Harvest Christian Church in Port Elizabeth is hosting their second Christian Art Exhibition since last year’s inaugural event. Artists were invited to submit works based on their individual interpretation of the theme: BUILD.
According to curators Ken Holloway and Paul Hendricks, “It is for the simple and God-given reason that we intend to put on exhibition, to showcase to both the church and to our world, the wonders of our wondrous Creator. Having seen such phenomenal talent from the local Christian art community in Port Elizabeth and surrounds, we believe that it would be a great opportunity missed, not to put on a relevant and topical art exhibition every year. Not just any exhibition however. But an exhibition that lives up to and beyond the expectations of some of the best in the industry. With standards sufficiently high to attract and impress art lovers and admirers from all creative circles and walks of life. We see the above as an opportunity for the Lord to speak into the hearts of various people’s lives through artistic talent and creativity, as well as a platform for the church to display God’s beauty and celebrate His glory.
As I meditated upon the word BUILD, I was struck by a recurring thought that stems from my own art process and the eternal wrestle to work out what direction to follow, to ‘build’ towards.
What does it mean to build anything?
What does it mean to build up the arts?
What should we as believers build that eloquently reveals both Christian worldview?
Is that good art?
What is good art?
These are some of the midnight visitors that can keep an artist grappling into the wee hours. Let me begin with a disclaimer that these are my own musings, based also on the writings by Brett McCracken from the Gospel Coalition. They go off on a somewhat different trajectory from the exhibition currently on show, although the ‘BUILD’ theme is what got the grey matter moving initially!
I have come to understand, that for myself and probably many believers – practicing artists or not, much of our inspiration and motivation for all we do is borne out of a sense of how to most effectively share the gospel and make disciples. I mean, that is our raison d’être no? The problem with that for artists though is that it often leads to poor art. We want to get the message of Jesus out by all means and at every exhibition and Instagram post, as efficiently as possible – life is too short, the harvest is plentiful and the workers few – the urgency we conform to sometimes reflects a worldly pattern more than a biblical one and hence people get subjected to our didactic, ‘get the message across’ missional masterpieces – I use the term loosely, and we think that is good art, because it has a purpose.
Yes, the truth of Jesus is the most weighty, most important single reality to humankind and we can be forgiven for counting everything else as superfluous and erring on the side of the message over the medium – and the beauty of the medium, and the mystery of the medium.
But ART doesn’t thrive in this utilitarian space.
What am I building?
What is good art?
Am I building good art?
McCracken says, “art isn’t meant to just be a message transmission vehicle. Like, it’s meant to be this breathable space, this wide-open space, where the grandeur and the glory of God through His creation, through creativity, is manifest.”
I love the word mystery. Too much of what is called Christian art is devoid of mystery – the very aspect that points to our God. I have often undervalued mystery, feeling it was somehow counter to the ‘message’ I wanted to get across. All along I was filling my paintings with head knowledge and not heart wisdom – no wonder it doesn’t resonate with people because art is meant to stir the heart. I think there may be some related parallels between doing (me) and being (Christ in me) that need to be considered in a future article but in closing I love what Ray Ortlund said. ‘Christianity in a whole person is a kind of holistic reality. It involves the head and the heart. It involves accuracy and beauty.’
I think this is helpful. Previously when I have been ‘building’ art, I have resorted to one or the other – predminantly the one my intellect/mind can control. And I think we need to have both. And yes, there’s a place for truth, and for defending the truth which is vital. We don’t want to celebrate ambiguity in the name of art, when it comes to the gospel and yet we must also begin the courageous journey into the mysterious aspects our awesome God. I encourage you to go and enjoy and allow the vision and heart and art on exhibition at Harvest to inspire a deeper love for and enjoyment of our Father.
The exhibition runs from the 22 August until the 29th August at Harvest Christian Church in Albert Road, Walmer.