Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Artlyst: St James Piccadilly - a series of innovative and provocative art installations

For my latest article for Artlyst I visited St James Piccadilly and saw work by Clinton Chaloner, Arabella Dorman and Emily Young:

'St James Piccadilly is one of the best loved churches in London. The congregation describe themselves as seeking to be inclusive, welcoming and adventurous, while their Rector, Revd Lucy Winkett, Chaplain to the Royal Academy of Arts, suggests that the ‘ungovernable and wholly independent spiritual reality that Christians call God, the generative presence that underpins the universe is the same spirit that inspires and invigorates the artist inside all of us who will not be told what to do or what to believe and who treasures our most precious human characteristic; imagination.’

As a result, it is no surprise to find the Arts as a significant contributor to the ministry which is undertaken in and from St James’ or to find that it has been the location for a series of innovative and provocative art installations, often during the major Christian festivals. I visited recently to see their latest installation, Suspension by Arabella Dorman, but their commitment to visual art is such that it was also possible to see the rawest set of nativity figures I have ever viewed and eight massive masterfully mysterious stone heads by Emily Young.'

My other Artlyst articles are:

Luke Sital Singh - 21st Century Heartbeat.

Windows on the world (379)

Norwich, 2014


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - I Need You.

Friday, 12 January 2018

The power of creativity as a catalyst for change

My most recent piece for ArtWay is about the recent exhibition by graduates of Central Saint Martins at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

In the article I explore why Central Saint Martins, a world-famous arts and design college and part of University of the Arts London, would choose to show work by its graduates in a church. It’s a question with several different answers all of which coalesce around an exhibition entitled central saint martin in the fields held at St Martin-in-the-Fields in October 2017.

The exhibition draws on historical links between the two institutions. central saint martins in the fields demonstrates the common concerns between an internationally recognized centre for art and design education and research and a church that actively engages with contemporary art in its commissioning and mission.


Dominique Lawalrée - Listen To The Quiet Voice.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Light Come Shining: The Transformations of Bob Dylan

In Light Come Shining: The Transformations of Bob Dylan (Oxford University Press) Andrew McCarron:

'deems major turning points in the songwriter’s life and career: his 1966 motorcycle accident, his mid-1970s conversion to Christianity, and his newfound creative spark in the late 1980s. All three, argues the author, are manifestations of a consistent “script” in which Dylan confronts his fear of death, becomes transfigured, and channels that transfiguration in new ways into his music. In coming to these conclusions, McCarron had no assistance from Dylan himself or those close to him; this work of “psychobiography” is based solely on a close study of Dylan’s interviews, writing, and performances. Though the author’s discussion of psychobiology is often leaden, overall the book is an insightful and often persuasive work, particularly in how spiritual themes (especially apocalyptic ones) persist in Dylan’s music. (Counter to the assumption that Dylan cast off his Christianity sometime in the early 1980s, McCarron finds plenty of evidence that the faith still matters to him.) Beyond Dylan’s music career, McCarron also explores the influence of his Jewish background, his growing up during the Cold War, and his upbringing in rural Minnesota as playing essential roles in his story.' (Kirkus Review)

Richie Unterberger writes that:

'The book is most persuasive when examining how spiritual themes, quite often of an apocalyptic nature, persist in Dylan’s music. For instance, McCarron finds that Dylan’s conversion to Christianity and a kind of fundamentalist gospel-rock that mystified and angered many of his longtime fans can be understood as “a meta-narrative of death and redemptive change that found relatively easy expression in the Christian stories and symbols that Dylan embraced as he approached the age of forty.” And although Dylan eased off on his hard-line Christianity within a few years, McCarron finds evidence that the faith still matters to him, and that elements of the language associated with his religious fervor linger in his music.'


Bob Dylan - Pressing On.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

London Lumiere 2018 and churches

London Lumiere 2018 launches on the evening of Thursday 18 January and runs over four nights through to Sunday 21 January.

Lumiere first came to central London in January 2016 and wowed visitors with light installations placed across the city centre. This year the show is even bigger with installations on the Southbank and at Waterloo, Westminster, Mayfair, The West End and Kings Cross. Visitor numbers are expected to reach over 2m. The works are illuminated from 17.30 – 22.30 each night.

