Posts Tagged 'art'

Jesus’ Hands

Every August the city I have come to call home witnesses a transformation.  The Festival brings throngs of tourists who congest the pavements and slow the locals down as they try to get from A to B whilst muttering sounds of discontent at the inconvenience.  What do Edinburgh’s residents make of those who pack out the various events on offer?  What do they make of us, our great city and our culture?  What are they looking for as they roam our streets?  Do they find it?

The Festival brings a great buzz with it.  Back in 2003 we took a week off work to simply be tourists on our own streets.  It was great – to slow down, to savour the sights, sounds, smells and tastes…

The Festival is floods our city with streams of creativity because it brings so many people who are seeking to express something or make a connection whether through stand up comedy, theatre, music, performance or literature.  To create something and to share that with an audience is to embark upon an inherently risky venture.  It reveals vulnerability, but, just maybe it will resonate and create a moment of definition.

Today I strolled along to The National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street to see a free exhibition of Scottish artists called Rough Cut Nation.  Amidst the street art, graffiti, scribbles and paintings, a face looked out at me from a wall – huge, unassuming in it’s hooded top and, yet, strangely familiar.  A bunch of adjectives framed the upper border and a selection of ordinary and extraordinary faces and images peered through the streaks of running paint that bled down the walls. 


The figure had huge hands stretched out which were punctured, enabling me to peer right through to the life and movement and bustle and flow of people in the adjoining installations. 


The photo’s snapped on my Blackberry don’t do it justice, so I’d recommend that if you’re in Edinburgh that you take the chance to get along between now and the 30th of August. 

The image reminded me of lyrics penned by one of my favourite singer songwriters.  The last time I saw the original line up of American Music Club play in a sweaty King Tuts in Glasgow, they finished the set with this song.  Mark Eitzel was lost in the music and delivery, rolling his head around, eyes shut, letting the distance he was creating between his vocal chords and the mic add to the intensity and earnestness of this hopeless song…

“Looking for love in all the wrong places –
The sidewalks and the sky.
Looking for something that no one can give me
And no one can help me buy.

Oh brother, oh sister.
Don’t you see a crack form in the dam?
For a loser, no one can touch him,
He’s out slipping through Jesus’ hands”.

From “Jesus’ Hands” by American Music Club.


Personal Jesus

“Your own, personal, Jesus.
Someone to hear your prayers,
Someone who cares.
Your own, personal, Jesus.
Someone to hear your prayers,
Someone who’s there.”
From “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode.
I’ve learned about a really exciting project in recent weeks.  The National Portrait Gallery of Scotland will be hosting an exhibition later this year entitled Rough Cut Nation.  You can get the lowdown at
This unique multimedia project draws together a group of young artists from around Scotland to create a dramatic collaborative installation. Rough Cut Nation will feature artwork and designs from Elph, Fraser Gray, Kirsty Whiten, Mike Inglis, Peter Martin, Jason Nelson, DUFI, Machism, Paco, Jo Basford, Janie Nicoll and Skint. The project will also feature artwork produced by young people working with Rough Cut artists on offsite projects. For the Edinburgh Festival they will construct a remixed version of Scottish history as informed by street art and graffiti culture, painted, pasted and projected directly onto the walls of the Portrait Gallery.

The project updates William Hole’s original decorative mural scheme of 1889-1898, depicting important events from Scotland’s past. This new installation exploits the empty space produced by the Gallery’s current closure for redevelopment.

The original mural by William Hole’s portrays elements of Scottish history with strong religious and at times Protestant overtones. 

As one of the artist duos involved, DUFI, are interested in exploring religious iconography and the use of Jesus as moral or social catalyst both within Scottish history and contemporary culture.   

