Aesthetic life is as integral to being human as building sandcastles on the beach and giving your children names. Calvin Seerveld

A little leaven leavens the whole lump

A little leaven leavens the whole lump

by Ydi Carstens

A few years ago a group of young artists with interest in the complexities of art and faith started meeting once a year in Stellenbosch, establishing a unique community with one leg in the church and the other in the contemporary arts. They called it ‘The artist’s Gathering’. A few years earlier, another group had started curating contemporary art exhibitions about 800 kilometers along the Eastern coast of South Africa, in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), and called themselves ’40 Stones in the Wall’.

When news of both of their activities reached one another, conversations and partnerships grew, permeating their lives much like leaven permeates dough. Their partnership found expression in a number of art and faith initiatives.

One of these was a group show titled ‘Unleavened’ which was opened in Stellenbosch shortly before the Covid-19 lock-down. The exhibition coincided with an ambitious contemporary African art Triennale, which had started a month earlier and in some ways built on the work of the Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town. (Both of these offer enough material for articles of their own).

Hoping to offer a Christian perspective on the growing discourse within African Contemporary art, the ‘Unleavened’ exhibition was imagined as a place of restoration but also of provocation. An open call was sent out within the community and works selected with the theme Leaven, a metaphor “through which to view the work of young artists as they explore the presence and impact of culture, gender, politics and religion in their lives today”.

Because of the enduring importance of religion in Africa, it is impossible to ignore questions of faith in the contemporary arts. Although African art has in recent years grown more trenchant, as seen in the work on display at the Zeitz Mocaa, church-going and morality is still regarded as part of culture in South Africa.  The ‘Unleavened’ organizers felt compelled to address “the conceptual complexities presented by post-modern art while engaging with visual faith in a way that is both biblically credible and sustainable”.

Artists and organizers did much to make the pieces as accessible as possible, being aware that the transgressive legacy of contemporary art doesn’t always invite spontaneous interest in communities of faith. Artist statements, a video interview and a walkabout in lieu of KRUX Thursday night dialogues created a platform for young people to engage with the artworks. An in-gallery workshop about the art of seeing was scheduled by the US theological seminary but was cancelled due to the growing health concerns surrounding Covid-19.

Each of the participating artists had a different way of thinking about how their faith permeates their artmaking, or how certain aspects of culture permeates society, for good or bad.

Ntobeko Mjijwa: Death in the Room, oil on board, 203 x 81 cm

Straddling the verge between reality and fantasy, Ntobeko Mjijwa looks at the ambiguous presence of death in our lives: negative, indifferent, positive and even alien. He asks whether we should fear something that might ultimately have only a limited dominion, despite what we can see. This painting by Mjijwa (artist-in-residence at the studentY UCT) is an adaptation of a famous photograph of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko’s wake.

(TOP) Marijke van Velden: Mannin, 2020, Black Toner Transferred onto 200gsm Fabriano, 95 x 100.5 cm; (BOTTOM) Marijke van Velden: “ek is”, 2020, Die Bybel, 1953 & White Gouache 18.5 x 27 x 3 cm

Marijke van Velden uses art in a confessional way, exploring the religion handed down to her through genealogy and culture. She engages with the biblical text both conceptually and materially, making visible the ‘act of interpretation’ and the creative power of language. By blurring the boundaries between text and image, she hopes to stimulate meaning-making around the mystery of the biblical text.

With a video piece the artist Mosa Anita Kaiser examines the intersection of race, gender and religion as she explores the tension of being a woman of colour and a Christian. Her series ‘The Assumptions of Mary’, draws on Biblical symbolism, ecclesiastical art and black feminist theories to give voice to this tension, as a step towards liberation and healing.

The young conceptual artist Jana Visser’s transitory bread sculptures explore the everyday, the passage of time, and her own temporality. Through processes of kneading, weaving and drying, the raw dough becomes layered, reflecting the cumulative effect of time – a continuous, gradual layering of moments, decisions, hesitations and durations.

