Genuine Christian Modern Art : Present Roman Catholic Directives on Visual Art Seen from an Artist’s Perspective
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The Professional Problem of the Artist The professional problem of artists who want to produce art for Christian use is to find artistic solutions that may satisfy both patron and artist. To succeed, the artist needs to know what ecclesiastical patrons need and desire in our time for works yet to be produced. Ecclesiastical Norms on Art Since the Roman Catholic Church has explicit, written norms on art, the project is restricted to this Church only. The Second Vatican Council laid down the basis for the present directives in 1963. The conciliar documents encourage contemporary artists to create art for the Church; the premise, however, is that the new artworks serve liturgy and worship, and are considered suitable by the Church. The translator of the first Instruction to the conciliar text on art, from 1964, summed up in a footnote that in new church buildings the Church expects "genuine Christian modern art" . The question is what these theological normative statements mean in relation to artistic practice. Survey of Literature A few scholars have analyzed the ecclesiastical demands in relation to future design and architecture. Lacking are studies that discuss the ecclesiastical norms in relation to future embellishing visual art specifically, as well as those which take the artist's perspective. Research Question How can the Roman Catholic directives on art be understood through concepts useful for artists? Hypothesis If the Church's directives on art in our time can be legitimately condensed into "genuine Christian modern art", and if these four terms could be given an interpretation that is comprehensible and useful for artists, then artists would have a basic set of guidelines in their future artistic work that may help them provide what the Church needs and requests. Sources The sources utilized are theological texts: Roman Catholic normative documents on art from the Second Vatican Council and those issued after the Council. Methodology and Design of Research The dissertation consists of: Part I, Research project terminology, that surveys literature, establishes a theoretical foundation for the project, and defines terminology. Part II, Roman Catholic attitude to and norms on art, that is hermeneutic in approach. It first provides a background for understanding the present norms on art, and then reads the theological documents on art from the perspective of the artist, in order to find criteria for future artworks and art making. Besides, a personal case study is available in Appendix 1, The notion of genuine Christian modern art exemplified by the author's Crucifix Series, which is a practice-based visual analysis of the author's artistic exploration of crucifix forms from 1986 and onwards that was inspired by the "genuine Christian modern art" statement. Findings The notion of genuine Christian modern art is suggested as a basic set of interdisciplinary criteria for ecclesiastical art, understood through a related set of terms so that genuine associates to spirituality; Christian to beauty; modern to significance; and art to quality. Aims The project aims at contributing to an understanding of what the Roman Catholic Church normatively wants artists to produce in the future; to the interdisciplinary dialogue between theologians and artists; and to the development of theory and methodology of practice-based artistic research in the visual arts.