Mallaby, Leanne (2010) How Art Stimulates Theological Reflection in the Conversation Between a Work of Art, the Artist and the Viewer. Doctor of Ministry Studies thesis, UNSPECIFIED.
The question addressed in this supervised research project is how Art, particularly the visual arts, stimulates Theological Reflection and evokes meaning. The study developed an understanding of the distinctive impact of the visual culture in which the art is formed and viewed, and the ways in which people experience and express meaning in the conversation with art.
In particular this study explored conversations that took place between artists and viewers as they engaged with art, and developed an understanding of how Art creates an opportunity to reflect upon life questions. The research involved four artists presenting work to groups of viewers. The groups reflected varying involvement in Christian church life, from ministers in churches to people who have no connection with local church. Viewers were encouraged to engage with a work of art on their own, before entering a conversation with others in a group. The following week, each group had the opportunity for conversation with the artist. Qualitative Research methods were used to gather the data and draw themes. The primary method used was Phenomenological methodology, with an auxiliary process of Grounded Theory.
Themes reflecting the experience of the participants noted the group distinctives, the significance of art as a meeting place, the stimulus of imagination and the expression of experience in terms of metaphor. The experience of mystery and the openness to transformation were significant themes. The findings of the research affirm the engagement in the creative process to its point of communication as a stimulus for transformation and further engagement in the creative process itself. Within the conversation between art, artist and viewer a dynamic of understanding unfolds which has the potential to reveal something of the very nature of a creative God. Indeed, the conversation takes us to the heart of our very image of God.
The study has potential significance of affirming and stimulating more intentional valuing of the visual image amongst the churches and in the formation of ministers. People in the Christian community may develop an understanding and valuing of the image as a significant communicator of meaning.
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