Editor’s Note: TheoArtistry, the collaborative scheme that emerged within ITIA which places artists and theologians in partnership for the creation of theologically-engaged art works, is readying to showcase its latest project: TheoArtistry: Text & Image. Coordinators Dr Nicole Ruta and Dr Rebekah Dyer provide more information and announce the exhibition dates. Watch for more articles in this series from TheoArtists reflecting on the scheme and their process.
TheoArtistry is about a meeting of the ways: between theology and the arts, between theory and practice, and – in the latest TheoArtistry scheme – between text and image.
The TheoArtistry: Text & Image scheme for 2021 brings together visual artists and researchers from several disciplines in a multifaceted research project. The participating scholars and artists are working collaboratively within interdisciplinary groups to research and discuss ideas for the formation of new text-inclusive artworks, which the artists are now in the process of creating.
This scheme originates from the Text and Image project, which explores the cognitive and psychological implications of the use of text in art. Starting from the tradition of integrating biblical quotations inside the pictorial space, which is typical of sixteenth-century Reformation art, the research investigates the role that text plays in our understanding of religious images. Although Lutheranism is strongly associated with the centrality of the Bible, images that illustrated or communicated the content of the Scriptures played a central role in shaping the confession’s identity. Luther himself paid great attention to images, and his close collaboration with the Cranach workshop testifies the theologian’s commitment to image production. These historical considerations are particularly relevant not only when analysing Reformation art but, more generally, when thinking about how the use of text has evolved in art history.
The Text and Image project asks how this historical background relates to the production and reception of visual art in the present day:
- Are both text and image essential to our understanding of art?
- Does text modify our relationship with images?
- How might the effect of religious art be understood more deeply through text?
The TheoArtistry: Text & Image scheme aims to tackle the questions above, to reveal if they are still relevant to practicing artists in the twenty-first-century and to understand the role that academic research can have in shaping the artistic process. The scheme aims to gain a deeper insight into the way the written word influences the artists’ choices alongside the reasons that lead artists to select and integrate certain words in their work. By blurring the lines between artistic process and academic research, the TheoArtistry partnerships create a space where these questions can be explored across the traditional boundaries of ‘creative’ and ‘scholarly’ methods and approaches.
The current partnerships take forward the collaborative model of previous TheoArtistry schemes. TheoArtistry emerged from the Institute of Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA), where it was established by Dr George Corbett in 2016. Since then, TheoArtistry has hosted collaborations between postgraduate researchers and composers, poets, mixed media and interdisciplinary artists (in our student-led collaborations) and, most recently, visual artists interested in the relationship between images and text. Each scheme has delved deeply and creatively into theological sources, questions, and concepts. From each partnership new creative works have emerged, produced through an alchemical process of conversation, reflection, and creation that employs the tools of artistic and academic research.
‘Revelation’ is the focus of the 2021 TheoArtistry collaborations. The dialogue between art and theology taking place within and around TheoArtistry has often touched on the notion of revelation: what can be known, conveyed, revealed, experienced, discovered, or obscured through creative works? And how can creative encounters through the making and experiencing of art connect with, complement, challenge, or shape aspects of scholarly theological discourse? Since the spring, our eight groups of ‘TheoArtists’ have been developing conversations around this theme that are both theologically informed and creatively engaged. These conversations have generated an intellectual and relational context for the artists’ creative process, underpinning the creation of original text-inclusive artworks and shaping new theological explorations for artists and researchers alike.
TheoArtistry: Text & Image will be hosting an exhibition of original artworks created for the scheme, to be held in St Andrews, Scotland in 2021. The exhibition will take place across two venues: the Upstairs @ J&G Innes gallery (from 30th November to 8th December 2021) and Saint Andrews Episcopal Church (from 10th to 19th December 2021). All are very welcome!