More than 300 people gathered to hear Dr Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery and a committed Catholic, speak on 'Art and Faith' at Farm Street Church in Mayfair on Thursday evening.
Artists from all spheres, including high-profile painters such as James Gillick, gathered for the talk which marked the launch of Catholic Creators, a new initiative dedicated to supporting and connecting Catholic artists from across the UK. Led by artists for artists, the group will provide spiritual formation, social gatherings and opportunities for creatives to showcase their work.
In his talk, Dr Finaldi wove an exciting path through the ages, showing how the image of Christ, in a secular age, can transcend set beliefs and capture the imagination of the viewer, demonstrating the perpetual relevance and fascination with the life and resonance of Christ today.
Works from the National Gallery's collection from around world were presented with enthusiasm and sensitivity, as Dr Finaldi guided the audience through the symbolic and pictorial aspects of Christian painting, showing the significance of art in regards to the Catholic and Christian faith, but also of faith in shaping the art and symbols of suffering and humanity today.
Jusepe di Ribera's tender depiction of the 'Lamentation of Christ', in its silence and reverence, was compared to Greogrio Fernandez's stark and visceral polychromatic painted sculpture of the 'Dead Christ' from the same period - its brutal realism evoking both compassion and devotion from the viewer.
Dr Finaldi asserted that works of art are 'carriers and emblems of Faith', encouraging those present to positively and confidently integrate their art with their beliefs. The setting of Farm Street Church, itself an artistic feast with new additions such as Andrew White's 'Last Supper' and Timothy Shmalz's 'Homeless Jesus', was itself a 'carrier of Faith' hosting all those present.
Going forward, the group will be hosting regular networking opportunities, a tour around Parliament and a workshop at the 'More Than Words' conference on Tolkien in Oxford in May.
April 4th this year will mark the 20th anniversary of St John Paul II's Letter to Artists, rendering it entirely fitting that 2019 has begun with such a bold celebration of the work of Catholic creatives in the world today. Dr Finaldi quoted from the Letter at the event saying:
"In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation."
Speaking at the event Dr Finaldi, said: "Image, liturgy, and sacrament come together in a perfect theatrical and theological concord. Christian writers often quote the words of Dostoevsky that "beauty will save the world". There is surely something profoundly insightful in this phrase. Beauty can cut across a thousand arguments, it can speak directly to the heart, it can be persuasive in many mysterious ways."
The chair of Catholic Creators UK, Eve Farren, an actress-playwright and RADA graduate, addressed the crowd saying: "Your presence is evidence of a hunger from Catholic artists to connect, to meet people who are orthodox in their faith yet simultaneously deeply curious and open-minded. People who occupy the boundaries, who need to ask questions but always from a place of trust in, and fidelity to, the Church."
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