Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Priceless or Worthless?

Masterpiece No.1 (Royal Red and Blue)

This Mark Rothko painting was sold for £47.3 million recently.  Here is a comment I read in the Metro the other week written in response to a positive blurb about the painting…

“Hana, what you don’t seem to understand about modern, abstract art is how stupid the concept is. 
Someone makes blocks of colour on a canvas that a child could reproduce, but apparently it’s worth millions because we attach some arbitrary ‘meaning’ to how the blocks are arranged and think it is soulful and insightful.  Actual artists who have the skill to paint something worthwhile are being passed over in favour of the guy who spilled paint on the canvas. 
When did painting become about not actually painting anything? ”

So the question is, ‘what is the Christian response to a comment like this?’  Is this kind of abstract art ‘meaningful’?  Is it worth £47.3 million?  Well to answer these questions the best thing to do is ask some more questions.  Here are three simple questions that can be applied to any work of art that will help us to form a more grounded opinion than that of the person above.

  1. Who?  Who is Mark Rothko?  What is his view of the world (religion, culture etc)?

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) was a Russian-American Jewish painter.  He is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he himself rejected this label and even resisted classification as an "abstract painter".  He was influenced by artists like Paul Klee and Georges Rouault.  He was influenced by two world wars (as a Jew) in his lifetime and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

  1. What?  What is the painting about?  What is Rothko trying to achieve by painting this picture?

Rothko was interested …“only in expressing basic human emotions — tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on. And the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions . . . The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their colour relationship, then you miss the point.”

  1. Evaluate!  Is it Successful?  Does Rothko say what he’s trying to say well?  From a Christian point of view what is good about his work?  What is bad about his work?

Rothko is clearly interested in human feeling and emotion.  In the painting above he uses a simple language to communicate a human experience that goes beyond words.  He is interested in the experience of something higher and more profound.

Rothko offers to share with his viewers an experience and in my view he does it very well indeed.  If you have ever stood in front of a Rothko painting you will know that they are very powerful.  They do make you feel something.  They are more than simply blocks of colour on a canvas. 

But what do we make of this painting as Christians?  Well, it is good because it places high value on elements of Gods creation - colour and form are prized.  It also suggests there is great meaning in these elements of creation and that beyond them is something (or someone) greater.  Rothko may not have believed in the God of the bible but he did recognise and honestly communicate his experience of life.  So, from a Christian perspective Rothko is interested in good things but rather than seeing God in those things (in colour, form texture etc) and turning to worship, he indulged in a personal ‘religious’ experience.

So in my view, Rothko’s painting is good.  It is very insightful and valuable.  Is it worth £47.3 million?  I’m not sure about that!

My answers to these questions are brief but you can see that very quickly your view of a painting can change just by doing a couple of simple Google searches! 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Fearing God vs Fearing Man: Who's opinion matters most?

How much does the question 'what do people think?' grip you?

It may be the big crit that leaves you either utterly crushed or flying high, or your tutor's off-hand comment that shapes your mood for the rest of the day...

Maybe you fear people seeing your new work in case your reputation wobbles in the lime light...

How do people's opinions affect making your work?

Making work is one of those things where there will always be an audience, normally of more than one.  Consider your course-mates looking over your shoulder in the studio, your tutor's cursory glance and more intense perusal, the wider audience who may see it in the coming months, and the harshest critic of all: yourself.  Fearing man can be stifling.  It can be all-consuming.

So what do we do with this desire for people to like our work? Is it wrong to seek approval? Is it wrong to want to be successful in what we do?  Is that really fearing man above God?

Andrew Jones, a vicar in east London, gave some very helpful advice to the London Interface gathering this month. He started off by saying very simply that
'there is an appropriate way of wanting people to like your work, and there's wanting people to like your work too much.  The former leads to pleasure and an outgoingness, as your own success leads to wanting others to experience such delight, while the latter leads to pride, and shutting yourself off from other people.'
Pride: something we all are tainted by.  An attitude that creeps up on both success and failure and robs us from responding with integrity.  Pride isn't just a puffed up feeling when we've been successful.  Pride is also the root of feeling utterly despairing and crushed at failure too.  It's the attitude that imprisons us either with 'I deserve better' or 'look at me, aren't I great?', both of which place ourselves at the centre.

