The Temple Project
The young artists included in this exhibition are students at Redeemer University College, in Ancaster. The “Intermediate Painting” class teaches oil painting technique, enriches creative process, and engages with a broad range of contemporary art practices. This exhibition shows highlights from their final assignment The Temple Project. While most assignments eschew overt spiritual requirements, this project offered such a challenge: reflect on the connotations of the word ‘temple,’ and create an oil painting that brings size, materiality, imagery, and visual language to bear on the theme. Ideally, this act of making becomes a trace – a sign – of spiritual discernment and seeking.
We brainstormed as a group, exploring possible facets of the word Temple (body as temple, sacred geometry, the presence of God, the emptiness of religiosity, the way the great I AM cannot be held by our names and categories). Scripture was a key source, but art history and image-files also played their role in sparking imagination, research, and dialogue. In the act of painting, ideas would shift – and these artists were blessed by unforeseen discoveries, solutions, and new questions.
While theological ideas abound, these paintings are not axiomatic statements. They are poetic expressions that make space for passion, joy, troubling questions, the naming of wounds, and much else. They reveal the joy of longing, of being on God’s trail. I encourage you to listen to these artworks – what does their colour, shape, size, and imagery evoke in you? What questions do they suggest? Indeed, how can you be creative as well, as you try to make your own sense of their puzzles?
As their painting professor, I have experienced this project as a joyful one. I have seen these students stretch their imaginations and struggle to give their intuitions a committed form. Perhaps these artworks can be something like a temple for you – by entering their space, might you find encouragement and challenge for your own spirit?
This exhibition was designed in collaboration with Jubilee Christian Reformed Church, in St. Catharines. The premise of the show, as well as the student statements, were designed for that context of a faith community. We are grateful for that project, and now to Flagship Gallery for mounting this exhibition a second time. Moving a project from the personal into the public realm is a significant step for anyone wishing to shape culture and, for some of the makers here, this is their first step on that road.
— Phil Irish, 2015
Still (Haven’t Found)
Oil on canvas
This piece searches for a place beneath the commotion and noise, a place of calm and sanctuary where everything is silent. A watery pillar of light is the only thing that transcends the surface between the two realms, far above our heads. It addresses an unfulfilled longing to escape from earthly disorder and relentless thoughts, to let my mind be still in the presence of a God who grants rest.
Jesus loves, so why can’t we?
Oil on canvas
A temple is supposed to be a safe place, a place of sanctuary. Yet many people have no safe place to turns to. In Jesus’ day, the poor, disabled and diseased were marginalized. Today, depending on the church and their location, people can be excluded because of race, addiction, sexual orientation or marital status. I am passionate about this topic, for it hits home in many ways. Not just with family but also the place I call home, Mississauga – Meadowvale. My church community raised me to love, respect and welcome the kinds of people that some churches would marginalize, disrespect or mistreat. I am convinced that there is more to a person — and their soul — than their one ‘disagreeable’ trait. I would say that it is more important how an individual loves their community, strangers, family and lovers. I do not present this artwork to argue whether specific actions are right or wrong. Rather, this painting is my appeal to the church to be more welcoming, loving and accepting — no matter what path someone has taken, is currently walking or where they are going. Jesus loves… so why can’t we?
The Carpenter and the Universe, 2015
Oil and spraypaint on canvas
The relationship and subsequent barrier between the Perfect Creator and imperfect creator is what I, as an artist, struggle with. How do we represent anything that belongs to God? Can we recreate something that was created perfectly in the first place? In our limited and broken ability, we can only know God univocally because we cannot know Him in completeness and it is this exact issue that I attempt to tackle in my piece.
Oil on gold leaf on canvas
I have titled this piece Immanence, which means “the presence of the divine manifested in the material world”. The word “temple” makes me think about the presence of the divine in the ordinary. It reminds me of the glory cloud that filled, first the tabernacle and later the temple, during the time of the people of Israel in the Old Testament. This painting is an attempt to capture the feeling of God’s presence in our world and to visualize what the glory cloud may have been like. This cloud presented to Israel a visible, tangible picture of the presence of God and I have attempted to create a representation of that.
Oil on canvas
My story of temple focuses on a shift of perspective that I experienced when I came to redeemer. When I came to redeemer I was exposed to the notion that women don’t have a voice in the church. This made me start to look at the church in a negative light.
My mom is a pastor and she has exemplified what it means to be a faithful servant She shows strength and courage as she boldly stands strong despite being a women in a man’s world.
To discredit my mom’s value as pastor shifted my perception of the church. So I began to read about women in the bible and I was completely inspired by women like Joanna and Mary, faithful followers of Christ who boldly listened to God and lived out their faith. I do¬n’t think it’s a coincidence that god used women during two critical moments in him redemptive plan. Used Mary to bring Jesus into the world and he used Joanna, Mary Magdeline and Mary to share the glorious news of his resurrection. These women were faithful despite the doubt and backlash they received from others. They new the truth that had been revealed to them and they were faithful to the call. This is evidence enough for me that women have incredible value and worth in the church. I wanted to create a painting that exudes the strength of these women. I wanted to communicate a sense of struggle and beauty.
Ancient Temple, 2015
Oil and gold leaf on panel 30 x 40”
For me, a temple is a place where you can come to be with God and worship him. I feel the closest to him in his creation. Forests especially help me understand, in a small way, his greatness and majesty. The source image for this painting was taken in an ancient forest in British Columbia where I used to live. The massive height of these trees created a sense of awe in me at how majestic and awesome God is. Through the use of gold leaf I tried to fuse nature and temple, creating a painting that points to one’s connection with God.
Oil on canvas 3’ x 4′
I gave the title Boundless to this artwork as I sought to capture the vastness and glory of God in this piece. I sought to illustrate God’s creative and magnificent power and might and his influence over all of creation, including us as human beings. My portrayal of ‘temple’ is centered on the idea that his temple exists through all of creation as everything is created by Him and done in and through Him. We as Christians are called to reflect this light and spread the hope that we have in Christ to all of creation.
Oil on canvas
Reaching is a personal story. It is a picture of my faith and the desire I have to learn and discover more about a God who at times is hard to see. The figure is reaching from the dark towards the light – towards something mysterious and unknown. The temple then, for me, is found through the journey; it is something that I am searching for – a longing to stand in the presence of God.
Oil on canvas
Part of Christianity is the idea that we are saved by the grace of God. However, the love and grace of God is not exclusive. It extends to the numerous faiths and cultural traditions that people practice globally on a regular basis if they are willing to come to know the Lord. Everyone has this opportunity to be saved by grace.