St Martin-in-the-Fields will be hosting Echelle, by Ron Haselden – a neon pink illuminated ladder that will be attached to the spire. Dreamlike, it will disappear into the ether above like a glowing stairway to heaven. Haselden (France/UK) is an international artist working with light, electronics, sound, film and other materials. He lives and works in London and in Plouër-sur-Rance, France. The work was originally commissioned for the Salisbury Festival in 2000. The Café in the Courtyard will open from 17.00 – 21.00 Thurs – Sat and from 16.00 – 19.00 on Sunday and will be serving homemade soup, paninis, hot drinks, snacks and licensed refreshments. 

Experience a soothing meditation connecting colour, sound, light and texture through UK artist Chris Plant’s Harmonic Portal. In this new work at St James Piccadilly, Plant seeks to piece together our fragmented world. The soundtrack is derived from the frequencies of red, green, and blue light, creating a synesthetic colour organ that explores and magnifies both the inside and the outside of the frame.

See Tracy Emin’s neon work Be Faithful to Your Dreams, in St James’s Churchyard during Lumiere London 2018. London-born Emin is one of Britain’s most celebrated contemporary artists. Since the early 1990s, she has used her own life as inspiration for her art, exposing the most harrowing and intimate details of her personal history through needlework, sculpture, drawing, photography, painting, and of course neon.

Emin (UK) uses neon to illuminate emotions, memories, feelings and ideas in graphic messages, sentences and poems. Translating handwriting and drawings into blown and bent neon tubing presents technical challenges, and the choice of words or images is crucial. As the artists notes: “Neon is light, so, can you live with this thing glowing and the chemicals moving all the time?”

Experience moving tales through My Light is Your Light, a tribute from artist Alaa Minawi (Palestine/Lebanon) to Syrian refugees, in St James’s Churchyard (viewed from Church Place).

This installation pays tribute to Syrian refugees and the terrible conditions they have experienced in their migrations across the world. The work was realised after Alaa Minawi worked for three years as an interpreter for Syrian, Iraqi, Sudanese and Somali refugees. Also see Suspended, an installation artwork by Arabella Dorman inside St James's Church Piccadilly.

He interpreted the final interviews that took place between the refugees and a DHS (Department of Homeland and Security) officer within which they received their final resettlement decisions. In these interviews, the refugees tell their traumatic stories, what they have been through and the reasons behind their displacement. Minawi interpreted interviews for more than 1,000 families and felt the need to express what he had heard. These stories are now embodied in art, the fragile outlines of a family glowing in the darkness.

Minawi says: “I would like people to know that these are not refugees. As an artist, it is important to highlight the fact that we need to view them as people who were forced to leave their homes. That is a much more powerful approach…. We have to go to the real meaning of the word 'refugee' without the fears that are currently stigmatising it.”

See French digital artist Patrice Warrener’s magnificent The Light of the Spirit (Chapter 2), at Westminster Abbey. Warrerner created one of the most popular installations during Lumiere London 2016; and for the second instalment, in 2018, he brings the facade of the abbey’s Great West Gate to life by incorporating sculptural details in his distinctive colourful style.

Bathing Westminster Abbey in colour and light, the projection highlights the architectural mastery of the building, enabling us to witness the glorious statuettes of 20th-century martyrs reimagined. Usually perched unobtrusively on the facade above the Great West Doors, the figures are once again transformed into kaleidoscopic illuminations, a tribute to their lives in technicolour.

Warrener is recognised worldwide for his chromolithe projection system. His polychromatic illuminations on buildings give the impression of a spectacularly bright painted surface. He has designed more than 80 astounding creations and continues to share this unique art form across the globe.

Discover how simple technology is changing thousands of lives across the world with The Rose at Westminster Cathedral. Lumiere London celebrates light in all its forms but for many people access to light is a luxury, and Mick Stephenson's installation with Electric Pedals (UK) highlights how communities can be transformed by light.

A rose window with a difference, this work is made from thousands of recycled plastic bottles transformed into beautiful illuminated art. In another twist, The Rose is powered by bicycles pedalled by members of the public. Join in and work off those Christmas calories!

Artist Stephenson explores issues relating to poverty, sustainability and climate change in his works. Filled with bottles designed during workshops with local school children, The Rose asks us to acknowledge the growing need for alternative technologies to support our everyday lives.

Stephenson’s Litre of Light installation for Lumiere London 2016 attracted thousands to Central Saint Martins. He also created installations for Lumiere Durham in 2015, 2013 and 2011.


Larry Norman - Shine A Light.