So what's the antidote?
In Ezekiel 14v1-6 we are shown how people had "set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces" - notice the language here: they're not setting up idols as we might imagine back in the Old Testament, whether we think of the golden calf or the many statues of Baal.  No, here we read they are setting up idols in their hearts.  It's our hearts that are the issue.

So when we think to ourselves, "If I stop showing my work I'll be ok", or "If I just have one taste of success I'll be content and satisfied", we are ignoring the root issue: that our heart is still captured by what others think.

Thomas Chalmers, one of those wise men back in the 19th century once wrote:
"the only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one"
God is after your heart.  But in a way far removed from the simplistic "God loves you" and so everything will be alright.  The gospel digs way past the superficial and instead invites us to repent.  To acknowledge that we are more sinful, more proud, more enamoured by other's opinions than we believe.  But that there is freedom and honesty in coming to God.  Because in the gospel we are more loved and more accepted than we can ever imagine, through Christ.  The gospel accepts us just as Christ is. Which is far better than just as I am.  The only way to dispossess our hearts of the affection of ourselves, or other people's opinions, is by the expulsive power of Christ and and the very brilliant gospel.

So the question that I leave you to ponder today:
What are you looking for in the approval of others, that Christ does not give you?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Understanding the world we live in...

Do you ever have trouble discerning what exactly makes some of your friends so apathetic about life? Do you ever wonder how they can think that there's no need for them to take the claims of Jesus seriously?  Without knowing it, we are saturated in a culture that has been well and truly affected by 'postmodernism': the call to reject truth claims, external authority and meaning, and to start living how we want.

There are some really useful resources out there to help us think through the persuasive and deceptive call of postmodernism.  If you're at art school at the moment, you are no doubt saturated with postmodern attitudes without even realising it.  Let's not be blinded by the lies it throws at us: why not spend some time delving into it from a Christian perspective to help you stand firm at college this week.

Mark Meynell is a minister at All Soul's, London.  He loves Christ.  He loves culture.  Listen to these three really useful talks for an overview into postmodernism and a fauré into our current culture's mindset.

Even better than the real thing  - a day seminar seeking to understand Postmodernism and how it affects Christians (recorded 2006)

Marcus Honeysett used to be UCCF's London team leader.  He's had much insight into the student world and has written a very helpful book: Meltdown: Making sense of a culture in Crisis.  Marcus goes through the various academic theories that have underpinned postmodernism, and how they have been translated into wider society.  Each chapter takes a theory at a time (sometimes it's quite heavy going, but worth reading if you really want to grapple with the issue).  He then gives really helpful case studies at the end of each section, challenging us to think through the implications of believing, or not believing the postmodernist claims.  A brilliant book to read in a group and discuss together.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

It all starts with the mind...

When Jesus is asked what the most important commandment is in Mark's gospel, here is how he responds in Chapter 12:
'The most important one', answered Jesus, 'is this: "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."
Jesus has taken the most famous commandment in the book of Deuteronomy (chapter 6) but he's actually added something: Love the Lord with all your mind.

To love God with all our minds is to be 
engaged with what He thinks about the world.   
grappling with what He thinks about art.  
taking seriously His views on how we live life at art college 
and standing up as someone who follows their convictions.   

Being a Christian means integrating your faith with every part of life.  Everything we do, say, think and act upon stems from our minds.  Having the right thinking will impact every part of your life.  

In Romans chapter 12 Paul follows up on the importance of our minds with the following:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
These are deeply challenging words aren't they? In view of God's mercy, in view of the glorious gospel, the extravagant love that has been showered on us through Christ,  we are called 'not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.'

What's the pattern of the world of art college? What do you notice about the way people live, and think about the world?  The only way that you will live, and want to live, any differently is by renewing your mind and bathing in the sunshine of the gospel.  

