I’m currently trying to plan my next stage of study in Birmingham and think carefully about the subjects I want to research and spend the majority of my time fixated upon over the next few years. My problem is that, in a similar way to my Undergraduate dissertation subject, there is simply too many ideas in my tiny brain. Whereas around 3 years ago my ideas were ranging from Quantum Physics, to Free will/determinism, to practical theology in Latin America, to 24/7 Prayer research, to Biblical Exegesis of the Book of Isaiah (yeah all of it – just as well that one didn’t happen), to my eventual choice of Baptism in the Early Eastern Church, I knew that certain things were just too big to really let myself attempt in just over 3 months, now, my mind is trying to trick me into taking on the biggest topics imaginable.
What also tips the balance a little is because I attempting an interdisciplinary study of Fine Art (meaning I’ll be doing actual art, not just looking at other people’s) and Theology, I will have both practical and theoretical work to accomplish. I will be explaining ideas through visual interpretations as well as sheets of printed paper.
The ideas SO FAR are below. Some are more thought out than others but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have discounted the pop-up ideas as I call them. There’s is just too much to learn, to discover, to find fascinating and I may struggle to specify exactly what I really truly want to say.
1. Theological Ecology in Art, redeeming materials, using what humans have tossed away to renew the beauty of it.
I met an amazing woman once who was creating beautiful faith-filled pieces using the discarded materials she found on the beach near her home. She called it redeemed and that’s exactly what it was, both in the redemption of the materials, but also in the subject matter she portrayed – people having been redeemed, used to show glory and honor. This inspired me to look into whether anyone else has done this too and whether this might be a new way of creating art with an ecologically-minded faith.
2. Stewardship, ecology, architecture, the theological symbols with architecture, stones of churches being used to build houses.
Being in and around St Andrews, Scotland for 5 years made me think a lot about history and symbology. Despite the Reformation rioters tearing down the Cathedral, the feeling of it, the atmosphere of it, continues to impact St Andrews and the Christian community around it. I wondered if this had something to do with the fact that the actual stones of the cathedral, a building made to glorify God (at least we can hope so) gradually over time went into the buildings of the town. The stones dedicated to God are still there, still a real part of people’s lives, even if they don’t know it. The symbology of architecture was often important when designing a church, the number of pillars, the direction of the altar, the shape of the ceiling, etc. What does that symbology say now when so many churches are changing form, used for other purposes, or are torn apart and used elsewhere? If someone was to design a church with these things in mind what would a symbolic design look like?
3. Iconography in modern theology, how to adapt icons to portray a theological truth or comfort to modern society.I took a long time to understand iconography’s use in Christianity, and although I still don’t partake in the tradition of praying to-, or through them, I understand a little more the tradition which suggests to. Some feel a need to have a middle man, someone to introduce them to His Majesty, and yet others don’t get why you would pray to someone other than God Himself. That’s fine, I’m not arguing one way or another but the implementation of iconography is interesting: the painting is never meant to glorify the artist, and creativity is not welcomed in this form. There is a standard and style which is continued, but I wonder whether if it were to start again now, what standard might give a similar effect. Could the often cliched form of Street Art reimagine the ancient style of icons to speak again to people, and to have people see God through them? Is there another form of art which, outside of praising an artist, could speak of God more clearly to a modern audience?
The Great Divorce is one of my favourite books of all time, and the imagery within it describing both heaven and hell is intriguing. The way the contrast is set, the story is told, the unusual descriptions away from the classic fire and brimstone, give a very human interpretation and yet point continually to something better. To play with the imagery and reconstruct it is hugely tempting, especially when given C S Lewis’ other “fictional” works such as his sci-fi series and, of course, the Narnia classics.
5. Symbology and imagery within Isaiah 61-62.
The first exegesis I ever completed was a study into Isaiah 61 and 62 which I did not complete due to a lack of time and yet I was still engrossed and have never been more proud of a piece of work. The text is rich with imagery, metaphor and diverse language which all links to other passages, ideas, prophecies, and so much detail of language. To be able to delve into it and visualise the deep meanings and interpretations whilst also learning more about the original translations and the difference it makes would be FASCINATING.
So what are my choices? Which would you choose? Should I pick one that I know I could do, and write a crazy number of books after just for fun? In A Level Art I completed a sketch book as well as two huge acrylic paintings and a sculpture researching the representation of the Devil/Satan/serpent within William Blake’s artwork and poetry, particularly looking at the illustrations of the Book of Job. It was amazing to do and is still one of my favourite selections of work. Maybe I needed to go study theology in order to understand more to throw into my art. We’ll see I guess.
In the meantime, any suggestions?