I have gradually ‘come out’ as an artist as well as a theologian/writer. I am currently a part-time art student, developing some ideas for sculptures.
Art was a sideline in my youth – occasional oil-paintings. Then, as I was completing my doctorate, I suddenly felt the inadequacy of words and ideas, and wanted to be involved in images – and in ritual. For me, art and ritual are basically the same thing. So my desire to be involved in Christian culture has been inseparable from my desire to be a creative artist.
For some years this had a strong polemical aspect: we need new forms of Christian culture, I argued, the normal churchy form being too weak and compromised. I have become more accepting of regular church, as the necessary basis of Christian culture, but still feel that new things are needed on the fringes. And this is how I see my role as a Christian artist: creating new bits of Christian culture that might show people the power of this ritual tradition.
On one hand, this means large-scale public art events that are also ritual events. I am currently working with a cathedral to realise one such project – watch this space. And I am working with a central London church on a performance art work for next Holy week. But on the other hand it means more conventional art making. This tends to have a strong religious reference and might even have a church setting (I have made many hangings for churches), but it might also seem ironic, questioning of orthodoxy. Seeming-irreverence is a crucial tool for the religious artist.