As we spend time with the Lord, as we dwell on the riches of the gospel and his many mercies to us each and every day, we will be loving the Lord with our minds.  It's not a pie in the sky kind of faith we have.  It's a deeply intentional desire to be renewing our minds with truth, with love, with Christ.
And the overflow of loving the Lord with our minds will be a deep desire to integrate every part of our lives with our faith - to be loving him in the way that we make art work, to be seeking to honour him in the way that we don't gossip in the studio, and to be sharing the hope that we have with others as we engage in conversation.

So as you go into college today, be a thinking Christian.

Friday, 21 September 2012


Peter Glasgow reflects on his time as artist in residence for FORUM: UCCF's national CU leaders conference...

This year I was the Artist in Residence at UCCF’s FORUM conference - I held an exhibition of my work entitled “Dropstone” and spent the week interacting with the students who were there.  To be honest it was a bit of an up and down week - I think it’s ok to say that!  A lot of the time my expectations didn’t match up with reality and I wasn’t properly prepared for what it would be like exhibiting my work to a thousand students.  So I just wanted to share some of the lessons I learned and maybe something I say will prepare you for showing your own work and the challenges that brings. 

First of all - I simply wasn’t prepared for any sort of disappointment.  Being a final year Fine Art student I leap at any chance to show my work and having a full exhibition to myself sounded like the best deal in the world.  I didn’t realise that it’s pretty normal for artists to feel an anti-climax when they show their work.  After all, we put so much into it and we are passionate about what we do and it’s going to be disheartening when most people looking at our work don’t have the same level of enthusiasm.  Exhibiting is a hard experience and it’s ok to be disappointed or disheartened - I think If I’d have known that, I would have coped with the anti-climax better. 

I also wasn’t prepared for how vulnerable I’d feel with my work up, in front of a thousand people.  Now most of us believe in what we do and have confidence in our work, but it doesn’t take away the fact that showing your work makes you vulnerable.  As artists so much of who we are we put in our work and how that’s received by others.   At FORUM I was really helped by a friend who came alongside me and reminded me that as artists, when we show our work, we are serving others - and being a servant doesn’t always feel great.  I thought other people would be serving me - praising me for how good my work was - but actually I was meant to be serving them by sharing my art practice. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus has woven being a servant into what we do as artists.  So if you’re showing your work - prepare to feel vulnerable when you do that - thats normal! 

Finally when those feelings of disappointment and insecurity come, my first instinct is to wish that more people liked my work.  But actually that wouldn’t solve the problem and if I believe that I’m just going to keep working and working for the next big “success”.  No one is going to like my work enough to satisfy my desire for approval and validation.  So my only other option is to turn to my Heavenly Father and be satisfied that I am his child and He loves me - and my identity and worth is not shaped by my success as an artist.  Once I realised that I was free to have my work out there, trust God with the disappointments and enjoy the wonderful little conversations that I was able to have with students.  

So I hope you get an opportunity to show your work sometime soon, and maybe as you do that you might hit up against some disappointment, and I would just encourage you to keep going and to put your trust in our Creative, Loving and Wonderful Heavenly Father.    

Peter is going into his final year studying Painting at Wimbledon College of Art, London.  To see more of his work have a gander at his excellent blog

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Know anyone starting art college this september?

It's an exciting time as freshers prepare to head to art college! But it's a daunting one as well...

If you know anyone who's starting college this september take a few minutes to point them to an article we've recently written just for them!

Craig and I take a few minutes to help answer some questions like:
What does being a Christian look like at art school?
Is God even interested in art?
Does my faith have any bearing on my work as an artist?
What if it's hard being a Christian?

Why not check out the rest of the website too - it's full of really useful articles, talks, and interviews that are all there to equip you to be a thinking Christian...

Friday, 3 August 2012

3 Issues Facing Recent Graduates

Introducing  Moprhē Arts

 Moprhē works predominantly with Christians in the arts with a commitment to biblical discipleship, the study of God's word and prayer. This either happens one to one or at group gatherings and events. We want to encourage graduates to make art that plays it's part in the development of God's world, bringing blessing and influence in the area of the arts they find themselves in. 