With that in mind they would like to ask three questions: 
1)  In one word, describe who was/is Jesus?
2)  In one word, what does Jesus have to do with Scottish History?
3)  What impact has Jesus had on Scotland past, present and future?
The answers that DUFI collect from these questions will potentially form part of the final artwork, but will not be attributed to any one individual.
That is so cool.  So many of the great pieces of art that adorn gallery walls are full of religious imagery.  Whilst much of it is appreciated for its great craftsmanship – how much of it connects with us or grabs our attention?  Things that were deemed blasphamous or shocking in centuries past are often lost on us today.  Maybe it’s time to re-paint a modern image of who we think Jesus is or was?  I don’t mean just trite cliches, but who or what do we think of Jesus in the context of these questions?  How would our friends, colleagues and neighbours think about them?  This project has so much potential for us to see Jesus in a new and relevant and honest way. 
Can I commend this project to you?  Please send your answers to DUFI.JESUS@GMAIL.COM  or alternatively reply online

To Be Alone With You

I often wonder if our over-familiarity with stories or concepts keeps us from grasping the fullness that they have to offer?  I love when a book, film, song or piece of art makes me see a whole new perspective.

The concept that Jesus was fully human, yet, fully God is a cornerstone of the Christian faith.  I guess I have always understood that to mean that He could identify with the position I find myself in the midst of temptation.  What about feelings of: frustration; weariness; elation; doubt; or a whole host of others? 

We sing lines in church like, “Thank you for the cross, thank you for the price you paid”.  We think of the ultimate cost of sacrifice – of death on a cross, but it’s often hard for me to grasp. 

In 2004 the film world reacted strongly as Mel Gibson tried to convey the reality of the cost Jesus paid in his film “The Passion”.  In a day and age of tolerance, many took offence at the film and both he and the film were labelled in an array of manners.  Often a prejudice ensues in the reviews of art that tries to tackle the topic of Christ.


Also in 2004, controversial artist Damien Hirst teamed up with David Bailey to produce a series of very graphic and disturbing works called “The Stations Of The Cross”.  The image depicting the crucifixion hangs in Aberdeen Art Gallery.  I found myself staring at it for ages last year.  Whilst the initial impact was horrible, sinister and somewhat evil, I actually found my mind processing what it tried to convey.  I now consider it a great piece of art because it confronts my thinking and challenges me with something of the scandal of the cross anew.  I have often prayed that I could stand at the foot of the cross and let it really impact me afresh.  I’ve sensed something of it when seeing huge statues in pristine cathedrals, but this piece of art disturbed me more than any other and that was actually something positive.  The horror, the brutality, the spiritual forces at play…I would recommend anyone to go with some spare time, an open mind and an open heart and to experience the power of art and something of the power of the gospel.

What about the other costs of the lifestyle decisions Jesus must have made simply to achieve His purpose?  I can be quick to think of the cost of my faith in those terms – the things I go without from time to time…  Then I try to place that in the context of a command to “pick up my cross and follow” and things take a new perspective when I realise how little it sometimes really seems to cost me.  Our Pastor often says, “salvation is fee, but it will cost you everything.”  Actually, that is a kernel of tuth.  But surely, there were a myriad of daily choices that faced a fully human Jesus and commanded obedience and submission? 

I actually get quite excited when I see credible artists using a variety of art forms to explore their thinking and to express something of their own discovery.  I love when that actually connects with people who wouldn’t darken a church door.  The review linked here which appeared in the highly rated indie domain that is “Pitchfork” still gives me goosebumps to read.  Good art can realign our thoughts.  Great art can change our understanding.  

“You gave your body to the lonely.
They took your clothes.
You gave up a wife and a family.
You gave your ghost.
To be alone with me.
To be alone with me.
To be alone with me,
You went up on a tree”.

 From “To Be Alone With You” by Sufjan Stevens.

This Is Not The End

“Open up your heart – just one more time for me
before we turn to face reality.
Don’t stop to think this perfect chance may never come again.
This is not the end.

Let me use your ears – just for a little while 
I’ve got to find a way to make you smile”.

From “This Is Not The End” by Agent Orange.


So we took down our “Art of Joy” art exhibition on Sunday.  It was a happy/sad thing to do. 

