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Unclear..

Mark Rothko and Lee Ufan are two of my favorite artists. I ‘love’ their works. For the record, Rothko represented America to the world at the Venice Biennale in 1970 and also was a key leader of the American Abstract Expressionist movement during the 60 and 70s in New York. Also, Lee Ufan, a contemporary artist, is currently showing his works at the prestigious Guggenheim till September the 28th, 2011. There is no doubt that both artists are highly influential in the art world. They have influenced others and me personally, not only through their paintings but also through their writings on art.

At the moment, I’m working my way through both of their writings. I’m learning a lot. But at the same time, I am a little unsettled because they misrepresent Christianity. Both Rothko and Lee Ufan, mention Christianity but not the one as I know it. This is not to say that I’ve got it right. I am sure that I too have blind spots. But I do think that there are fundamental blocks to Christianity that can be and should be voiced and told accurately.

For example, Lee Ufan says:

In Christianity, the tendency to respect the spirit and denigrate the flesh is an expression of the view of the non-existence of the outside world.

It is quite obvious to me that Jesus the centre of my Christian faith embraced the physical reality of our material existence rather than doing the opposite as Lee states. One day, I would love to tell Lee Ufan that Christianity, as he does, values the material world and wonders at it’s power.

It is my prayer that I and also the artists at York Street Anglican, those in our city and indeed the world who confess Jesus as their Lord, will at least have the concern, courage and pride to guard the reputation of the one they love and belong to.

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Family Tree

Family Tree

Everyone wants to belong. Some feel it more than others. I’ve had the privilege of hearing stories of those who have lost the sense of belonging because of broken family ties due to physical, emotional or circumstantial reasons. I’ve personally struggled with this too. I’m a 1.5 generation migrant who is caught up in two worlds, and from time to time I find crossing between the two exhausting and confusing. I also feel it as a Christian who longs for a new world where I will perfectly belong. The unbearable bit with not belonging is the sense of ‘displacement’ that you feel acutely from time to time.

I’ve started the Life of Jesus course from the Centre for Public Christianity with friends at church last week. And I think that my sense of displacement has significantly diminished because of it. I know this is a huge claim to make. But it’s true on an experiential level. I’m not saying that I won’t feel displaced anymore. I’m sure I will. But it will be significantly less, and if and when I do feel it, I will have a solution or rather an anchor point to go to. This is why : The Life of Jesus by John Dickson helpfully frames faith in God as a personal and historical issue rather than a mere intellectual or scientific issue. This by implication means that when you have faith in Jesus you immediately anchor your belonging not on an abstract system of thought but on a historical figure.

TRUE CHRISTIAN BELONGING, then, occurs when you find your roots by tracing through history and the marks that Jesus made in our world. It’s real. It’s history. And his life becomes part of your story, your culture, and where you find your roots. This tangible sense of Christian belonging, I take it is one of the implications or rather the gifts that God bestows upon us through the Incarnation. If Jesus didn’t become man, if he didn’t embrace the world that I am a part of, then my sense of belonging as a Christian would be an abstract/gnostic one which hovers in the sphere of my intellectual construction rather than a concrete one that I can trace in this world. In other words, Jesus the MAN enables me to belong properly and truly to this world. This I think is one of the implications of 1 Timothy 2:5 where the mediator between God and humanity is the MAN Christ Jesus.

Not surprisingly and rightly so, churches have latched onto the angst of displacement in our culture and have encouraged joining a church as a place to find a sense of belonging. Belonging in a way has become a reason to sell Christianity. I don’t think this is entirely wrong. But I do think that we in the church need to be careful to not confuse  filial belonging with a superficial sense of belonging that might look like a community of people who hang out with each other because of racial, intellectual, political, financial affinities, precisely because, anyone and everyone is invited to trust in the promises of Jesus the Messiah who lived and breathed in our world, in first century Palestine, and join in the family tree that he belongs to.

A couple of months ago I was passing through an installation at the Sydney College of the Arts. The title of the installation was “WHAT IS GOD?” I’m not sure, specifically what in our culture, past or present, has led us to think of God as a WHAT. Keen to hear your thoughts if you have any. But, it got me thinking about the difference between relating to God as a WHAT and as a WHO.

One aspect ( among many ) of the difference, would be in relation to how God can make a difference in our lives.