Aaron Samuel Mulenga: The Holy Trinity, photograph, 72 x 108 cm

For ‘Unleavened’ the Zambian artist Aaron Samuel Mulenga presented an installation of photographic works that reimagines the Holy Trinity through Christian Iconography and spiritual symbolism drawn from his Zambian culture. Baskets with maize meal, water, coffee and unleavened bread accompanied the Trinity images and explored how Christian symbols like communion relate to African culture and history.

Marieke Kruger: Emergence I, 2019, charcoal on Fabriano aquarelle paper 300g, 200 x 150 cm

Well established artist Marieke Kruger is interested in the transformative power of drawing and the psychological and spiritual dimensions of identity formation. Her drawings for ‘Unleavened’ are informed by the art lessons she gives at a local correctional facility, a space in which unusual relationships are forged and creative practices mutually inspired.

Carmen Maria Titus: Stones for Bread, photograph, 150 x 210 mm

Carmen Maria Titus’s series “Stones for Bread” expresses a season of ‘creative famine’ caused by her struggle to reconcile the Christian faith (that is at the core of her personal identity and nourishes her creative practice), with the post-modern philosophies of a contemporary secular arts education. Titus considers this work to still be in process, reflecting an ongoing search for resolution and clarity.

Bronwen Salton: Divide and Conquer 1, Jerusalem Wall of Separation, 23 x 25 cm

Bronwen Salton presents part of her series “Anamnesis, ‘a remembering’”, which tracks her journey through a conflicted Israel and Palestine. The fragmented marks speak to her time spent processing the sites of ancient and modern conflict simultaneously marked by a tangible presence of true holiness, miracles and salvation contained in the memory of people, landscape and terrain.

Elbie Visser: Quiescence, 2020,⁠ oil paint and Namibian magnetite on board, ⁠30 x 40 cm

Elbie Visser explains that the consumer mentality and overstimulation in our culture had her longing for the silent and spacious landscapes of the arid desert of her homeland Namibia. Her paintings are a reflection of a personal ‘unleavening’ – a process of stepping into rest while suspending herself within the discomfort of her own thoughts, questions and underlying emotions.

In the mysterious way art so often does, each piece interacts and interplays with one another in ways unanticipated by the curators. Mjijwa’s painting makes us reflect on how figures like Biko continues to haunt the conscience of our country – an unspoken presence permeating our society. Van Velden’s piece is a confession of vulnerability and how deep-seated suffering percolates our psyche with the need for a Healer. Kruger and Titus see artmaking itself as the leavening agent, facilitating transformation in their own lives or in the lives of others. For Salton and Elbie Visser place and presence is the operating agent, whether in the politically loaded Jerusalem or the still, quiet Namibian desert, our ‘being-in-place’ inspires us with new understanding and a distillation of our faith.


For more information about the 40 Stones collective, visit

Ydi Carstens is artist in residence for Krux Africa,


27 July 2021 / Russia’s 1st Biennale of Christ-centered Art

An opportunity of dialogue between the church and contemporary art

by Viktor Barashkov


30 June 2021 / Jacques and Raïssa Maritain among the Artists

by David Lyle Jeffrey

About the influence of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain on Rouault, Chagall and Arcabas.


13 May 2021 / GOD IS...

Chaiya Art Awards 2021 Exhibition: “God Is . . .”

by Victoria Emily Jones


21 April 2021 / Photographing Religious Practice

by Jonathan Evens

The increasing prevalence of photographic series and books exploring aspects of religious practice gives witness to the return of religion in the arts.


23 March 2021 / Constanza López Schlichting: Via Crucis

Perhaps what may be different from other Stations of the Cross is that it responds to a totally free expression and each station is a painting in itself. 


10 February 2021 / Gert Swart: Four Cruciforms

In a post-Christian era, contemporary Christian artists have to find new ways of evoking the power of the cross. 


08 January 2021 / Reflecting on a Gauguin Masterpiece

by Alan Wilson

An artist's reflection on Impressionism, Cezanne, Van Gogh and especially Gauguin's Vision after the Sermon.