Get In touch with Morphē if you are a Christian working in the arts in the UK.

I asked Cully who works for Morphē up in Scotland,
What do you think are the top three issues for art students leaving art school?

1. Lack of artistic community and peer learning
After art school it is not easy to find the community that students experience and graduates can feel isolated.

Morphē provides a network of artists and regular gatherings to meet, share and discuss ideas, and enjoy ongoing critique of work.  Christian artists can belong to a community where no excuses need to be made for their creative practice.

2. Maintaining practice under financial pressure
Art school doesn't seem to prepare graduates for the reality of how to make a living as an artist after art school.
Many artists have to find other ways to pay the bills and often don't have the time or motivation to make art.

Morphē provides mentoring from experienced artists who can advise recent graduates on how to commit to a career in the arts with real expectations.

3. Competition and Opportunities to showcase work
It is difficult to find galleries and agencies who will take on recent graduates or any other opportunities to showcase work as there is a lot of competition. This makes it difficult to gain experience and establish your name in the art world.

Morphē encourages collaboration within the network which encourages artists to help each other. We also offer opportunities for artists to exhibit, to work on projects with others and to take part in art prizes and residencies. Our website has a section dedicated to offering practical resources for seeking opportunities in the art world.

'Beyond Air Guitar' by Ally Gordon has a chapter dedicated to coping with life after art college with resources and interviews with established artists.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Book Review: Imagine

Thinking about what to read this summer? 

We asked Peter Glasgow (studying painting at Wimbledon) to tell us why 'Imagine' by Steve Turner is on his, and Interface's "must read" book list:

Just the other day I met up with a Christian friend who was talking about a weekend away she had gone on last year.  She summarised what the speaker had to say with the throwaway comment, “he was talking about withdrawing from popular culture.”  Later on as I was traveling home I was still mulling that sentence over in my head.  Now obviously I didn’t hear this speaker and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but taking that sentence at face value it seems to have a very negative view of popular culture.  As a Christian am I meant to be withdrawing from popular culture?  Should I not enjoy watching movies?  Or listening to secular music?  Or walking wide eyed round the latest show at the White Cube?  Are the arts and popular culture to be avoided like the plague?  If that’s the Bible’s perspective then I’ve got some serious re-thinking to do as a second year Fine Art Painting student.  

What stopped that spiral of guilt and confusion was remembering some of the stuff that I’d read in Steve Turner’s book “Imagine”.  If you’re studying anything in the arts this is just a must read.  It’s basic foundational stuff for Christians who love God and also love the arts.  Steve really clearly tackles a lot of the common struggles that Christian students in the arts face, dealing with all the questions I just mentioned and more.  Can I only be a Christian in the arts if my art explicitly mentions Jesus or the gospel?  Will people in church not look down on me for pursuing a career in the arts?  Is God happier with me if I’m listening to “Christian music” on my ipod?  Does God like the arts?  If any of those questions have floated round in your head, which I’m sure they have, then “Imagine” is the perfect way to start thinking it though. 

So why not pick up a copy and get reading - you could decide to read it with a friend over the summer and chat through a couple of chapters together, or just dip in and out when you fancy.  Either way, Imagine is a must read!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Spontaneous flamenco dancing, old faces reunited, some interesting acting skills and lots of real coffee…

