It was the Dutch theologian, Hans Rookmaaker, who published a book called “Art Needs No Justification” a few decades ago with the notion that as human beings we are designed to create because we are created by a personal God who is a Creator and who made us in his image.
And ever since humans started sketching hunting scenes on the walls of caves, design, art and creativity has been part of what it is to be alive. In the last few centuries, the church has ceased to be at the centre of creative movements which seems to me to be a shame.
So when our church-based theatre space “Ravenscourt Arts” was invited to be part of the annual Hammersmith and Fulham Arts Festival, we set for ourselves a few criteria and then agreed to be involved.
Criteria? Well, we wanted a range of artistic types – some music, some film, some painting and so forth. We wanted artists who were known outside of Hammersmith which would bring in people because of their reputations. We wanted some local people that we could give first exposure to their work. We wanted some artists who were Christians. And, finally, we wanted the whole process to be educational and thought provoking and to involve some of the local schools that we have been building strong bridges with over the last few years.
We managed to tick all those boxes.
It wasn’t without complications with some artists that we’d initially hoped to involve having to be left out as their ideas proved very different from ours but ultimately it all came together.
John Foxx, a gifted artist and musician whose work is currently the centre piece of an exhibition in Australia, agreed that we could use his film, Cathedral Oceans.
Serafina Steer (classical harpist and contemporary musician) gave us a short conceptual film of one of her songs and agreed to perform on harp on the Saturday night. She asked us to try and get Liam Byrne (who performs on a mediaeval instrument called a viola da gamba) to also appear in the Saturday concert and Liam came on board too.
Local artists, Pat Carey-Willis and Suzanne Yaghsizian agreed to have some of their best work exhibited and to allow us to talk about the way that their Christian faith had inspired them to take to brush and easel.
And then using music by the Dave Brubeck Quartet and a painting by Sam Francis which was inspired by Brubeck’s music, we involved six schools in creating 6 mosaics which were re-imaginings of Mr Francis’ work.
We called the whole exhibition “Mosaics”, inspired by the schools’ project but also carrying the notion that when artists come together as a community, they are stronger than when they’re alone.
Chris and Darren hosted the exhibition which was open each week day for 7 hours and also undertook educational tours which allowed visiting groups to learn about the artists who were exhibiting, their inspirations and the nature of their work.
The Saturday concert was a highlight, if poorly attended. Circumstances meant that England’s opening game of the European Championships was one of the things drawing peoples’ attention elsewhere (as well as several other concerts) but most of those who came were fascinated by the quality of the music as Ms Steer and Mr Byrne performed as well as an opportunity to see the multimedia work of Mr Foxx.
So overall I think we can call “Mosaics” a success. Will we be involved in the Festival next year? I think that will depend on the opportunity to do something very different again. The schools seemed to love their involvement and if there was opportunity to do something equally unique, we’re not ruling it out.