Art & Incarnation (1) » Artist Statement by Edward Knippers

Our exhibition opens today with an essay from Edward Knippers himself. Subsequent posts engaging Knippers’ art and theology will follow every day this week.Tomorrow will feature Fred Sanders (Biola University), probably the world’s greatest systematic theologian cartoonist.

The human body is at the centre of my artistic imagination because the body is an essential element of the Christian doctrines of Creation, Incarnation, and Resurrection.

ed-knipperswith-his-stripesone-color-intaglio.jpgDisembodiment is not an option for the Christian. Christ places His Body and His Blood at the heart of our faith in Him. Our faith comes to naught if the Incarnation was not accomplished in actual time and space – if God did not send His Son to us in a real body with real blood.

Heresy results when we try to minimize the presence or pre-eminence of the body and the blood. Yet even believers have become comfortable with our age as it tries to disembody reality. Physicality is messy; it is demanding and always a challenge to control.

The naked human body is one way of starkly stating that we have nowhere to hide. Further, it allows me to have something of the spiritual timelessness of the Eastern Icon tradition by avoiding the cultural trappings of modern or ancient dress and, at the same time, enabling me to ground my subjects in the specifics of time and space (the glory of the Western tradition). This bridging of the two traditions is important to me because the spirituality of the Biblical events is as solid and real as the events themselves.

In finding the spiritual in the interactions and choices of real people, incarnation can be shown as the symbiotic reality that it is. In other words, the choices and actions that we make always have profound spiritual ramifications because we are human beings. This uniquely human cause and effect is at the core of my painting, and I find that the nude allows me to cut past the shroud of ordinary expectations in order to see ourselves and our actions for what they are.

We are more comfortable with a disembodied voice on the line or a virtual image on a screen, that move our human interactions, even consciousness, from the concrete into a virtual realm, than we are with the real world. When we must deal with the physicality of the real world, it is increasingly uncomfortable.

This discomfort with the physical presents at least two options and neither is Christian. Some resort to worshipping the physical creation – as seen in contemporary sexual idolatry, including pornography and other sexual exploitation, or in the resurgence of pagan creation-centred religions. Others resort to a kind of Gnosticism – prudishly rejecting the physical creation’s importance and disdaining as evil what God Himself called “good.”

Christ’s Physicality and Ours

For Christians, on the other hand, the body (both Christ’s and ours) is a mystery. We are not to either worship or disregard our physical being. Christ’s is to be both worshipped and glorified. As orthodox Christians we insist on the bodily resurrection for both Christ (“…if Christ be not risen…your faith is also vain.” Corinthians 15:14) and, just as scandalously, for ourselves (“…he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus…” II Corinthians 4:14).

ed-knippersthe-mocking-of-christoil-on-wood2004.jpgRegarding the physicality of Christ, we believe that the price God paid for our redemption necessitated the breaking of his body. Redemption would not have been accomplished if He had given us only His mind (and thus been merely a great teacher), or only His healing (a great physician), or even only His love (a compassionate friend). Without His body broken for us, Christ’s sacrifice would be incomplete and we would be lost for without the broken body there can be no redemptive resurrection.

Concerning our bodies, having a body is a prerequisite for being human and as inconvenient as this can be, it is a constant reminder of our humanity and our createdness; we are creatures and not the Creator. Yet even as a part of creation we are able to make our bodies a living sacrifice to God because of Christ’s real and complete sacrifice for us. In thus offering our bodies, we not only show our hope in the world to come, but even now we can taste the Glory of His Body and His Blood – we can truly live before we die.

The Movement behind the Veil

The breaking up of space into facets of colour in my recent work is not so much a nod to modernism as it is a use of a modernist vocabulary to speak of ancient truths.

Edward Knippers.Jacob’s Ladder.Oil on Wood

Since the death of my dear wife, Diane, I have become increasingly aware of the ever-present veil that separates this world from the next. I hope that my cubist-type language suggests a multi-dimensional world quite different from our own as it keeps the eyes in constant motion through transparent overlappings.

