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Where art and faith meet

On 21st February, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery and a committed Catholic, addressed the inaugural event of Catholic Creators, a new initiative dedicated to supporting and connecting Catholic artists from across the UK, on ‘Art and Faith’ at Farm Street Church.

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 the Catholic and Christian faith, and the significance of faith in shaping the art and symbols of human suffering 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 described works of art as ‘carriers and emblems of faith’, encouraging those present to integrate their art with their beliefs positively and confidently.

April marks the 20th anniversary of Pope 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: ‘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.’

Dr Finaldi observed: ‘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.’

Addressing the gathering, Chair of Catholic Creators UK Eve Farren said: ‘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.

Led by artists for artists, the group will provide spiritual formation, social gatherings and opportunities for creatives to showcase their work. Going forward, the group will hold regular networking opportunities, a tour around Parliament and a workshop at the ‘More Than Words’ conference on Tolkien in Oxford in May.

For further information on Catholic Creators, email info@catholiccreators.org.

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