Relationship between visual art and religion

Art and Religion |

relationship between visual art and religion

The Relationship Between Faith and Art teachings on God's relationship with creation, God's sovereignty, and the Incarnation to name a few. . and the religious imagination to evocatively engage contemporary visual art. How important is the relationship between art and religious belief? At the because of the pivotal place of the visual and visionary in the Bible;. The question of the relationship between art and truth is of utmost importance for the subject “art and religion” since religion and theology also lays claim . some branches of which rejected the visual arts altogether. 2. The second concern is.

The fourth critical question has been formed by the academic recognition of "the marginalized"—those previously little investigated groups including women, racial and ethnic minorities, classes, and gender—whose art has reformulated traditional art historical categories not simply by introducing new iconographies or styles but by the very nature of their understandings of art and religion in their respective societies and cultures.

With the advent of the new century, scholarship in art and religion has formulated new critical questions arising from both contemporary events and a growing global recognition of the broader ethical and societal responsibilities for cultural heritage.

The recent loss of works of religious art through natural disasters, war, and violent acts of iconoclasm has focused attention on the role of religion in fomenting or silencing acts of destruction, whether initiated by environmental neglect or military activity.

relationship between visual art and religion

Further analysis as to religious meaning and cultural value of the works selected for destruction is a topic for new studies from the perspective of art and religion. The related critical question for art and religion study is that of the complex ethical and moral issue of the "theft" or transfer of art from one country to another on the grounds of protection or military conquest, and the potential for repatriation.

Another new critical question, which may be related to the primary question of "what makes art religious? The Nature of the Relationship s The oftentimes controversial and amorphous interconnections between art and religion proffer five distinctive relationships that can be categorized as distinguished by power Apostolos-Cappadona, and that extend beyond mana to include economic, gendered, political, societal, and religious concepts of power.

relationship between visual art and religion

The first is authoritarian, in which art is subject to religion. The authoritarian relationship permits no place for artistic creativity, individuality, or originality; rather, art and artists are controlled by the higher authority as art becomes visual propaganda. The second relationship is that of opposition, in which both art and religion are equal powers, and while neither is dominated or subservient to the other, there is a constant struggle to subjugate the other.

The third relationship is one of mutuality when these two "equals" inhabit the same cultural environment in a symbiotic union of inspired nurture. The fourth relationship is separatist, as each operates independent of and without regard for the other, as in an iconoclastic religious environment or a secular culture.

The fifth relationship is unified, so that their individual identities become so completely blended into a single entity it is impossible to discern what is art from what is religion. As a corollary to, if not a result of, the fact that there is no universally agreed upon definition of either art or religion, none of the major world religions have a historically consistent attitude toward art.

These cultural and geographic variations even within one religion such as Islam and Buddhism confirm that any or all of these five relationships between art and religion exist either simultaneously or in a chronological progression in one religious tradition.

In his now classic Sacred and Profane Beauty: The Holy in Art []Gerardus van der Leeuw — considered the nature of the arts in relation to religion and specifically identified Christianity as a religious locus in which all five relationships between art and religion can be identified.

Religious Attitudes Toward Art Every religious tradition has an attitude toward art, and thereby toward image. Some are formalized in written canons, hierarchy, dogma, creeds, and liturgy, while others are predicated upon oral tradition, ritual, and mythology.

Visual Arts as Ways of Being Religious - Oxford Handbooks

The fundamental modes of religious attitudes toward art are iconic advocacyaniconic acceptanceand iconoclastic denial or rejection. The iconic attitude locates the image in representational or anthropomorphic figures of identifiable and known reality, as evidenced in the Byzantine icons of Mary as Theotokos or Jesus Christ as the Pantocrator. Taken to its extreme, however, the iconic religious attitude treads lightly upon idolatry.

Taken to its extreme, the aniconic religious attitude verges on total abstraction and thereby the complete absence of forms. The iconoclastic attitude rejects totally images and imagery in any media, style, or form, as exemplified in the otherwise imageless environment of Jewish synagogues and many Protestant churches.

Taken to its extreme, the iconoclastic attitude is violent destruction of all images and imagery, sacred and secular. Although these three religious attitudes toward art can be delineated, it is rare in the history of any religious tradition to operate without some variation in its attitude s.

