The connection

Interrogating the relationship between artists and religion. Digging deeper into the relationship between artists and religion unveiling the union with the world.

SHOW Runnig from the 15 th of February to the 25th of April 2016


The National Gallery of Zimbabwe on Monday the 15th of February  opened an exhibition entitled The Connections. It is an exhibition which seeks to catechise, explore and to examine the relationship between artist and religion. The exhibition was curated by Mrs Lilian Chaonwa the Gallery’s Collection Manager.
The arts have always been used to express the divine, for example, in Christian liturgical services.  The arts, due to their strong emotional impact and ability to act immediately and directly upon our perception, prior to conceptual thinking, can enhance any area of experience, including religious experience.
“The arts have always been integral to religion, serving as visual counterpart to religious stories,” said Mrs Chaonwa. “Sacred paintings, pictures, sculptures, sacred symbols, sacred dances, hymns and tunes have been used in rituals, to inspire and strengthen faith through public and private devotion in place of worship or domestic settings.”
The art have been natural vehicles for expressing or connecting with the transcendent. The most celebrated artist worked on a collecting force that of religious subjects which drew them to fame.
Specifically, both natural and artistic beauty is capable of evoking what is called the sense of transcendence, or the presence of some deeper principles in the world. Art and beauty are immediately pleasing but the reasons for this are unclear. This means that the rules and principles of art are beyond us or transcend us: possibly indicating the presence of a higher in the universe. The arts are used for these purposes by most religious traditions, but specifically in the Christian tradition.
 “This exhibition seeks to engage with the arguments between the two and to promote a greater understanding of how the works of art were and still used as a model of moral behaviour and to answer the question why artists are so much interested in religious subject matters,” she added. “Is it because they are religious or it is that they are Christians, Muslims, and Hindus, Buddhists or any other religion? Or it is about the way they were raised.”
She said that works of art have been produced to illustrate, supplement and portray in a tangible form the principles of a particular subject or theme. Different media has been and is used to express these ideas thereby engaging and inspiring viewers to consider and reflect on spiritual traditions. Wealthy families commissioned artists to do artworks for their private chapels which were almost invariably faith related in their themes and portrayals. For the benefit of the illiterate these also served a purpose.
Generally, the arts, due to their strong emotional impact and ability to act immediately and directly upon people’s perception, prior to conceptual thinking, can enhance any area of experience, including religious experience.
 The connection between art and religion have also a negative impact in a way that it arose a lot of controversy, citing the example given by Mrs Chaonwa that several other themes of artworks such as the Last Supper have shown a contrast from the usual portrayal to a different arrangement of a painting with eleven black men and one white man as disciples. A female naked figure is said to represent Jesus and as one would expect naturally offend some members of the Christian religion. Controversial paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses in nudity have also resulted in accusations of hurting the sentiments of those who belong to the Hindu religion.  According to some traditions, only the words and speech can convey correct dogmas and ideas about the nature of God, and the arts do it very imprecisely and vaguely and can simply “lead astray” instead of conveying the correct teaching.
The emotional impact of the arts causes a concern that the audience will simply be distracted by the beauty they perceive and focus on the arts themselves, not on the words of the scriptures, religious ideas or sentiments. This concern generated strong anti-artistic tendencies, especially in the Protestant tradition, some branches of which rejected the visual arts altogether.

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