Sarah White (Relay Worker in Aberystwyth) updates us on the Interface Wales day that happened back in April...
Almost a month ago now we held the second Interface Arts Day in Wales. In comparison to the work of Interface which has been going for many, many years-  in Scotland and in London - Wales is only just beginning its exciting journey to develop work with its Christian artists; encourage students across Wales to really engage with their subject area, think critically about the contemporary art world, where their work fits in, pursue excellence in their work and think through and question what it means to be an artist and a Christian and how we can engage intelligently with the dialogues taking place in the contemporary art world.
This year the Interface day moved from Cardiff to Aberystwyth and took place in the University’s School of Art. It was fantastic to have the entire School of Art to ourselves; which is a beautiful and intriguing building full of lots of exciting art work. A big thank you must be said to the wonderful porters who work at the School of Art; who are always smiling and willing to help with all of our strange requests and who put up with our crazy and loud improvised drama which we created around the School of Art and right outside the porter’s office.
We were joined for the day by the Morphe team; Ally Gordon, Cully, Lois Adams and Ed Mayhew. It was such a blessing to have them with us; they brought with them bundles of joy, enthusiasm and wisdom, which was very contagious. Ally spoke in the morning on the task of the Christian artist today, followed two seminars entitled, ‘World Cinema Meets The Ten Commandments’, ‘Satire and the Written and Spoken Word’ alongside a gallery visit to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, and a Q and A session with Ally.
We were joined by artists young and old and from all disciplines. There were students from Bangor, Wrexham, Aberystwyth and Cardiff Universities. There was even a mini-reunion between three very special people who used to work for UCCF and help with the Christian arts work in Wales; John Harvey, Anne Brown and Rhiain Davies. John is a well respected professor of art at the school in Aberystwyth, Rhiain is a very talented professional illustrator and Anne specialises in History of Art and speaks at many events across the world. 
Now, one thing I learnt very well on the Interface day was that however much planning you do, things can still go wrong, that’s when you improvise; which is exactly what we did! The evening entertainment turned into an incredible time of hilarious, thought-provoking, inspiring and strange sharing of work. Led by Ed Mayhew – who rightly pointed out that we can learn just as much through doing as through listening - the entire group proceeded to navigate their way through the school of art, together acting out and developing a story of murder, addiction, mystery, love and something to do with scarves! We ended up in the gallery space downstairs and closed the evening with a wonderful time of performance by Rhodri Brady (monologue), Ben Cribbin (poetry), Ed Mayhew (comedy through music!), Ian Ho (jazz piano) and Sarah White – that’s me - (dance). Oh plus some spontaneous flamenco dancing from Dan Meiring (Aberystwyth staff worker) and Lois Adams.
All in all it was a wonderful, joy filled day which was such an encouragement and a thrill to be a part of, personally I can’t wait till next year!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Interview # 1: Graduating from art college

This is Faith...

This is Sarah...
This is the first of hopefully a number of interviews for our interface blog.  

This week, i've had the great pleasure of talking with two of the final year girls in the University of the Arts CU: Faith who's been studying Painting at Wimbledon, and Sarah who's been studying Illustration at Camberwell.  

Enjoy reading their insights, joys, challenges and thoughts on their time at art college...

Looking back on your 3/4 years at art college, what have been some  highlights?
Faith: Well the biggest thing was becoming a Christian in first year!  My whole purpose for life and my degree was now completely different.  Getting involved in the CU and meeting Christians weekly for encouragement has been brilliant.  Knowing that this three years has been the most important of my life - because I have been saved, I have a unique identity, and realising that even when i wasn’t particularly keen on art college at the start, I can now absolutely see why I have come!
Sarah: There are so many! I guess first year was so much fun where everything was new and i was making new friends every day! 

What have you found particularly hard?

Faith: Knowing in my head that my identity is in Christ, but I still need to be myself, so working out what that looks like.  The challenge of being arty involves such a wide-ranging variety of identities, so working out how I live out my faith, and how it works out in my art practice has been a challenge in amongst the ‘anything-goes’ nature of college.  I’ve desperately wanted to integrate my Christian life and my work without editing or weakening either - i’ve wanted to live fully for the two without compromising on either one - this has been hard!
Sarah: Trying to get the balance right with work, not idolising it and always putting God first, even when there's a massive dead line looming!

How has it been as a Christian?

Faith: I think it’s been amazing to see with clarity.  Once I realised that I was a stranger in the world because of my identity in Christ, I began to see the futility of the career-based life and the worldly desires that are pretty much the air you breathe at college.  God’s helped me to see life in black and white.  Also it’s been brilliant to see this year that my future is not set on my degree show but on eternity with Christ.  I’ve been realising more and more what I do have in Christ - but with that comes the challenge to witness about the certain hope we have in a sincere way.
Sarah: It's been awesome but also hard. Back home I didn't know that many christians my age and it's so encouraging coming to london and finding so many young christians who are super passionate about God. It's really encouraging! But talking about God at uni can be hard.

