ArtWay

Art lifts our eyes to eternity and shows us the importance of the here and now. Ally Gordon

GOD IS...

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

by Victoria Emily Jones

Announced in 2019, the second Chaiya Art Awards competition on the theme of “God is . . .” received more than seven hundred entries from across the UK—paintings, photographs, textiles, glass, pottery, kinetic sculpture, metalworks, and various other media. Fifty of these artworks have been jury-selected to be exhibited May 14–23, 2021, at gallery@oxo on London’s South Bank. The first-place winner, who will receive £10,000, will be announced May 13, along with seven others. Prizes are awarded based on theme interpretation, originality and technique, and emotional impact.

The exhibition had been planned for April 2020, but COVID-19 caused it to be postponed. While the shortlisted artists had already been chosen, the catalog production was halted so that the text (a mix of prose and poetry) could be completely updated and revised to reflect on the challenges of 2020. In addition, an interactive virtual exhibition has been developed for those who are unable to attend the live show, which will be available May 14 through July 31 at https://chaiyaartawards.co.uk/godis. The layout of both is roughly the same.

An excerpt from John Donne’s Devotions provides the epigraph to the God Is . . . catalog: “My God, my God . . . you are a figurative, a metaphorical God . . . a God in whose words there is such a height of figures, such voyages . . . to fetch remote and precious metaphors, such extensions, such spreadings, such curtains of allegories . . . and such things in your words. . . . You are the Dove that flies.” Donne’s words allude to the multifacetedness of God and God’s hard-to-pin-down-ness. 

With a topic as vast and open-ended as “God is . . . ,” there was sure to be a range of interpretations, and that’s what we get, with some artists coming at it from a Christian perspective and others from other religious traditions or none at all. God is nature or the creator of nature, God is humanity or the self, God is our hands, God is the interconnected web of all life, God is Everything, God is the least of these, God is a human invention, God is a puzzle, God is rescuer, God is healer, God is within us and all around us, God is a suffering God, God is betrayed by humanity, God is technology (or rather, technology is our god). God is radiant, gentle, life-giving, unknowable, I AM. God is known in Jesus Christ. These are among the artists’ visual responses.

Some of the artworks, I feel, have only a very tenuous or strained connection to the prompt. For example, a portrait of a little boy sitting in shadow “symbolises the duality of God’s light and the inescapable darkness in the human condition.” An abstract work titled Golden Algorithm “deals with materials, surfaces, reflections, shadows . . . the stuff of existence for me.” Though fine works in themselves, they don’t illuminate the question of who or what God is. It’s not that I expect obvious answers or hard-and-fast definitions—our conceptions of God are, after all, limited and hazy at best, and God is ultimately unpicturable—but some of the art seems not to engage directly with the theme.

My favorite work in the exhibition is probably Marian Hall’s All that is seen and unseen, inspired by her visit to the Atacama Salt Flats in Chile.

Made of fabrics, the work gives a sense of the scale and beauty of those desert lands encrusted with dried salt crystals and spread with large expanses of water fed by unseen underground reservoirs. Her title comes from the first line of the Nicene Creed (325 CE): “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.” As the apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:16, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (ESV). I like how Hall suggests that God is active underneath the surface of things, animating our world, which, like the Divine, is full of layered depths.

Xander Haywood also submitted a landscape image, Horizon, that hints at God’s immensity and invites wonder: a starry night sky above a forest canopy. The artist says he feels at one with God when he gazes at the sky.

By contrast, Jo Fairfax seems to promote a disenchanted view of the universe. His interactive piece GOD suggests how in our mechanistic universe of “blind physical forces” (as Richard Dawkins put it), of indifferent natural processes, the only meaning there is is that which human beings create.

GOD from jo fairfax on Vimeo.

