This is the BBC.
This podcast is supported by advertising outside the UK.
You are listening to a program from BBC Radio 4.
Nick Baines, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds.
Good morning. One of the unexpected things I did during lockdown was watch the sort of television programs which I usually have either little time or sufficient interest.
I love art, but I can't do it. When I was younger, in an attempt to slow me down and distract me from working, I was given a sheet of paper and a pencil and told to draw the chair that stood in front of me. I did my best, even using my thumb the way real artists do to measure size or perspective. The result wasn't great. I was then told to look differently and not draw the chair but the spaces around and between the elements of the chair. What then emerged was something that looked less precise, but more real.
What I began to learn from this is that the point of art was to invite the artist or the audience to look differently, in order to see differently, in order to think differently, in order then to live differently in the world. This perspective also began to impinge on ways of approaching theology or politics or just about anything else. Instead of looking at the thing itself, look at the spaces around it, and new perspectives begin to open up. I think this was what many people discovered, often to their surprise, when Grayson Perry did his excellent art club - a six (6) part series during lockdown. Apart from the vulnerability of the exercise on his part, and the huge numbers of people who joined in, often sending in their own productions, he touched on something important about human being and creativity. Commenting on the series he said "Art is a powerful tool for expressing what is going on in the world and identifying what really matters."
In other words, art and the arts have vital economic value in and for a society, but cannot be measured in purely economic terms. They change the way we see and think, they reach into the depths and regrind the lens behind our eyes through which we see, in my words, God, the world and us. For a Christian, this is not a new idea. The Creation narratives in Genesis show an almost playful God creating such variety, but then for example, giving people the responsibility of naming the animals; co-creators whose humanity is only being fulfilled when open to art for arts sake. The Bible is full of examples of beauty and craftsmanship, valuable in their own right. Jesus invites people to look differently at everything; changing their mind, and how they think, and this wakens curiosity, teases the imagination, enriches experience. It is what we are made for.
And that was Thought for the Day with Nick Baines.