Nicola Ravenscroft: With the Heart of a Child
ArtWay Visual Meditation 10 January 2021
Nicola Ravenscroft: With the Heart of a Child
Anticipating Things Unseen
by Jonathan Evens
And a little child shall lead. Isaiah promised a child born for us who would establish endless peace upheld with justice and righteousness. He described a time when the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, a little child leading them.
Isaiah's vision of the peaceable kingdom is centred on a child born to be the Prince of Peace. When the promised child came among us, he said: ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs’; ‘Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’; ‘Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ and ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’
The child born for us leads us to become like children. Why is this so? Sister Corita Kent (American 1918-1986) once described the way children see the world, the attention they pay to it, the wonder that they find. She wrote that a child’s journey from the front of the house to the back would ‘be full of pauses, circling, touching and picking up in order to smell, shake, taste, rub, and scrape’, ‘every object along the path will be a new discovery’ because ‘the child treats the situation with the open curiosity and attention that it deserves.’ Children see the peaceable kingdom, until adults teach them otherwise. That is why the children are our future and lead the way into a better future. We need to unlearn the dirty devices of this world in order to become, as it were, a little child again that we may enter into the Kingdom of God.
Nicola Ravenscroft intuitively understands these truths and, as a maternal sculptor, creates children that through their connection to nature grant us a vision of the peaceable kingdom toward which they wish to lead us. Her sculpture installation With the Heart of a Child sees seven life-size bronze children, one from every continent on earth, simply dressed in soft silk tulle, hesitate in time, leaning forward, hopeful, poised to dive, eyes closed, dreaming into their future, anticipating things unseen.
Nicola writes that “as an artist, I am visionary, sculptor, mother to many, and grandmother to even more.” She adds that she breathes life into life taking “clay, dirt and stardust, shaped and twisted torn smoothed and broken lost, found and moulded wax and singing molten bronze through white-hot crucible-refining fire, Earth’s own core breathing life into revealing-truth, a giving-birth to energy.” The result is this installation of eco-earthling-warrior-mudcubs – children intimately connected to the earth – reminding us of our duty of care to life, to love, to planet earth.
Nicola says that: “Earth’s children are life’s heartbeat: they are her hope, her future ... they are breath of Earth herself. Creative, inquisitive and trusting, children are Earth’s possibility thinkers. They seek out, and flourish in fellowship, in ‘oneness’, and being naturally open-hearted, and wide-eyed hungry for mystery, delight and wonder, they embrace diversity with the dignity of difference.”
These are the children we are called to welcome, the children we are to become, the children to whom the peaceable kingdom belongs. They stand together, peacefully, as friends, vulnerable and strong, silently singing out their call to change. These little children lead with trusting feet, plump and bare. The Prince of Peace is with them and calls us to let them lead the way.
Nicola Ravenscroft: With the Heart of a Child, 2016, an installation of seven life-size bronze children.
Nicola Ravenscroft is a British sculptor and songwriter whose sculpture has a lifegiving presence and a peaceful stillness. A graduate of Camberwell School of Art, London, UK she has owned and run a sculpture gallery and, as an art teacher, has nurtured many young people into celebrating their inherent creativity and thinking beyond the walls. Her sculpture installation With the Heart of a Child was part of a project exploring what the arts in transdisciplinary learning spaces can contribute to primary education. Nicola has recently been commissioned to create a memorial to honour the bravery of front-line NHS and care workers in the fight against Covid. https://nicolaravenscroft.com
Jonathan Evens is Associate Vicar for HeartEdge at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, UK. Through HeartEdge, a network of churches, he encourages congregations to engage with culture, compassion and commerce. He is co-author of The Secret Chord, an impassioned study of the role of music in cultural life written through the prism of Christian belief. He writes regularly on the arts for a range of publications and blogs at https://joninbetween.blogspot.com.
1. ARTWAY – We placed several new posts on the website this week:
* ‘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. Read more
* In the Art & Poetry section: Emily Dickinson & Henri Matisse. ‘Hope is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops - at all. Read more
* Egbert Modderman: Caring for the Sick for Sunday Epiphany 8 of Year B. Read more
2. IF JESUS IS A MAN OF COLOUR WHY DID WE MAKE HIM ARYAN? – Revd Jonathan Evens on Artlyst. “The National Gallery was hoping to open a re-arranged immersive digital experience inspired by Jan Gossaert’s 16th-century masterpiece ‘The Adoration of the Kings’, on 6 January but due to the COVID Pandemic, this is looking increasingly unlikely. This experience begins with the African king Balthasar’s voice, setting the scene for the journey into this painting. Balthasar is one of the three Kings who travelled to Bethlehem to visit the newborn Jesus bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. He is black, reflecting the resurgence by around 1500 of a tradition – dating back to the early days of Christianity – of including an African king. Seeing Jesus as black is having a revival due to the influence of black lives matter. The Three Kings were often represented as rulers of each of the major parts of the world known at the time, Europe, Asia and Africa, emphasising the global reach of the Christian religion. We don’t know the exact reason for the resurgence of this tradition, but it is likely that a significant factor was the growing presence of black people in Europe at that time, most of whom were enslaved.” Read more
3. ART AND SOCIAL IMPACT – Tuesday 26 January, 14:30 GMT. A conversation with artists whose work has a social impact dimension in order to explore the question of art and social change. Includes discussion of personal journeys in addressing issues of social concern, approaches used, and expectations in terms of impact. The session will also explore ways in which churches can engage with such art and use it in exploring issues with congregations and beyond. Jonathan Evens will be in conversation with André Daughtry, Micah Purnell, Nicola Ravenscroft and Hannah Rose Thomas. Register for a zoom invite at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/art-and-social-impact-tickets-134763030853.
4. INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM EDGAR – William Edgar interviewed about his book Created and Creating, A Biblical Theology of Culture (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017). Lister to the interview here.
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