William Blake and the Divinity of Humanity

A post on an article I worked on this year.

Bishop Otter Scholar

Alongside my work more directly focused on the arts in the Diocese, another project I have been working on during my time as Bishop Otter Scholar is an article on interpretations of William Blake’s religion in the second quarter of the twentieth century. This research is due to be published as a journal article next year, so this post is intended just to give a flavour of one writer I have been looking at in this research.

Max Plowman (1883-1941) was a modernist critic who lived for a time in Storrington, West Sussex. Although living within the locale of the Diocese, Plowman would not have identified with that body because he rejected the idea of organised religion. This was a conviction that he shared with Blake – another sometime resident of West Sussex, who lived in Felpham (near Bognor Regis) between 1800 and 1803.

So while I cannot recommend a wholesale adoption…

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All things bright

Blake would have had something to say about London’s Lumiere Festival too. It brings to mind his ambition to have his own works reproduced on a large scale in places such as Westminster Hall. A project to realise this ambition through the medium of light projections was unsuccessfully attempted a few years ago by the Blake Society; a fascinating document on this project by Adriana Diaz-Enciso is available to read via the Blake Society website.

Bishop Otter Scholar

On Saturday evening, I was able to see some of London’s Lumiere festival. This new festival of light installations took place in various locations across central London, shown on the evenings of Thursday to Sunday.

Saturday evening was cold but clear(ish — the clouds must have been rolling in for the overnight snow shower, but the moon was shining brightly even in the London sky). January can be a very dreary month — the excitement of Christmas and New Year has passed, resolutions may already be being broken, and people stay in to save money (and watch the new drama and comedy which populates the television). So a festival which harnesses a brings light into the long hours of darkness, and is free to visit was an inspired initiative to put on at this time of year. It certainly inspired plenty of interest on Saturday — many of the…

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David Jones in Sussex

Bishop Otter Scholar

In his late twenties, the artist David Jones spent two years (1922-24) living in the village of Ditchling, East Sussex, with the community of Catholic craftsmen founded by Eric Gill. Ninety-odd years later, Sussex hosts two celebrations of David Jones’ work in concurrent exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery, in Chichester, and at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft.

These are excellent opportunities to see the work of one of (to my mind) Britain’s great Christian artists (let’s leave discussing what that term means for another post).

The Pallant House exhibition offers an overview of Jones’ career, whilst the display at Ditchling focuses on Jones’ depictions of animals. In both there are plenty of examples of traditional Christian subjects, but beyond these, Jones’ work is infused with a sense of the visionary and spiritual in the every day, in landscapes, and so on.

Like Blake, whom he much admired, Jones was a painter…

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Welcome

This is my new blog associated with my new job — about Theology and the Arts in Sussex.

Bishop Otter Scholar

Welcome to the new blog associated with my work as Bishop Otter Scholar in the Diocese of Chichester.

I’m Naomi Billingsley and have just taken up this new post. My role is to combine scholarly research with work to develop engagement with theology and the arts in the Diocese.

My background is in theology and visual art so this will be the main area I will be focusing on during my two years in post.

The main project I will be working on is an online resource about key works of art in the Diocese. This will include research about the artworks, and reflections upon and responses to them from individuals and groups in the Diocese. I will be posting further details about the project, and how you can participate in it, over the coming weeks and months.

I will be using this blog to write about my work, and to…

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