Featured Artist: Paul Roorda

Crown of Thorns and Capeline Bandage. 2008. Vintage Bible and first aid manual pages, rust, gold leaf, crushed stone and beeswax on paper. 24x 18".

Paul Roorda is a contemporary Canadian artist working in a variety of media.  He holds a number of degrees including a B. A. in Psychology from the University of Waterloo (1988), an M. A. in Sociology from Northeastern University (1992), and time as a student at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (1997-98). His work has been shown widely in Canada, and he is the recipient of numerous awards and grants.

The nature and function of the Bible is a persistent theme in Roorda’s work.  The Bible appears both as a subject and as a material.   In his sculpture, Penny Candy (below), for example, Roorda places Bible pages in small capsules within a candy dispensing machine.  More commonly, Roorda situates Bible pages and the narratives they contain within the context of medical equipment and crisis.  Can the Bible cure what ails us?  Do we consume the Bible like a pill?  Have we had our daily, or weekly, injection? Given the recent anniversary of the King James Bible, and the increasing interest about the decline of Biblical literacy in the West, Roorda’s work is remarkably timely.

Referring to his most recent series of work called The End of the Book, Roorda remarks:

This work pushes artistic technique and Christian ritual practice past their usual boundaries to create post-devotional, conceptual liturgical art. The art recalls religious acts of devotion yet, at the same time, points to the loss of what is held as sacred. Each creative work is also an act of destruction. Beauty embraces its shadow. Each sincere moment is betrayed by duplicity. This art draws attention to the absence of an authoritative ritualized tradition for the disposal of sacred text in Christianity and in creating new rituals it fills a liturgical void with uneasy possibility.

Much of Roorda’s work is apocalyptic.  One has the sense that his appropriations of the Bible and its narratives refer to a time passed, or a time that is passing, and that we are the observers of this passage.  And yet, his work holds onto a sense of hopefulness, what he calls an ‘uneasy possibility,’  that asks us to reconsider the place of the Bible and Christian ritual in contemporary society.

Not all of Roorda’s work is so Biblo-centric.  He is also interested in the nature of religious rituals more generally, and the complex relationships between word and image.  His work appears to be strongly influenced by conceptual artists, and his wide use of materials and site-specific installations reminds me of artists such as Joseph Beuys, Eva Hesse and Wolfgang Laib.

Roorda’s work is definitely worth your consideration.  Please take a look at his website.  I have posted some images of his work below:







  • Michael Carter says:

    An encounter with art, when the art is good, when the work is true, is an encounter with an honest moment, and in a world that tends to not be honest, encountering the artwork of Paul Roorda is a refreshing moment indeed. Well done!

  • Jim Watkins says:

    Thanks for your comment, Michael. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed seeing Paul’s work. I think he is doing some really great stuff, and I hope that others have the same response!

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