We have a tendency to critique things and, yet, I reckon that people’s interaction with art can achieve a million invisible things that we’ll never see or know.  So what did we set out to achieve and did we do it?

1)  We recognised that there is a lot of bad news out there.  We wanted to inhabit a physical space and create a sanctuary.  A place where people might encounter some joy through art, through space, through workshops, through music, through conversation, through random acts of kindness. 

2)  We wanted to encourage and affirm people who are trying to explore and convey what they are learning in life through creative arts.  We just wanted to recognise the good in those things and spur people on in continuing in their various forms of creativity.  If Christians are involved in those arenas then surely something of the joy and wrestling of life should emerge and, maybe, that demonstrates authenticity and relevance to those who would never darken the doors of a church?  If non-Christians are also involved, then hopefully it shows our belief in them as people and in what they create and what they have to say too.

3)  We wanted to raise some money that we could just give away to the Grassmarket Mission who support the marginalised and vulnerable of this great city we call home and love so much.

I am hugely encouraged that a small group of people caught a little vision of what this could look like and ran with it.  We all have different backgrounds and skills and certainly aren’t all involved in “the arts”.  Yet, everyone got stuck in and we worked as a team.  I’m really proud of what we achieved and, yet, I don’t want to inflate our role or become full of pride.  I’m just grateful for what I have experienced through it all.  Some of the conversations I have had and the joy I have felt will stick with me for a long time.  The ability to encorage, bless and affirm a whole bunch of people has been an honour.

Where do we go with this next?  I don’t know, but as a group we are looking closely at the whole idea of what we are terming missional expressions – actively living out loud what we believe in the ways we are wired.  In some shape or form trying to be a faith community without walls and barriers – bringing joy and good news in the places where people are at.  I have a strong feeling that, whilst it may not necessarily look the same, this is not the end…

Son Of Everyone

“You are there and you are not silent.

So, say something useful.

Don’t say that sequence is not important

and that you live and move in slow motion.”

From “Son Of Everyone” by calamateur.

As our little experiment in facilitating a creative arts project nears an end we were treated to a truly special evening of music and comedy on Monday night.  Personally, it is one of those nights I will cherish and hold onto and remember with a huge sense of delight for years to come.

As well as the music, there was just joy in the little, seemingly invisible, things.  The happiness of just being able to buy some drinks for people I have held dearer than they know for most of my days in Edinburgh, the conversations and funny little connections of realising that somebody knows somebody who knows someone and the recognition of what a small world it is.  The sense of bringing together people from different ages and stages in life and different backgrounds and being captivated as the songs and stories unfolded. To witness authenticity rather than religion.  I’ve been chuckling to myself in recent days observing in real life some of the observations noted in Fiona Stewart’s stand up comedy slot.

A huge indebtedness is owed to everyone who gave up time and energy so willingly.  It was a joy to see DLDown for my first time.  The variation of arrangements and the noteworthy delivery of a Lies Damned Lies number accapella and the looped arrangements of “Icarus” were highlights for me.


As for Calamateur, I’d gladly pay money to see them play live every night of the week – so it was a huge pleasure to witness their set in a space where everyone was attentive.


If you were there and enjoyed the music (or if you weren’t but are intrigued), then you can download music at DLDown’s website or at calamateur’s site.  You can also download the exceptional “Jesus Is For Losers” album for free here.  There is an option to donate and I would strongly encourage you to do so given that this is essentially a livelihood – in exchange you’ll get some additional tracks and remixes that are worth having.

Thanks to everyone who has shown me something of the joy of art and the art of joy this past little while.

If you’ve not managed to see the art exhibition yet, then you can still do so by visiting the Bistro at The Lot, 2-4 Grassmarket, Edinburgh between now and Sunday afternoon.  30% of any sales proceeds from artwork will go directly to the Grassmarket Mission.

Perfect Moment

“This was your perfect moment.”

From “Perfect Moment” by calamateur.



