VISUAL art has always been part and parcel of church history. From the creation of the catacombs to centuries after the time of Constantine, paintings, illustrations, and sculptures have been used as ecclesiastical ornamentation, and religious art was the only form of art in the early Christendom.
Walls of underground cemeteries constructed by ancient Romans were filled with mosaics and paintings. Church walls, ceilings, windows, furniture, altars, and liturgical vessels were adorned with images of prophets and saints, drawing inspiration from the words of the scripture.
The church monopolized the industry of sacred art, and religious paintings thrived all throughout the Christian era until the Renaissance period.
E. H. Gombrich, author of “The Story of Art,” wrote: “From its earliest days, Christian artists favored a certain clarity and simplicity… paintings were useful because they helped remind the congregation of the teachings they had received, and kept the memory of these sacred episodes alive.”
The art scholar said paintings became a “form of writings in pictures” and that artists during the Middle Ages were given a new freedom to experiment with more complex forms of composition by returning to more simplified methods of representation.
He further wrote: “Without these methods, the teachings of the Church could never have been translated into visible shapes.”
In the Philippines, Christianity is practiced by the majority. Catholicism from the Spanish colonial era has been the dominant religion, and one with strong economic and political ties.
Fiestas, processions, adornment of church altars and santos, retablos and wall-paintings or frescoes are church-based materializations of faith.
A retablo in Mexican folk art is a devotional painting that is distinctly characterized by the use of iconography derived from traditional Catholic Church art.
Here in the Philippines, retablos are equivalent to reredos or the retable in French, a vertical multi-tiered structure behind the altar with an elaborate frame enclosing revered objects, which may include religious paintings, sculptures, or both.
The importance of Christian iconography in Philippine culture denotes not only richness in ecclesiastical art but also in traditions kept by the faithful.
Exploring contemporary concepts and assimilating modern ideas and themes into religious art without losing traditional creative expression and artistry is the exhibition brief of “Retablo 2.0.”
Here, images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary come together with eclectic elements and stronger visual components such as intensity of texture and colors.
The artist, through this production, hopes to widen the audience’s perspective on Christian iconography and sacred art.
Faith has various ways of expressing itself and art, first and foremost, is a form of communication. Viewers may deem this exhibition a deconstruction of faith or an assertion of a popular religion.
Bane or boon, the artist, through this offering, further hopes to elicit free expression of diverse views, because whether we agree or not, religion is and always will be an integral part of the cultural landscape of the Philippines. After all, we have nothing to lose if, through this presentation, we are able to imbibe a new consciousness of religious art and cultural heritage.
"Retablo 2.0: Heritage and Art in Faith" runs until May 31 at the NCCA Gallery (A), G/F, NCCA Building, 633 Gen. Luna St., Intramuros. For further details, call 527-2205 or email email@example.com.
For questions on this press release please contact Mr. Rene Napeñas, head of the NCCA Public Affairs and Information Office through numbers 527-2192 loc 208 or email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Delan Lopez Robillos)
Published in the SunStar Baguio newspaper on May 24, 2017.
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