Sarah Coakley considers what artists can do, within, outside, or even in spite of the church.
Well, the church has been one of the great benefactors of art. But whenever it’s tried to control the messages of art, then that has tended to lead to some decadent forms of it. Although, of course, artists are very good at resisting such control.
But I think we’ve got an interesting phenomenon in our so-called secular culture now, that there is an awful lot of really superb transcendence-evoking art being done by younger artists which touches people even in a realm in which they are not conscious of actually being involved in religious institutions.
So this explains something of the popularity, for instance, of Antony Gormley’s sculptures. That there’s something about the way he as a Catholic (which most people don’t know) uses the human body, or uses his great sculpture of the Angel of the North, which raises their hearts to heaven even as they get stuck on the motorway. And I think it’s often the case that the artist or the poet keeps Christianity alive at times when the church is not doing well at missionary enunciation.