If you follow my blog a tall, then you’ll know that a little group of friends have helped facilitate an art exhibition currently running in Edinburgh under the banner “The Art of Joy”.  Our little collective’s events include a therapeutic art workshop  on Tuesday and knitting and nattering night on Wednesday of this week.

We are also delighted to confirm that relatively fresh from performing 4 songs on the telly on BBC’s Rapal and securing four out of five for their latest album in The List this month, calamateur have agreed to play as part of our little project.  It will be their first gig in Edinburgh for three years and will take place at our closing event upstairs at The Lot, Grassmarket, Edinburgh on Monday 13th April.

Calamateur is the moniker used by singer / songwriter / general noise-maker Andrew Howie. Based near Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland, Andrew has been recording and releasing his own music since 2000.

He has released 1 single, 4 EP’s, 2 mini-album’s, 2 full length albums, a collaboration album and curated a compilation. He has been likened to artists as diverse as Elliott Smith, Sparklehorse, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Damien Rice, Guided by Voices, Susuma Yokota and The Blue Nile.

His music has been played by John Peel, Radio 3’s Late Junction, the Scottish Evening Session on Radio 1, Beat 106’s The Beatscene and local radio / internet radio the length and breadth of the country. Here’s what some people have to say:

“…nothing short of brilliantly absorbing…”  – Is This Music?

“…stunning… a work of beauty…what took Snow Patrol’s 3 albums and 4 people to accomplish, Calamateur’s Andrew Howie manages straight off with songs of desolate beauty underpinned with a savage hope…”  – John Earls, Planet Sound

“…the aim is true and the heart is strong in this beautiful little record. 4/5.”  – The List

“…providing one of those moments where your head says nothing really out of the ordinary happening here but your heart suggests otherwise, trembling as if touched by something altogether magical….”   – Losing Today

For a flavour of things please click the following link

Calamateur will be accompanied on the night by local talent in the form of DLDown who have been described as follows: 

“Jo Wilson hushes the room with a minute or so of delicious loops that abruptly end whilst his songs of faith sweep through the room. Icarus doesn’t overtly retell the tragedy of Daedalus’ son, but hopes (over a breezy island strum pattern and cool chord progressions) that “maybe to Heaven I can break through.” “Lazarus” then asks us to step into the surprised man’s sandals and try to imagine the electricity of a human resurrection. Solid, beefy guitar set and enlightening lyrics, although the quick death of the brilliant loops and layers is a hard truth.” 

Our spirits should also be raised as Fiona Stewart brings some stand up comedy to add to the evening’s events.

If you can get yourself to Edinburgh on Monday then please let us bring some joy to the end of your Easter weekend.

The event starts at 7.30 and tickets will be available on the night at £5 per head.

Opening Night

“I dedicate a colour to
my dearest friends and family who
so solemnly and nicely dressed
come visit me, I must confess
I feel like Gena might
upon her opening night.”

From “Opening Night” by dEUS.


So, tonight was the official opening night of our “Art Of Joy” art exhibition at The Lot in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket.  We had no idea whether anyone would turn up. A great night unfolded with about a hundred or so folks filling up the space.  It just felt like one of those parties we used to host back in the day during our pre-parent stage in one of our old flats.  Some friends brought acoustic guitars and played and sang along.  There was the general din of chit chat as conversation flowed between old friends and new.  It was a great atmosphere and we hope it spread some joy to all present.  At various points throughout the evening I clocked members of our little small group collective just smiling as they took it all in.  

I got chatting with a couple of folks I’ve meant to introduce myself to for ages about the possibility of a beach focussed missional expression of fellow surfers.  Big smiles were shared as we looked out the window as dusk fell in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, fresh in the realisation that the clocks changing soon will herald in the season of evening surf sessions after work…  

The exhibition is open till the 17th April and you can pop into The Lot to view the work at any time.  We will be posting up more details of the work on display and how it can be purchased at The Art of Joy website shortly.  30% of all sales go to support the work of The Grassmarket Mission with the vulnerable and marginalised of this great city.

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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