There is a well known Bible verse in the letter the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians that begins, “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing…think about these things.” It is a common misconception that to communicate the truth, hope and the joy of the Christian worldview, we must only think and create works that are ‘pure and pleasing’. And yet the first command from Paul is to think about whatever is true. Philippians 4:8(NIV)
Vulnerability is a truthful openness; testifying to the fragile state of ourselves, others and the environment. Shying away from vulnerability would be a misrepresentation of everyone’s true experience of life; we cannot ignore that which reveals the tension, discord and sheer brokenness of relationships and the world.
The Bible speaks candidly of the fallen nature of the world, ravaged by human wrongdoing. There is no pretence in the words used to describe both the human heart, and the world at large. And there is something intrinsically good about acknowledging just how broken we are. The world is not perfect. We are not perfect. Let’s not pretend, but instead let’s expose and shine light on where we see fragility and injustice. We can take heart from a shared loss or trauma, or feel validated and strengthened by another’s recognition that life is tough. The work of the artist in observing and responding to their experiences and environment means they are able to share elements of their viewpoint. What a wonder to be able to see and communicate something of our world so that others may better feel and understand the fragility and incompleteness they sense around them. As we look to our future as an arts organisation we recommit ourselves to commissioning and exhibiting works that embrace vulnerability, sharing both the sorrows and joys of life.
Photograph: Painting For Fun: The Holy Biscuit hosts free oil painting sessions for people who are out of work, suffering from depression, or anyone who just wants to come along and paint! Photography by Andrew Barker.