Monday 3 December 2012

Private View: 'Incarnation'

commission4mission's South London launch took place tonight at a well attended Private View for our Christmas exhibition entitled 'Incarnation'. We were encouraged by the interest shown by all who came both in the conversations that took place and in the works that were sold. 

The exhibition, which had curated by Wendy McTernan, can be seen at Wimbledon Library Gallery (1st floor, Wimbledon Library, Wimbledon Hill Road, London SW19 7NB) and includes the work of 16 artists in media including ceramics, fused glass, paintings and photography. The exhibition continues until Saturday 8th December, 9.30am - 7.00pm (2.00pm on Saturday) with access through the Library. A second Private View will be held tomorrow from 6.30 - 9.30pm. All are welcome.

Those exhibiting are Harvey Bradley, Colin Burns, Christopher Clack, Ally Clarke, Valerie Dean, Elizabeth Duncan-Meyer, Jonathan Evens, Ken James, Sarah Ollerenshaw, Caroline Richardson, Janet Roberts, Francesca Ross, Henry Shelton, Sergiy Shkanov, Joy Rousell Stone and Peter Webb.

In launching commission4mission in South London, Jonathan Evens, c4m's secretary, said the following:

commission4mission was launched in March 2009 by our Patron, the Bishop of Barking, to encourage the commissioning and placing of contemporary Christian Art in churches, as a means of fundraising for charities and as a mission opportunity for churches.

We aim to:

·                    provide opportunities for churches to obtain and commission contemporary Christian Art for church buildings;
·                    provide information, ideas and examples of contemporary Christian Art and its use/display within church settings; and
·                    raise funds for charities through commissions and sales of contemporary Christian Art. 

In the short time that commission4mission has been in existence we have:

·                    built up a pool of over 30 artists available for Church commissions;
·                    developed a blog profiling our artists and giving up-to-date news of our activities;
·                    completed of 10 commissions;
·                    organised 13 exhibitions, two Study Days, three art workshops, several performance and networking events for members;
·                    created an Art Trail for the Barking Episcopal Area;
·                    worked in partnership with two other arts organisations (Christian Artist’s Networking Association & Veritasse) to create an Olympic-themed art project – Run With The Fire; and
·                    published several sets of images and meditations primarily with a Lenten or Passiontide focus.

We seek to be a proactive organisation for both the artists and the churches with which we work. For our artists we regularly provide information updates and networking opportunities as well as actively promoting their work through our blog, events and exhibitions. This ensures that they feel connected to one another and the wider faith and arts scene as well as benefiting from the support and ideas of fellow members. For churches, we actively provide opportunities to think about the possibility of commissioning contemporary art by seeing and considering the work of our artists and by suggesting ways to overcome some of the barriers which sometimes seem to stand in the way of new commissions such as finances and the differing tastes of church members. 

Why do we do what we do? Fundamentally, I would want to say that there is a Trinitarian underpinning to what we do. Firstly, that we are creative because we are made in the image of our Creator. That, as Dorothy L. Sayers reminded us in her book The Mind of the Maker, to be made in the image of God means that we are most like God when we are being creative. Secondly, that it is the Holy Spirit who gives skill to craftspeople and artists. The first Spirit-filled man in the Bible, Bezalel, was chosen by God to be skilled, knowledgeable and able to teach in all kinds of craftsmanship. So, to be biblically inspired is to make. Thirdly, that because God became truly human in Jesus we can represent his human nature as with any other member of the human race. So that, if we paint a picture of Jesus, we’re not trying to show a humanity apart from divine life but a humanity soaked through with divine life.

Next, I would want to say that the Arts are in many ways foundational to all that occurs in Church. Very briefly, we can say that:

         the Architecture of our churches provides a designed context and stage for the worship that occurs within them;
         we re-enact Biblical narratives through the poetry of the liturgy;
         music in church provides composed expressions of emotions and stories in and through song; and
         images in churches re-tell Biblical narratives and open windows into the divine.

Finally, we would also say that the Arts contribute to the mission of the Church by:

         speaking eloquently of the faith;
         providing a reason to visit a church – something we have tapped with our Art Trail for the Barking Episcopal Area;
         making links between churches and local arts organisations/ initiatives; and
         providing a focus for people to come together for a shared activity.

These then are key reasons why, in commission4mission, we seek to encourage the commissioning and placing of contemporary Christian Art in churches.

I would like to end with a poem by the German kinetic sculptor Heinz Mack who has had much experience of trying to work in and with Catholic chapels in Germany:

“Church art is not always art.
Art that happens to be placed in church, is art in the church,
But not Church art.
Church art that is shown in museums, remains church art in museums.
Art for the Church is not always regarded as art by the Church.
The Church does not always want art.
Art is art without the Church.
Great Church art is art in the church and for the church.”

In seeking to encourage the commissioning and placing of contemporary Christian Art in churches, commission4mission is aiming to be about “art in the church and for the church.”

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