As with all theories and constructs in art and religion, there is a coexistence of multiple religious attitudes toward images either in a historic process of evolution or simultaneously so that patterns develop: Buddhism is one of several world religions that has had these three religious attitudes toward art in its history.

Initially aniconic, Hinduism slowly assimilated image into worship and devotional practice, eventually establishing a complex religious iconography composed of representational and symbolic elements. The operative principle is that as each world religion evolves, its fundamental attitude toward art is similarly transformed.

Certain religions such as Christianity and Buddhism have espoused a variety of attitudes toward image.

Earliest Buddhist teaching was aniconic, while Zen Buddhism is iconoclastic. However, contacts with other cultures, including Hellenism, and expansion into other geographic regions caused Buddhism's initial aniconicism to evolve into a bifurcation of the iconic and iconoclastic religious attitudes. Further, a fundamental ambiguity exists within several world religions as the hierarchy affirms the proscriptions or prescriptions pronounced in written texts, dogmas, or creeds, while the praxis of the collective of believers venerates an unconsecrated but nonetheless miraculous image.

relationship between visual art and religion

The Veneration of Art Images are either inherently venerable or become sacralized through an act or ceremony of consecration. The primary classification of natively venerable images is those singular sacred images known as acheiropoietai from the Greek for "not made by hands". A second mode of acheiropoietai are those formed by direct divine imprint on cloth, such as the legendary Mandylion of Edessa and the Christian scriptural Veil of Veronica. A third mode of acheiropoietai are contemporary portraits of sacred persons created in their lifetimes by an artist who may also have been a holy person; for example, the icons of the Theotokos and Child painted by Luke the Evangelist and the sandalwood images of the Buddha reputed to have been carved in his actual presence.

A second category of sacred image meriting adoration and respect is the miraculous image that receives gifts and votives regularly from devotees. To evidence reassurance or perhaps to foretell impending disaster, some miraculous images produce a sign such as a glowing light, aromatic scents, streams of oil or blood, or tears as those of the renowned twelfth-century icon of the Theotokos of Vladimir.

Other miraculous images such as the icon of the Theotokos Hodegetria of Constantinople were known for responding to prayers of protection from invading armies or natural disasters, so the preservation of the city or the conditions for a good harvest witnessed the inherent sacrality of the image. Rituals of consecration performed by holy periods, or ecclesiastical hierarchs, affirmed venerability through the ceremonial imbuing of diving energy so that the image is worthy of adoration and respect.

Consecration ceremonies range from the ancient Egyptian "Opening of the Mouth" ritual to the Hindu "Installation of Breath" rite in which the image was brought to life through the initiation of breath to the Zen Buddhist rite in which the eyes of the image are completed. Following the ceremonies of consecration, sacred images garner specific forms of behavior and reception from believers. Often the simple viewing of the sacred image is an efficacious ritual, as witnessed through the ceremonial acts of elaborate ornamentation and dressing of sacred images in Hinduism and Roman Catholicism.

The practice of offering delicate edibles, lit lamps, aromatic incense, beeswax candles, fresh flowers, and objects precious to the believer to the sacred image occurs either on significant feast days or upon the fulfillment of an intercessory plea.

Sacred images are oftentimes anointed with consecrated liquids ranging from precious oils to holy water to melted butter—as a rite of cleansing and honor. The secularization of this ritual is practiced in the consecration of monarchs with precious oils and holy water. Devotees may follow prescribed patterns of posture and gestures to embody their acts of veneration, such as offering prayers from positions of prostration or the kissing of the sacred image with the intoning of prayers.

Furthermore, the religious practice of ritual processions, which concurrently display and honor the sacred image, extend the ritualized boundaries of sacred energy and blessing throughout the processing areas.

Religious Categories for Art Art has performed a variety of roles in the environments, rituals, and teachings of world religions, from devotional objects to divinely inspired works to communicators of sacred knowledge. Through pedagogy, devotions, and contemplation, art has nurtured the development and establishment of religious identity for both individual believers and the larger collective community.

One of the normative and primary rationales for art in the context of religion is "to teach the faith" by means of symbolic and representational depictions of the major sacred narratives and tenets. This pedagogical, or didactic, aspect of art in religion is identified as "visual theology. This liturgical, sacramental, or ritualistic dimension of art in religion is labeled "visual liturgy.

