Category Archives: Art

Silence is …..calming actually

alisonYou may have heard of Antony Gormley’s One & Other project- the fourth plinth on Trafalgar Square occupied by anybody who entered the draw. The idea is that any man or women can bid to spend an hour on the plinth to do whatever they like. The whole things is broadcast live on the Internet and Sky Arts. In the early hours of Sunday morning this week (2am to be precise) my friend Alison Wooding occupied the plinth with an hour of virtually silent prayer. It was an amazing experience. She started off being heckled by bystanders who wanted her to do something and entertain them, and yet after about 25 minutes or so the peaceful presence of God was felt across Trafalgar Square as people stopped, stared and reflected on what it means to be quiet in the presence of God and for the sake of others. Silent prayer caused silence to descend on one of the busiest parts of London amongst  clubbers and night owls. As the whole things has been filmed, why not set aside  one hour to re-live Alison’s experience and offer up those in your community for prayer for one hour today. Be a fourth plinther for prayer right here, right now wherever you are- you don’t need a pedestal for prayer! 

See the vigil @ http://www.oneandother.co.uk/participants/alison_w_1 Alison follows the shouting John Craddock who was supporting MS.

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Sacred Body Worlds?

Cristo_yacente_Gregorio_Fernandez_2Do you remember all the fuss the churches made when the Body Worlds exhibition came to town last year? The Bishop of Manchester said: “Is this little shop of horrors that has entered Manchester really a family day out? I do hope the science museum will at least put a warning on its website for parents to protect the young, review the under-five ‘free entry’ marketing policy and, just like a horror at the cinema, raise the entry age to 18.” At the time the organisers said in response  that “anatomical exhibitions originated in churches during the Renaissance, when the visionaries of that period believed that man’s life was worthy of study and contemplation, and church leaders viewed anatomy and dissection as a window into God’s work.”Now these arguments will be put to the test  again as London’s National gallery will play host to the first major exhibition of what it regards as some of the world’s most beautiful and shocking works of religious and sacred art. The show’s curator Xavier Bray has says; “It is to shock the senses and stir the soul.” I can’t wait and I dare say the Bishop of Manchester may already have booked his ticket!

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The Banksy Christ

capitalism_christ_shopping_bagsThe mysterious undercover graffiti artist Banksy has infiltrated  Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery this week and filled it with more than 100 of his iconoclastic creations. The grand vaulted Georgian galleries more used to hosting  renaissance and impressionist masterpieces now give way to Banksy’s modern, humorous and controversial creations. Visitors to the exhibition, which is free and lasts until August, will be greeted in the foyer by a burnt out ice cream van, the remains of giant melted cornet running down its roof. A dummy riot policeman wearing a balaclava and a badge saying Metropolitan Peace is making his getaway from the carnage on a fairground horse. Exhibits have been infiltrated into the galleries alongside the museum’s own works of art. In one typically Banksian pun Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz are painted on a sheet of rusting iron with a speech bubble saying: “I don’t think we’re on canvas any more.”

There are digs at contemporary culture, including an original Damian Hirst spot painting defaced by a rat with a paint roller. A stencilled picture shows a starving African orphan holding a bucket saying: “Peaches Geldof – please give generously.”

The installations have had a mixed reception. It’s hard to be neutral about Banksy- you love him or hate him. The exhibition made me think of the shock waves that Jesus would have created amongst the religious establishment as he took his parables and teachings to people and place that were frowned upon by the religious establishment of the day. Banksy makes us think about what art is and how it connects with the reality of life, politics, values and popular culture: Jesus does much the same thing in relation to God. He seemed to be out of place in the synagogue and temple- always making shock waves and causing controversy. He also connected through humour, irony, vivid imagery and also kept his identity under wraps for most of his ministry and was hugely popular. Some of our churches have taken on the style and feel of an establishment art gallery and our Banksy Christ seems to have left the building for good. The tragic thing is that some our Christian curators  seem really pleased.

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Gilbert & George..and Jesus

gilbert&georgeYesterday I picked up The Evening Standard and found within a double spread feature with the headline ‘Jesus and an unholy union Jack’. The article covered  the latest piece of controversial iconography from pop artists Gilbert and George. This time they’ve taken a crucified Christ and put him in a union jack lion cloth and halo, and instead of being flanked by thieves, Gilbert and George are  featured clad from head to toe in the Union Jack. The piece is  entitled Christian England. Describing  the inspiration for the work Gilbert says: “We think Christian England is a wonderful  title for a picture, a term that has been forgotten about…we are not Christians we are battling against it…it has caused too many deaths..we don’t believe in damnation.”

It’s hard to know what to make of this exploration of religion and patriotism and, striking though it is, I wonder what impact it will have.  It was interesting to note that the  anti- religious Gilbert and George pointed out their commitment to what I would describe as a central Christian principle. “We belive in our neighbour. That’s about it.”, although in typical ironic G&G form they added, “The main rule is not to beat up your neighbour, unless of course, he likes it.”

So is Jerusalem builded here in England’s green and pleasant land?I don’t think the irony of a Palestinian Jew living out values that we have adopted as Anglo Christian  has escaped some of us.

Christian England is part of a new exhibition of the work of Gilbert and George on show at London’s White Cube Galleries in Hoxton and Mayfair.

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