11 December 2020 / ArtWay Newsletter 2020

What makes the ArtWay platform so special is its worldwide scope thanks to its multilingual character. There are ArtWay visitors in all countries on this planet. 


27 October 2020 / Art Pilgrimage

A Research Project on Art Stations of the Cross

by Lieke Wijnia


18 September 2020 / Interview with Peter Koenig

by Jonathan Evens

Koenig's practice demonstrates that the way to avoid blandness in religious art is immersion in Scripture.



How Other Cultures See the Bible

Christian Weber, Wie andere Kulturen die Bibel sehen. Ein Praxisbuch mit 70 Kunstwerken aus 33 Ländern.


17 July 2020 / The Calling Window by Sophie Hacker

by Jonathan Evens  

In 2018 British artist Sophie Hacker was approached to design a window for Romsey Abbey to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.


14 May 2020 / Jazz, Blues, and Spirituals


Hans Rookmaaker, Jazz, Blues, and Spirituals. The Origins and Spirituality of Black Music in the United States. 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evens


17 April 2020 / Andy Warhol: Catholicism, Work, Faith And Legacy

by Jonathan Evens 

While Warhol’s engagement with faith was complex it touched something which was fundamental, not superficial.


25 March 2020 / Sacred Geometry in Christian Art

by Sophie Hacker

This blog unravels aspects of sacred geometry and how it has inspired art and architecture for millennia. 


22 February 2020 / Between East and West

By Kaori Homma

Being in this limbo between day and night makes me question, “Where does the east end and the west start?”


15 February 2020 / Imagination at Play

by Marianne Lettieri

To deny ourselves time to laugh, be with family and friends, and fuel our passions, we get caught in what Cameron calls the “treadmill of virtuous production.”


07 December 2019 / ArtWay Newsletter 2019

An update by our editor-in-chief 
the ArtWay List of Books 2019


16 November 2019 / Scottish Miracles and Parables Exhibition

Alan Wilson: "Can there be a renewal of Christian tradition in Scottish art, where ambitious artists create from a heartfelt faith, committed to their Lord and saviour as well as their craft?"


23 September 2019 / Dal Schindell Tribute

While Dal’s ads and sense of humour became the stuff of legends, it was his influence on the arts at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada that may be his biggest legacy. 


04 September 2019 / The Aesthetics of John Calvin

Calvin stated that 'the faithful see sparks of God's glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.'


31 July 2019 / The Legend of the Artist

by Beat Rink

The image of the 'divine' artist becomes so dominant that artists take their orientation from it and lead their lives accordingly.


02 July 2019 / Quotes by Tim Keller

Many “Christian art” productions are in reality just ways of pulling artists out of the world and into the Christian subculture.


08 June 2019 / The Chaiya Art Awards

by Jonathan Evens

The Chaiya Art Awards 2018 proved hugely popular, with over 450 entries and more than 2,700 exhibition visitors.


29 May 2019 / Art Stations of the Cross: Reflections

by Lieke Wynia

In its engagement with both Biblical and contemporary forms of suffering, the exhibition addressed complex topical issues without losing a sense of hope out of sight.


03 May 2019 / Marianne Lettieri: Relics Reborn

Items that show the patina of time and reveal the wear and tear of human interaction are carriers of personal and collective history. 


27 April 2019 / Franciscan and Dominican Arts of Devotion

by John Skillen 

This manner of prayer stirs up devotion, the soul stirring the body, and the body stirring the soul.


13 March 2019 / Makoto Fujimura and the Culture Care Movement

by Victoria Emily Jones

Culture care is a generative approach to culture that brings bouquets of flowers into a culture bereft of beauty.


08 January 2019 / Building a Portfolio of People

by Marianne Lettieri

Besides hard work in the studio, networking may be the single most important skill for a sustainable art practice.


01 December 2018 / ArtWay Newsletter December 2018

ArtWay has Special Plans for 2019!

After London, Washington D.C. and New York the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is now the anticipated location for a prominent art exhibition with the title Art Stations of the Cross.