For example, nineteenth century Romantic painters referred to traditional Christian themes, while at the turn of the twentieth century occultism and esotericism took over and addressed social and philosophical problems in their own eclectic style. Unlike religion, which implies strict rules and requirements, art could help semi-religious or anti-religious people experience something like a spiritual encounter or spiritual transformation.

It also has to do with moral implications, that is why spiritual art, whether religious or non-religious, most often deals with spiritual growth of human being. However, I will use the term when it aims at positive ethical self-transcendence Elkins: Spirituality is also related to revelation of and communication with a metaphysical being considered in charge of universal affairs - a Creator God or other Being that controls processes in nature, of which we are a main part.

Spirituality is a term that needs to be considered separately from religion. Religion is often negatively viewed in terms of detached following of rules, without personal interest in deep communication with divinity or experiencing higher realities.

Exploring the relationship between Art and Faith, with Debbie Lewer

It is associated with externality. Spirituality, on the other side, is related to private experiences and assumes authenticity in approaching religious matters. Spirituality is the core of religion, but religion often "goes without it. Spirituality is a basic human feature and even if it is not related to specific religious systems, it implies concerns for existential and ethical questions.


According to the art historian James Elkins "religion is It involves the family, the congregation, and the wider community" Elkins, J. Spirituality on the other side "is any system of belief that is private, subjective, largely or wholly incommunicable, often wordless, and sometimes even uncognized.

Spirituality in this sense can be part of religion, but not its whole" Elkins, J. In this text religion is used to refer mainly to traditional religion in Elkins's view - Catholicism and Protestantism - but it can also include other religions with similar views. This is why I use the general term 'religion. Considering modern processes of disenchantment of the world and secularization, art became a field of great ontological, existential and ethical significance.

Such attitude has its legacies today. Religion and religious practices share similar functions, and this is one of the main reasons for art to supplement or partially substitute religion. To a certain extent this is good as it provides a greater chance for authenticity. But from another point of view, it facilitates arbitrariness and subjectivity in relating to the spiritual. Michael Fry's theory sounds good but in fact traditional religion is rejected by many.

Exploring the relationship between Art and Faith, with Debbie Lewer

Both art and religion are the opposite of everyday life, of profane existence, they are expression of metaphysical reality, and a call for humanness. However, they also differ from one another. This immediately made it necessary for man to find new legitimation of notions such as truth, infinity, meaning of existence, etc.

In both cases, Bowie claims, aesthetics art was of crucial importance. In the first case, it gave man who has emancipated himself from divinity, opportunities for development and creation of new meanings. Art and aesthetics came as a substitute for metanarratives which were becoming 'out of service. In his book Art of the Modern Age: Art was closely related to metaphysics. Poetic discourse was considered more authentic and apt to reception of Being, while philosophical discourse was viewed as too systematic and to that reason, more estranged from Being, it was considered artificial.

Religion too is a systematic display of spiritual truths, thus it could be considered as a complex discourse that 'suffocates' Being, although Schaeffer does not focus on religion.

Rather he deals with the relationship between art and philosophy. At the beginning of April we welcome Debbie Lewer of the University of Glasgow to the Library to deliver a fascinating course on the connections between the two.

relationship between visual art and religion

Attendees will gather in our beautiful Library to pore over a diverse range of media and learn how art reflects, responds to, is shaped by - and even shapes — belief. Debbie is an art historian who lectures on topics across the field, including on wider media such as photography and architecture. As we edge closer to April, we spoke to the her to find out a little more about her ideas, her work and what we can expect from Ways of Seeing: Your course is about the relationship between Christian faith and art.

Have the two always been interlinked? Art is older than the Christian faith, of course. But human beings have always used visual images of one kind or another — figurative, abstract or symbolic, in private and in public — to articulate their individual and collective responses to the divine. Why are they important to one another? For so many reasons — because people have always argued, sometimes violently, about the nature and place of images in Christian life; because of the pivotal place of the visual and visionary in the Bible; because whether we have any religious belief or none we are surrounded by images, objects and artworks relating to the Christian faith as well as to other faith traditions and indeed to other fields of life.

Does the relationship involve any degree of compromise? So much of human experience and interest is involved — not least in money, power, status, identity, sex, gender relations, psychology, politics, taste, morality, and more.

relationship between visual art and religion