Fairfax describes his piece as follows: “The word GOD disappears into flowing logical mechanical forms and reappears again complete. Each letter forms and disappears independently of each other whilst the yellow celestial orbs float around in their own logical circuits. An individual can move to activate the echolocation sensors and remake the word GOD. Each letter is connected to its own circuit with its own echolocation sensor. This means that a person viewing the artwork can control the clockwork movement of the floating orbs and whether GOD appears or not. Therefore both God and sequential reason appear through an individual.”                                                                                                                  

Several of the artworks in the exhibition are scenes of human suffering: a line to a gas chamber, a soldier at war, a Syrian mother and child fleeing their home. Perhaps the viewer sees in these evidence of God’s absence; our divine call to care for the oppressed, as God acts in the world through us; modern-day suffering Christs; or the depths of human depravity that God came to save us from and calls us out of. The most profound treatment of God and suffering is, I think, Emma Elliott’s marble sculpture Reconciliation.

It shows an arm with two stigmata: a nail wound of Christ from his crucifixion and the number tattoo of Holocaust survivor Eliezer Goldwyn (1922–2017). Two Jewish men two thousand years apart, who both suffered unimaginable evils and were permanently marked by such. Elliott interviewed Goldwyn in 2013 and received his permission to use his Auschwitz serial number in this art project. She learned that after the camps were liberated, Goldwyn actually went on to study the life and times of Jesus Christ for over forty years!

By placing these wounds together on a single limb, Elliott shows how Jesus shares in our sufferings. But both wounds also implicate us, bringing us face-to-face with the atrocities we humans have committed and continue to commit against one another, violations of the imago Dei.

The title, Reconciliation, can be taken to refer to reconciliation between God and humanity, between Jews and Christians, or between any two sides of a conflict or alienated parties.

Hands are featured in another artwork, God Heals by Anila Hussain. This gritty metallic print shows an elderly woman with her hands cupped in prayer, as if waiting expectantly to receive. “She is riddled with long-term pain and turns to her faith for God to heal her and give her comfort,” Hussain says. “She talks to God five times a day, praying one day she will wake up and she will be healed.” For the woman whose hands these are, God is a God who listens to his children and who is eager to bless. 

Other religious rituals or practices pictured in the exhibition include baptism (Patrick Morales-Lee; Gabrielle-Aimée Séguin) and bathing in the Ganges (Matthew Hayward).

God Is . . . is open daily, May 14–23, 2021, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at gallery@oxo in London. For more information, see https://chaiyaartawards.co.uk/exhibition.

****
Images:

1. Marian Hall, All that is seen and unseen. Fabric, dye, Markal stik, and thread, 49 × 46 cm.

2. Xander Haywood, Horizon, 2019. Oil on canvas, 120 × 100 cm.

3. (Shown in video) Jo Fairfax, GOD. Acrylic, MDF, sonic sensors, and Arduino, 44 × 63 × 10 cm.

4. Emma Elliott, Reconciliation, 2016. Carrara marble, 20 × 110 × 25 cm.

5. Anila Hussain, God Heals. Metallic black and white print on Fujifilm paper with frame, 50 × 50 cm.

****

Victoria Emily Jones lives in the Baltimore area of the United States, where she works as an editorial freelancer and blogs at ArtandTheology.org, exploring ways in which the arts can stimulate renewed engagement with the Bible. She serves on the board of the faith-based arts nonprofit the Eliot Society and as art curator for the Daily Prayer Project, and she has contributed to the Visual Commentary on Scripture and the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception.


More:

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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


27 October 2020 / Art Pilgrimage

A Research Project on Art Stations of the Cross

by Lieke Wijnia

Read more...


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.

Read more...


17 August 2020 / BOOK REVIEW BY HEINRICH BALZ

How Other Cultures See the Bible

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

Read more...


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.

Read more...


12 June 2020 / A little leaven leavens the whole lump

From South Africa

Ydi Carstens reports on the group show ‘Unleavened’ which was opened in Stellenbosch shortly before the Covid-19 lock-down. 

Read more...


14 May 2020 / Jazz, Blues, and Spirituals

Republished: 

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

Reviewed by Jonathan Evens

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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?”

Read more...


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.”

Read more...


07 December 2019 / ArtWay Newsletter 2019

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

Read more...


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?"

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.'

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


09 August 2018 / With Opened Eyes: Representational Art

by Ydi Coetsee

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

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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?

Read more...


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."

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.'

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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? 

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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?

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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?

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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.

Read more...


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. 

Read more...