11 October 2018 / The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe

Book Review by Jonathan Evens

The significance and spirituality of the work is made clear in ways which counteract the stereotype of mass production of a static style.


13 September 2018 / A Visit to the Studio of Georges Rouault

by Jim Alimena

Everything we saw and learned reinforced my picture of a great man of faith and a great artist. 


09 August 2018 / With Opened Eyes: Representational Art

by Ydi Coetsee

How do we respond to the ‘lost innocence’ of representational art? 


13 July 2018 / True Spirituality in the Arts

by Edith Reitsema

Living in Christ should lead us away from living with a segregated view of life, having a sacred-secular split. 


17 May 2018 / Beholding Christ in African American Art

Book review by Victoria Emily Jones

One of the hallmarks of Beholding Christ is the diversity of styles, media, and denominational affiliations represented.


23 April 2018 / Short Introduction to Hans Rookmaaker

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

On the occasion of the establishment of the Rookmaaker Jazz Scholarship at Covenant College, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 12 March 2018


04 April 2018 / International Art Residency in India

Art for Change, a New Delhi based arts organization with a vision to see art shape society with beauty and truth, will be running its 6th annual International Artist Residency in November 2018.


15 March 2018 / The Stations of the Cross at Blackburn Cathedral

by Penny Warden  

Perhaps the central challenge for the artist in imaging the body of Christ is the problem of representing the dual natures of the doctrine of the incarnation.


23 February 2018 / Between the Shadow and the Light

By Rachel Hostetter Smith

In June 2013 a group of twenty North American and African artists from six African countries met for two weeks of intensive engagement with South Africa.


30 January 2018 / Sacred Geometry in Christian Art

by Sophie Hacker

This blog unravels aspects of sacred geometry and how it has inspired art and architecture for millennia. 


01 January 2018 / Jonathan Evens writes about Central Saint Martins

Why would Central Saint Martins, a world-famous arts and design college and part of University of the Arts London, choose to show work by its graduates in a church?


06 December 2017 / ArtWay Newsletter December, 2017

ArtWay's Chairman Wim Eikelboom: "The visual arts cultivate a fresh and renewed view of deeply entrenched values. That is why ArtWay is happy to provide an online platform for art old and new."


14 November 2017 / The Moral Imagination: Art and Peacebuilding

In the context of conflict transformation the key purpose of creative expression is to provide a venue for people to tell their stories, and for their stories to be heard.


24 October 2017 / Bruce Herman: Ut pictura poesis?

For the last couple hundred of years the arts have largely been in "experimentation mode"—moving away from the humble business of craft and service toward ideas, issues, and theory.


04 October 2017 / David Jeffrey: Art and Understanding Scripture

The purpose of In the Beauty of Holiness: Art and the Bible in Western Culture is to help deepen the reader’s understanding of the magnificence of the Bible as a source for European art.


08 September 2017 / David Taylor: The Aesthetics of John Calvin

Calvin stated that 'the faithful see sparks of God's glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.'


23 August 2017 / ​Reconstructed by Anikó Ouweneel

A much talked-about exposition in the NoordBrabants Museum in The Netherlands showed works by modern and contemporary Dutch artists inspired by traditional Catholic statues of Christ and the saints. 


04 July 2017 / Pilgrimage to Venice – The Venice Biennale 2017

When I start to look at the art works, I notice a strange rift between this pleasant environment and the angst and political engagement present in the works of the artists. 


24 June 2017 / Collecting as a Calling

After many years of compiling a collection of religious art, I have come to realize that collecting is a calling. I feel strongly that our collection has real value and that it is a valuable ministry. 


02 June 2017 / I Believe in Contemporary Art

By Alastair Gordon

In recent years there has been a growing interest in questions of religion in contemporary art. Is it just a passing fad or signs of renewed faith in art? 


04 April 2017 / Stations of the Cross - Washington, DC 2017

by Aaron Rosen

We realized that the Stations needed to speak to the acute anxiety facing so many minorities in today’s America and beyond. 


