Bob began his talk by reminding us that, throughout its history, the Christian Church has used images to express faith and to explore theology. The Methodist Church takes its place in this long tradition with a collection now comprising 54 paintings, prints, drawings, relief and mosaic works. Until recently, these works of art have been stored at Oxford Brookes University, and they are a touring collection, travelling widely to galleries, cathedrals, churches and schools.
The Collection includes leading names from the British art world of the last 100 years, such as Edward Burra, Elisabeth Frink, Patrick Heron and Graham Sutherland, and is still expanding, acquisitions chiefly funded by gifts and charitable donations.
Bob showed us a selection of remarkable artwork, some pieces full of complex symbolism, some strikingly simple. A favourite with many viewers when the Collection is exhibited is Dalit Madonna by Jyoti Sahi (pictured) .The image in the painting echoes the Indian folk symbol of the grinding stone, found in every traditional home. This has two parts. The larger “Mother Stone” is fixed and stable, whilst the smaller “Baby Stone” moves to grind food stuffs on the Mother Stone. Here the two stones represent Mary and the Christ child.
A painting which I found particularly striking was Maggi Hambling’s Good Friday: Walking on Water. It showed a turbulent, surging seascape, with a tiny haloed figure just discernible above the surf.
Bob gave us a fascinating presentation, with much food for thought.