If God is a WHAT, we will ( rightly so ) manipulate and control it for a desired outcome. But, if God is a WHO, we will relate to him as a person. We will talk to him and listen to him. We will genuinely ask for things or for circumstances to change. It would be quite wrong to manipulate or abuse him as a thing to be controlled. ( Not that this doesn’t happen between persons.)

There is a HUGE DIFFERENCE.

Installation : WHAT IS GOD?

Sadly though, I think sometimes even those who know him to be a WHO relate to him as a WHAT and fall into the trap of ignoring his personal presence and end up using him as a what. Of course, this is not to say that God lets us control him but that’s what we eventually end up doing when he becomes an ‘it’.

A thought from Art School.

Fat Dudes by Jeff Beaver

Fat Dudes by Jeff Beaver

Art is extremely personal.

I like to think of art as a visual diary.

Whether the artist intends it or not, when you see their art in the best possible way, you get to see another dimension of them that you may have not known before.

Untitled by Alison Courtney

Untitled by Alison Courtney

I was surprised to catch myself learning new things about each of the artist involved in this project. In a way, I was experiencing the benefits of doing Art in Community.

Chicken Dog by Paul Liddell

Chicken Dog by Paul Liddell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got to know Andrew’s deep appreciation for tradition and his sensitivity to space. I got to know Ali’s thoughtfulness in a way that I hadn’t known before. I got to see Jeff’s attention to the smallest of details. I got to glimpse into Tess’s dream like state of mind. I got to confirm a delicate yet firm part of Lizzie that I had a hunch about. I got to see how Paul took fun seriously and I got to see Phebe’s grace in her singing, for the sake of others enjoying the moment. Through the gift of art, we related to one another in a different way.

Andrew Luttrull

Andrew Luttrull

The Choir Stand by Jeff Beaver

The Choir Stand by Jeff Beaver

Having an exhibition in our church building was a unique experience. Our building is not a ‘neutral’ space for an exhibition.  Unlike contemporary white gallery spaces, we did not have a space that primarily existed ‘for’ the Art. We had, if you like, a ‘historic space loaded with memories of the past’. This meant that somehow our Art had to co-exist in harmony with the historic space and ‘allow’ the church space to impact it and vice versa.

In our church building, there are many nooks and crannies and each little pockets of space have their unique theological as well as historical significances. We are aware that we didn’t utilize all the spaces this time. It was a start and we are planning to work on this aspect of the exhibition for our next Festival.

The Pew by Kate Luttrull

The Pew by Kate Luttrull

The Bell Tower by Tess Parker

The Bell Tower by Tess Parker

The Bell Tower Window by Lizzie Dethlefs

The Bell Tower Window by Lizzie Dethlefs

The Bell Tower Window by Lizzie Dethlefs

The Bell Tower Window by Lizzie Dethlefs

A bunch of us started to meet earlier on in the year to talk about creativity and faith. At that stage we tossed the idea of having an exhibition in the future. It was a vague dream. But things changed when Jeff Beaver who was part of the group from the beginning was planning to head back to the States, as his departure plans gave us a reason to get the exhibition happening sooner rather than later.

SO. We set the Exhibition date to APRIL 30, 2011.

PROVIDENTIALLY, as it turned out  APRIL 30 was ‘perfect’ timing.

It was in the following week of Easter Sunday which I thought was perfect, given the implications of the Resurrection hope on the Arts. Also, it happened to be on the week of our Evening Church 1 year birthday party which I thought worked well, as it was a perfect occasion to celebrate our life together as a community, the gifts God had sent to York Street and most importantly the Resurrection hope which was living within us.

 

 

 

We are hoping and praying that this happens again next year around the same time, for the same reasons.

SO. We had our very first Exhibition about a month ago on the 30th of April.

It was STUNNING.

As a coordinator I felt like there was a wind behind me. I was unusually unorganized but I was also unusually calm about it. I had a hunch that it will all come together in the end. And that’s how things turned out.

I wanted to share with you 2 primary reasons why we organized the event.

 

Firstly, we ‘celebrate in hope’ with our community the reality that the Resurrected Christ assures us, namely, the truth that our God is a God who places us in a material world to use our hands to make and build things as we take care of it.

Secondly, we ‘love in tangible ways’ as we share the pleasures of enjoying the good gifts God graces us with.

 

More to come on the Exhibition in the next post.