Ed Knippers.St. Stepehen Dying.Oil on Wood

I have tried to use this visual metaphor to hint at the movement behind the veil – to uphold the truth that for those in Christ there is Glory beyond the edges of our comprehension. I think that this is appropriate in dealing with subjects such as “Jacob’s Ladder” and “The Resurrection of Our Lord.” In these accounts the Scriptures part the veil ever so slightly and lift our hearts with rumours of what’s to come.

8 thoughts on “Art & Incarnation (1) » Artist Statement by Edward Knippers

  1. Dear Brother Ed.

    First, what a pleasure to see your work here and to read your ruminations on your current “behind the veil” investigations. This new work has a visceral and luminous transcendence that is very exciting to me as a filmmaker. One of my current projects, “Praying the Hours,” is—as you well know—a narrative drama based on the idea that there is a river of kairos time flowing beneath the surface of ordinary life. Everyone is familiar with this time and yet very few intentionally live there. Yet nearly everyone is, at one point or another in this physical life, plunged into it because of any one of a handful of common but fracturing experiences—love, death, birth, suffering, to name a few. We are, thereafter, never the same.

    Recently, on Halloween night, while surfing television political commentators from CNN to SNL, I was caught by the statement of a spiritual medium who said cavalierly that the veil between the spiritual life and this physical life is “always thinner during this season.” He was talking, I believe, about pagan theories that there are spirits that “cross over” during such times. (Presumably for the candy.)

    I was piqued by the thought of what that thought might have sounded like coming from a Christian. After all, this is our holy season: Halloween is simply the evening before All Saints Day—and soon, the season of waiting for the Christ (Advent), the incarnation (Christmastide), and then the discovery of how that act has very physical implications for me (epiphany). These three seasons describe one of the great arcs of our faith. In some ways, I have to agree that during this portion of the Eternal Year the veil between the two worlds seems thinner. That has to be true at least in part because of the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us and marked the time with prayer and anticipation, as well as the millions of our faith-family around the world who do so in union now.

    This interesting thought is illustrated in your vision of Steven dying which is depicted in this Theology Forum blog exhibit. It beautifully illustrates the mystery of movement between this life and the next (or the alongside?) with the implicit assumption that both worlds exist, and that the bridge on which we cross over is Jesus himself.

    You and I both have stood nearby as our loved ones have taken the great journey from this physical life to the mystery that awaits. Just as I know this experience has shifted the light onto my own work in a new way, I see that it has revealed to you things beyond what the mind sums up like a math problem, to reveal something that intuitively we know to be true. “Glory beyond the edges of our comprehension”—what a beautiful line, and how abundant in its promise. And, as your belligerently (!) physical work so richly confirms, we feel it in our spirits and we feel it in our bones. Why we should want to relinquish that in fear is increasingly beyond me to imagine.

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  4. Ed,
    What a great treat to be able to read your interpretations of your own work. I still remember going to see one of your showings four or five years ago and how beautiful your art was (and is).

    Keep it up! I’m also always glad for your encouragement of my singing. Thanks.

    I’m praising Him,

  5. Pingback: With all my heart… « Riverside Reflections

  6. Dear Edward Knippers,

    Today I just discovered you and your art. I LOVE your art. It expresses the deepest things found within my own heart–the deepest mysteries of GOD. I praise GOD for your artistic ability and your life! Thank you for your art. THANK YOU! When I found your art (today), I started rejoicing and I wanted to tell someone, but right now there is no one I can express my joy to so I decided that leaving a message would have to do. THANK YOU! I thank and praise GOD for you and your work! Do you mind if I post some of your art on my twitter and facebook (I promise that I will give you the credit)….I just want to share my faith and I think the BEST way to do that is through BEAUTY! Thanks! Christ is Risen!!! GOD BLESS YOU!!!


    P.S. I also love this article!

  7. Pingback: Advent offering 3 December: Angelic Muscles and Masculinities | Auckland Theology & Religious Studies

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