What would you do differently if you were to do it all again?

Faith: I think I would have a different attitude.  Partly because I started art school with the career-based attitude that most people have, rather than knowing Jesus and knowing he’s got everything in his hands.  My whole perspective has changed - I am a new creation, so I would approach everything differently from the beginning!
Sarah: I'd try to be more confident in talking about God at uni.

What advice would you give to a Christian just starting out at art school?

Faith: Work really hard and focus on your studies - you’ve been given time to develop your gifts so make the most of it.  Remember that God’s put in you that place.  Approach everything prayerfully.

Sarah: Find a great church!!! SOOOO important, I found one where the friends I have there feel like family, its such a blessing. Get stuck into CU as well it's great encouragement midweek.pastedGraphic.pdf 

How do you feel about the prospect of graduating in a few weeks time?

Faith: Excited!  God’s given me security in my church family which I am grateful for, and knowing that my future lies in his hands.  I feel very reflective looking back on my time at Wimbledon.  I’ve learnt double what I thought i would - both becoming a Christian and growing in my faith, and developing in my painting practice - it’s been brilliant!
Sarah: Excited but super scared!! Can't wait to start working!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Towards an Integrated Christian Imagination

Big thanks to Mark Meynell (see end of blog post for more info) for a thoroughly stimulating talk last night at University of the Arts, London!  For those who couldn’t make it/ are interested, I will do my best to summarise the wealth of wisdom, insight and challenge that Mark brought to us as those studying the creative arts.  I warn you, there is MUCH to take in, and my summarising skills are weak, so though this is a long blog post, it's worth sticking with it!
Mark took us to Romans 12:1-2 first of all to help us see the fundamental difference that exists between Christians, and non-Christians.  He explained the difference in simple terms: paganism bribes God into doing something for us, whether it’s with money, time or effort, essentially bringing ‘my agenda to God’.  As Christians however we live in response to the assurance, the confidence, the love and the mercy that we already have in the gospel.  This means the way we do life is profoundly different, as we are called to be living sacrifices, those who die to self and live to Christ.
What a challenge to start with! To remember that we are indeed Christ’s and we are called to live in response to his grace.  The idea of dying to self is often so hard, and yet it also brings such freedom as we do.  
Mark really helped us to see that we are living in response to God’s round-the-clock mercy; there is never any point when we are not his. We are complex beings, all of whom are for Him. This in turn calls for us to integrate our whole lives: body, mind, soul, heart as we live in response to his mercy. 
So, where as post-moderns fragment,
we are called to integrate as part of round-the-clock discipleship.
So what does this mean for our imaginations? What does this mean for the way we approach our creative disciplines?
Mark had a couple of big points for us, both of which were really helpful on broadening our perspective on what’s involved as we imagine and create:

1. We are theologians of the imagination
Artists are societies’ visionaries or to quote Mark ‘society’s equivalent of specsavers’!  As artists we help people to see what they don’t naturally see.  We are more deliberate in feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, and sensing the world around us because we study it in a more intense and deliberate way, and so we are making people see more of what’s around them. 
This has been keenly felt recently in the work of Hockney as his RA exhibition, but to quote Hockney himself as he saw a Monet exhibition, 
 “ There was a fantastic Monet exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995. They got a million people to see it. There are forty-six Monets in the Art Institute’s collection, which they lend to other exhibitions, so a lot of museums owed them a favour. As a result, for this exhibition they had got together about a hundred and fifty of his paintings. I went to see it one Sunday morning. It was fabulous. When I came out, I started looking at the bushes on Michigan Avenue with a little more care, because Monet had looked at his surroundings with such attention. He made you see more. Van Gogh does that for you too. He makes you see the world around just a little more intensely. And you enjoy seeing it like that, or I do."
I absolutely agree with Mark that this is exactly what happened after seeing the Hockney at the RA too - I felt a more profound, and more intense delight in the mundane aspects of nature, seeing them and delighting in the wondrous in a thoroughly exhilarating way.