07 March 2017 / Socially Engaged Art

A discussion starter by Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin

Growing dissatisfaction with an out-of-touch, elite and market driven art world has led artists to turn to socially engaged art. 


01 February 2017 / Theodore Prescott: Inside Sagrada Familia

The columns resemble the trunks of trees. Gaudi conceived of the whole interior as a forest, where the nave ceiling would invoke the image of an arboreal canopy.


03 January 2017 / Steve Scott tells about his trips to Bali

In the Balinese shadow play the puppet master pulls from a repertoire of traditional tales and retells them with an emphasis on contemporary moral and spiritual lessons. 


09 December 2016 / Newsletter ArtWay December 2016

Like an imitation of a good thing past, these days of darkness surely will not last. Jesus was here and he is coming again, to lead us to the festival of friends.


01 November 2016 / LAbri for Beginners

What is the role of the Christian artist? Is it not to ‘re-transcendentalise’ the transcendent, to discern what is good in culture, and to subvert what is not with a prophetic voice?


30 September 2016 / Book Review by Jonathan Evens

Jonathan Koestlé-Cate, Art and the Church: A Fractious Embrace - Ecclesiastical Encounters with Contemporary Art, Routledge, 2016.


01 September 2016 / Review: Modern art and the life of a culture

The authors say they want to help the Christian community recognize the issues raised in modern art and to do so in ways that are charitable and irenic. But I did not find them so. Their representation of Rookmaaker seems uncharitable and at times even misleading. 


29 July 2016 / Victoria Emily Jones on Disciplining our Eyes

There’s nothing inherently wrong with images—creating or consuming. In fact, we need them. But we also need to beware of the propensity they have to plant themselves firmly in our minds. 


30 June 2016 / Aniko Ouweneel on What is Christian Art?

Pekka Hannula challenges the spectator to search for the source of the breath we breathe, the source of what makes life worth living, the source of our longing for the victory of redemptive harmony.


09 June 2016 / Theodore Prescott: The Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia is a visual encyclopedia of Christian narrative and Catholic doctrine as Gaudi sought to embody the faith through images, symbols, and expressive forms.


19 May 2016 / Edward Knippers: Do Clothes make the Man?

Since the body is the one common denominator for all of humankind, why do we fear to uncover it? Why is public nudity a shock or even a personal affront?


27 April 2016 / Alexandra Harper: Culture Care

Culture Care is an invitation to create space within the local church to invest our talents, time and tithes in works that lean into the Kingdom of God as creative agents of shalom. 


06 April 2016 / Jonathan Evens on Contemporary Commissions

The issue of commissioning secular artists versus artists of faith represents false division and unnecessary debate. The reality is that both have resulted in successes and failures.


12 March 2016 / Betty Spackman: Creativity and Depression

When our whole being is wired to fly outside the box, life can become a very big challenge. To carve oneself into a square peg for the square holes of society, when you are a round peg, is painful to say the least.


24 February 2016 / Jim Watkins: Augustine and the Senses

Augustine is not saying that sensual pleasure is bad, but that it is a mixed good. As his Confessions so clearly show, Augustine is painfully aware of how easily he can take something good and turn it into something bad. 


11 February 2016 / H.R. Rookmaaker: Does Art Need Justification?

Art is not a religion, nor an activity relegated to a chosen few, nor a mere worldly, superfluous affair. None of these views of art does justice to the creativity with which God has endowed man.


26 January 2016 / Ned Bustard: The Bible is Not Safe

Revealed is intended to provoke surprise, even shock. It shows that the Bible is a book about ordinary people, who are not only spiritual beings, but also greedy, needy, hateful, hopeful, selfish, and sexual.


14 January 2016 / Painting by Nanias Maira from Papua New Guinea

In 2011 Wycliffe missionary Peter Brook commissioned artist Nanias Maira, who belongs to the Kwoma people group of northwestern Papua New Guinea, to paint Bible stories in the traditional style for which he is locally known.