened the event by welcoming us to St Andrews Leytonstone. The church has a 123 year old history and art has been an indelible part of the buildings life. This event and Commission For Mission's exhibition are launching a creative programme – Reflect – which will run alongside their newly opened café, Refresh. Their intention is to offer a spiritual haven to the local community. As a result, the church has been exploring again how to work with art and how it fits with their Anglo-Catholic tradition.
Helen suggested that God's creativity could be the starting point for that exploration with our hunan creativity understood as being one of ways in which we are made in the image of God. She noted that even John Calvin had acknowledged the Arts as a gift from God. Among the benefits that use of the Arts can bring to churches are the exploration of difficult issues, the revitalisation of worship, and the sense of being brought closer to the Creator God.
The evening continued with presentations from three Commission For Mission artists:
- Rosalind Hore - a sculptor and painter of Christian subjects – Christ figures, nativity sets, Ecce Homo, Stations of the Cross etc. Rosalind works in clay, plaster, concrete (figures can also be bronze cast at the foundry). Her paintings are mostly in acrylic of the events in the life of Christ. Rosalind spoke about her work as the exaggeration of emotion. She reflected on the way in which the medium affects the means by which she conveys emotion; working in clay affords more detail, while working in plaster or concrete requires sweeping lines and folds. She also described her functional work for church festivals and the way in which worship often inspired images and new work.
- Mark Lewis - an artist, silversmith, Arts Lecturer at London Metropolitan University and Chair of Faith & Image. Mark has undertaken drawing and painting in a Christian context and has designed and made Church plate. In addition to his lecturing, Mark has delivered workshops for The Big Draw as part of its national launch. Mark spoke about spirituality in art as a sense of aliveness. He highlighted the very different work of Mark Rothko and Stanley Spencer, speaking about the sense of contemplation induced by Rothko's work and the sense of heaven in the ordinary in Spencer's. In speaking of his own work he described his sense of absorption in and fusion with the work as a spiritual experience.
- Jonathan Evens - paints in a symbolic expressionist style and has facilitated the involvement of churches in a range of public art projects. Jonathan's arts journalism has featured in publications including 'Art & Christianity' and 'The Church Times'. He is also a creative writer (meditations, poetry, short stories, and a blog) and the Vicar of St John the Evangelist Seven Kings. Jonathan is the Secretary of Commission for Mission. Jonathan argued that, despite a reluctance among art critics and tutors to note or engage with religious themes and imagery, there is nevertheless a prevalence of religious themes and imagery to be found in modern and contemporary art. He gave a brief and partial alternative history of modern and contemporary art to illustrate this argument and to suggest that this prevalence of themes and images does suggest that spirituality remains a significant inspiration of art.
Their three presentations will be the subject of subsequent posts and led on to vigorous debate which covered the following issues:
- the extent to which spirituality should be the starting point for an artist's work or conversely whether spirituality could emerge from the artist's handling of form;
- the extent to which non-religious themes can convey a sense of spirituality;
- the extent to which traditional religious iconography still connects with the general public or whether artists should seek to create new imagery and forms for the truths of their faith;
- the extent to which the artist bears the potential audience for the work in mind while creating or is absorbed in the work itself without consideration of outside influences;
- the extent to which it is better to display spiritual art within churches or out in the public realm;
- ways of countering the perceived lack of interest or understanding of spirituality within the art world generally; and
- the need for examples of good practice and networks of artists with an interest in both art and spirituality.
Monday, 6 July 2009
The day will take place on Saturday 7th November at Chelmsford Cathedral (New Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1TY) from 10.00am – 2.30pm and comes at the end of Commission For Mission's showcase exhibition in the Cathedral (Monday 2nd - Saturday 7th November, Cathedral opening times).
The Study Day programme is as follows:
9.45am: Registration & refreshments
10.00am: Welcome & Introduction to Commission For Mission
10.20am: The Very Revd. Peter Judd, Dean of Chelmsford Cathedral – ‘Experiences of commissioning art for Church & Cathedral’
10.50am: Dr James Bettley, Chair of Chelmsford DAC – ‘Commissioning & the Faculty process’
11.20am: Three Commission For Mission artists to be interviewed about their experiences of commissioning
12 noon: Midday Prayers, Lunch break & Exhibition viewing
1.00pm: Q&A session involving Peter Judd, Dr. James Bettley & the three artists
1.45pm: Rt. Revd. David Hawkins, Bishop of Barking – ‘A Vision for the commissioning of contemporary Christian Art’
2.15pm: Q&A session with Bishop David
2.30pm: Close & Exhibition take-down
To book a place or for more information, contact Jonathan Evens on 020 8599 2170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
'St. Paul' (from fragment of altar panel, Basilica of San Vincente de Avila, 12th Century) and 'Peace'
'Consider the Lilies'
Her work includes traditional embroidery, appliqué with painted fabric and includes a large range of materials, from yarns and threads to plastic bags. If it can be sewn down, it can be used! Subject matter includes the figurative and the abstract. Anne prefers to produce wall hangings as she likes to work on a fairly large scale. Panels are usually, but not always, framed without glass so as not to lose the textural qualities of the piece.
Friday, 3 July 2009
Chalice & Paten By Harvey Bradley, Genesis by Michael J. Creasey & Today by Jonathan Evens
Entrance to the church & exhibition showing works by Jonathan Evens, Harvey Bradley & Rosalind Hore
An Art & Spirituality networking evening will be held on 9 July from 7-9.30pm involving presentations from three of our artists on the theme of 'Spirituality - the heartbeat of Art?'. The three artists giving their personal responses to this question will be:
- Rosalind Hore is a sculptor and painter of Christian subjects – Christ figures, nativity sets, Ecce Homo, Stations of the Cross etc. She works in clay, plaster, concrete (figures can also be bronze cast at the foundry). Her paintings are mostly in acrylic of the events in the life of Christ.
- Mark Lewis is an artist, silversmith, Arts Lecturer at London Metropolitan University and Chair of Faith & Image. He has undertaken drawing and painting in a Christian context and has designed and made Church plate. In addition to his lecturing, Mark has delivered workshops for The Big Draw as part of its national launch.
- Jonathan Evens paints in a symbolic expressionist style and has facilitated the involvement of churches in a range of public art projects. His arts journalism has featured in publications including 'Art & Christianity' and 'The Church Times'. He is also a creative writer (meditations, poetry, short stories, and a blog) and the Vicar of St John the Evangelist Seven Kings. Jonathan is the Secretary of Commission for Mission.
Following their input, the evening will continue with open discussion and debate. All are welcome.