Thursday, February 28, 2013

Christian Graffiti?

The ceiling of the dome at the Santa Eulalia church in l'Hospitalet, painted by graffiti artists

Many of us have toured European cathedrals, craning our necks to see the depictions of biblical scenes high above. Stained glass windows were also artistic expressions which told the stories of scripture to illiterate people. We usually assume that this artwork is hundreds of years old.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear of a priest in Spain who commissioned a  couple of graffiti artists to create a colourful mural in his otherwise austere church. Some of their other work is depicted below. We know that graffiti artists such as Banksy have established international reputations for their creativity, a far cry from the hasty scrawls on the sides of rail cars.

Father Ramon Borr decided to make the main dome a little different. "Even though the press is scandalised by graffiti artists, for me graffiti is just another artistic technique," he says. There were practical considerations behind his choice too - quote after quote from traditional artists had come in well over budget. He was a little tentative to start with. "I said we need to have sober colouring," begins Father Borr. "But they said, 'Look, let us try with brights and if you don't like it, we'll take it off.'" It took his two graffiti artists 10 days and one frantic all-nighter, as they rushed to finish it for a wedding.

I admire the priest for thinking outside conventions and maybe it should be inspiration for the rest of us. Prostestants have a nearly 500-year-old suspicion of artistic expression in churches, thanks to the reformers and its time to get over it. If God is the Creator then surely creative expression isn't over, whether it is through music or painting or other arts.

What do you think of this initiative? In these days of austerity would it be foolhardy or bold to venture into new forms of artistic expression?


IanD said...

I expect this kind of thing would be quite polarizing. Field test at St. Paul's?

willowjakmom said...

Love it. I agree with Ian. But what better way to include a part of the population that may not have otherwise set foot inside their doors (because they may have been too busy spray painting the outside walls).