Imaging the sacred word

Nowell, Wesley Gregg (2011) Imaging the sacred word. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Those who follow Christianity see the Word, whether spoken or read, as the dominant communication medium typically used to inform worshippers about God and to direct them to Him. The visual seems to be of lesser communicative consequence in the context of worship. This perception may well derive from the Reformation during which time visual art was judged to be idolatrous and, as a consequence, was forbidden in Protestant worship environments; subsequently church walls became plain, white washed sepulchres. Many contemporary Protestant churches still retain and maintain this barrenness. However some visual artists have reacted against such a sanitized environment arguing that the visual is parallel to the word as both have the potential to direct the worshipper to the one the Church reveres. In this context the current study explores the potential of the visual in the worship environment.

Beginning with both personal dialogue and a scan of art in worship environments, the research profiles art in Christian places of worship across the centuries. The art in these environments – albeit limited – was photographed and classified to create a visual record. In addition parishioners in each selected church were surveyed to determine their perception of the role of both the visual and the verbal in worship. The visual data gleaned from the photographic evidence and the perceptual data emanating from the parishioner surveys, together with historical research, were used to derive a visual framework within which a series of artworks, designed to build a bridge between the verbal and the visual, was created using text and symbolic geometric shapes.

The thesis traces the processes of artistic creation and documents the multiple false starts, cul de sacs encountered, and self-realizations which emerged in the course of an often frustrating but ultimately liberating journey. The resultant exhibition Imaging the Sacred Word includes a series of banners, panels, artist's books and, finally, a Stations of the Cross series based on text. The implications of this research for further creative practice are discussed in the context of personal and external reflections in relation to the exhibition alongside which subsequent artistic developments are scoped, new directions mapped and implications for further research explored.

Item ID: 31507
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: visual communication; religious art; parishoner perceptions; art in worship environments; visualization of the Word
Date Deposited: 06 May 2014 02:49
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1901 Art Theory and Criticism > 190104 Visual Cultures @ 34%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1902 Film, Television and Digital Media > 190299 Film, Television and Digital Media not elsewhere classified @ 33%
19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1905 Visual Arts and Crafts > 190502 Fine Arts (incl Sculpture and Painting) @ 33%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950104 The Creative Arts (incl. Graphics and Craft) @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society @ 50%
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