Monday, 16 February 2015

What ever happened to the Artist in Church.. He left

For close to a while now I have been fascinated by the arts, fascinated by the variety of them and the variety of the variety. I have been fascinated by their use to express so much, sometimes more than words but with less clarity, sometimes able to express things alongside words. I have been fascinated in the use of the Arts by the East and the West to convey so much emotion; fear, anger, happiness, sadness even hatred. Such a tool deserves to be looked at more than once and I do admit at times I have concentrated more on the beauty of the art-form forgetting the creator of the art and the artist.

The thing is in this day and age if I speak of an artist you mainly think of a guy holding a pencil and a sketchbook or a pretentious guy with a barrette and a canvas or even the guy buy the street corner with bare feet who uses charcoal but produces fine work. But if I speak of the artist in a church set up the image changes to a musician rather than the guy with the pencil, why is this? Why is it that in this day and age the visual art is sort of thrown under the bus in lieu of its audio sibling.

Well this past week I came across a three part documentary by an artist I hold in high esteem called Scott Erickson. I came across Scott through a video he did with Jefferson Bethke called The Greatest Artist of All Time, Jefferson was doing his spoken word and Scott was painting. The progression of the video fascinated me, still does. You see the movement of the art work and it gives an extra dimension, if you will, to the words. I immediately, through the power of social media begun to follow Scott Erickson and I have not been disappointed. I was even happier to see the short documentary on art in the church because I had been thinking along the same lines.

I will not try to add to the documentary but I will plug the videos below so you can see them for yourself. It adds up to about 15 minutes worth of watching time so you can enjoy them all at once as you eat any of your meals. I would like to set up a few premises before I speak my peace. Firstly, to a large extent I am speaking of the use of visual arts in the Reformed Baptist Circles, as I can only speak of its use in a forum I know well. Secondly I do not see the use of visual arts in and of themselves to be the way forward, they are one colour on the pallet that is used to paint God’s love and grace to the non-believer, I wrote more on this here. And thirdly, this is a topic that requires much discussion into the means of use of visual art.

If you have ever set eyes on good art work then you know of its effect. One of the great paintings of minimalism is The Black Square by Kasimir Malevich, it is a very simple painting at first sight but once you know about the circumstances surrounding the painting it gains a whole other dimension. There is so much that can be done in terms of instruction and communication of biblical truths through the medium of paintings, in fact early church artisans used visual arts as a way to communicate biblical truths to a largely illiterate people. They saw the need for it and used their God given gifts to explain and express such things.

Such expression was seen in paintings in and around the church, stained glass windows and in some rare but popular examples the buildings themselves were used to express these things and they were appreciated greatly. The appreciation came from the ability of art to reach us and communicate to us extra value that in some senses words cannot. Back then a statue of Abraham walking with Isaac up the mountain would express visually the words that had been heard and a statue done right would show little things that would provoke the mind to thought. The expression on Abrahams face as they went up, the age of Isaac etc.

Fast forward it to this day and age and it could be argued that there is no need for such expression but then again the type of need may change but the need still exists. There always has to be some element of thought into how the gifts God has given may be used in his service. But speaking of it from a negative point of view, why would it be that the musician may express his art in service to God and receive support but the artist not so? Aren’t they both forms of art? These are gifts that God gave to express his glory and they should be used as such. But I must mention that I do not argue for the change in the method of Church worship. I do not say the Artist should walk up with the preacher and do his stuff. However there are other forums in which they can be used, such as evangelism, youth meetings, etc.

Lastly, I think that there may be a few gifts of individuals that are not being used in the church because of a failure to think over and discuss their use in reference to the bible. The lack of use of some of these gifts may be due to the negligence of not just the individual but also the church body as a unit

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