Monday, 8 January 2018

The witness of John the Baptist

Here is the reflection I gave at the lunchtime Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields last Wednesday:

Here, in five short verses, we have the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus. Who does John say that Jesus is?

Firstly, John says that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The image of Jesus as the lamb that takes away sin reminds us of the story of the Exodus and the Passover. Death was coming to the entire land of Egypt and those saved were those who sacrificed lambs and daubed the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes. John was saying that when Jesus died his sacrifice would affect the entire world not just the people of Israel and would do so by taking away our sin for which the punishment is death.

Next, John says that Jesus ranks ahead of him because he was before him. John the Baptist was a great prophet. So much so, that Jesus compares him to Elijah referring to the prophecy in Malachi 4:5 that God would send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. Despite the greatness of John’s role and ministry (and despite the fact that he is the elder of the two), Jesus is the one to whom John bows the knee (the strap of whose sandal he is not worthy to untie) because, as we hear at the beginning of John’s Gospel, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was Jesus. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

John then says that Jesus is the one on whom the Spirit remains. The Spirit “came upon” such Old Testament people as Joshua (Numbers 27:18), David (1 Samuel 16:12-13) and even Saul (1 Samuel 10:10). In the book of Judges, we see the Spirit “coming upon” the various judges whom God raised up to deliver Israel from their oppressors. The Holy Spirit came upon these individuals for specific tasks. What happens with Jesus is different, as the Spirit remains with him. In Jesus the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – can be fully expressed, therefore the Spirit remains with Jesus in a way which had not been possible until then. All of Jesus' ministry, "must be understood as accomplished in communion with the Spirit of God".

Fourthly, John says that Jesus is the one who baptises others with the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit remains with Jesus, so she also remains with those who are his followers. The New Testament teaches the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20). When we place our faith in Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. The Apostle Paul calls this permanent indwelling the “guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Finally, John sums up his testimony by saying that Jesus is the Son of God, a title that implies His deity (John 5:18) because it is one of equality with God. This title has many facets, including showing that He is to be honoured equally with the Father (John 5:22-23), that He is to be worshipped (Matt. 2:2, 11, 14:33, John 9:35-38, Heb. 1:6), called God (John 20:28, Col. 2:9, Heb. 1:8), and prayed to (Acts 7:55-60, 1 Cor. 1:1-2).

John was sent as a man of God expressly to prepare the way for and to testify regarding the Christ, so the people would believe in Him. He plainly said that Jesus was the One for Whom He was preparing the way. He said Jesus would have pre-eminence, that Jesus was the Christ, that He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and that He was the Son of God. John lived his life to introduce others to Jesus Christ and his testimony is a model of Christian witness to Jesus.

John believed in the Christ and his great faith prepared him for hardships, but it kept him steadfast on his course until the time when he could say as he saw Jesus approach, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). As believers, we can all have this steadfast faith. John is also a model of Christian discipleship in his humility, a key characteristic of discipleship in this Gospel. We see this because, even when he is asked to testify concerning himself, he points to Jesus. Therefore, we can find in John the Baptist a powerful example of humility, single-mindedness and witness. We will do well to follow in his footsteps.


The Southwell Minster Choir - On Jordan's Bank, The Baptist's Cry.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

ArtWay Visual Meditation: Light in Clay Jars

In my latest Visual Meditation for ArtWay I reflect on Anna Sikorska's SALT installation, the culmination of the Light the Well community art project, which was recently at St Martin-in-the-Fields:

"The cracked translucent lanterns of this installation lit from within are a visible realisation of St Paul’s image of light in clay jars. By linking the lanterns together, this installation also highlights another aspect in 2 Corinthians 4. Paul writes that ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.’ Paul writes of us in the plural. We are afflicted, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. It is as we come together to engage with affliction, perplexity, forsakenness and being struck down that we carry in our body the death of Jesus and show the life of Jesus. It is as we come together, linked, like the lanterns, by the light of Christ that we become the Body of Christ."

My other ArtWay meditations include work by María Inés Aguirre, Giampaolo Babetto, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko, Christopher Clack, Marlene Dumas, Terry Ffyffe, Antoni Gaudi, Maciej Hoffman, Giacomo ManzùMichael PendryMaurice Novarina, Regan O'Callaghan, Ana Maria Pacheco, John Piper, Albert Servaes and Henry Shelton.


Mark Heard - Strong Hand Of Love.