Artists are also prophets, communicating what we see around us.  It’s no longer philosophers, statesmen and preachers in the pulpit who influence culture and society.  Rather, it’s the media, artists, singer-songwriters, celebrities and the like who are our culture’s prophets, confronting us with some of the realities around us.  Whether we like it or not, we have an influence as culture-makers, and contribute to the visual plethora of stimuli around us.  

Because we look more, we see more and therefore have responsibility to do more.  

This is weighty stuff.  Mark’s question to us: Do you feel intimated by this? 
I certainly did last night.  But what a wonderful thing to realise that we’re not on our own -  we should be on our knees, praying hard for the Lord to guide us.

2. The visionary and prophetic mandate
In light of all this, we were encouraged to see that our mind is absolutely central to how we live out our lives.  Godliness so often begins in the mind, as we are motivated by the grace we have received.  When we know it in our heart and mind, we then can’t help but respond in action and response, living in view of God’s mercy.

Paul calls Christians in Philippians 4 to fill their minds with good things as they strive to be godly:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
But where do these verses leave us in the context of our creativity?
So often, they lead down a ‘blind alley of kitsch, cliche and platitude.’
As discussed last night, these verses have been used out of context, to restrict what artists can paint and portray, and have become a shackle to creative endeavours.  Mark was keen to show us that though we are to strive for godliness (which is the context of these verses), integrated Christian art must have a place for the ugly and despairing, because that is real life, that is our world.  The Old Testament prophets are wonderful examples of communicating the despairing world they see in front of them, and speaking into that situation.
So where does this leave us?
With 3 valuable pointers regarding the content of our work and imaginations:
Truth: exposing the false, reflecting the real
Scripture is our foundation, our benchmark of understanding.  We can create in provocative, quirky and poetic ways but we have to be true and real.  It is right to expose the horrors of the world, and being truthful will involve exposing the ugly.
Have you read any of Calvin’s Seerveld’s stuff? If not grab hold of ‘Bearing fresh Olive leaves’ (in the book review section of this blog) and read Ch 2 on ‘The freedom and Responsibility of the artist’ - it is full of rich gems that will help you to think through these thoughts in more detail.  To quote him just once here, 
‘art, like anything else, is relevant if it supplies what it needed.  Art that is popular is supplying what is wanted, but not necessarily what is needed, and may not therefore be relevant.’
Creating what is popular does not equal being relevant.  We have a respobnsibility to decide what is helpful or not for us as Christians, but the challenge remains: are we willing to delve into the ugliness to expose the tensions and lies that lurk beneath?
Beauty: exposing the idolatrous, reflecting the wondrous
Worshipping beauty is idolatry.  We worship the one to whom they all point.  As people look at our work, they should cry, “Where and how are such things possible?” whether that's in the nature of our brushstroke, how we intricately piece together our textile final piece, or what themes are provoked and pointed to in a film that we create.
T-bone Burnett said there are two types of songs: 
there are songs about the light, or songs that describe things that you can now see because of the light.  
What a brilliant way to think about how we see, now we’ve been exposed to the light.  God’s light shines on everything we see.  Are we choosing to reflect the wonderful creation around us with integrity, in view of this light?
Hope: exposing the baseless, reflecting the future
We are called to expose idoaltrous delusion, life and systems that build hope without Christ at the centre, and in turn provoke hope in a way that isn’t kitsch, cliche or trite.
What a challenge! But as Mark rightly points out, this is what society is desperate for.  Do we need to be formulating a sincere language that will be able to deal with such an enormous task?
Mark Meynell left us all feeling thoroughly encouraged in our creative calling, challenged with the weight of responsibility that comes with being those who live in view of God's mercy, and stimulated to think more and more on the wealth of rich material he gave us to ponder.
A couple of things he left us with at the end of last night are supremely helpful for us all as we think about our Christian imaginations:
Remember that we can never do more than reflect the Lord’s creativity
If you’ve led one person to think and see things in a new way, it’s worth it.

* Mark Meynell is a minister at All Soul's, Langham Place, London.  He's got a great blog which is well worth checking out!