MINOR PROPHETS – DAVID JONES AND CONTEMPORARY ART AT BLACKFRIARS, CAMBRIDGE
Welcome to the Cambridge Priory’s online exhibition for the Jubilee of the English Dominicans, 1221-2021.This is the continuation of the in-person exhibition held from 24th September to 3rd October 2021 at Blackfriars.
Among the Friars, Sisters, Lay Dominicans and the congregation of Blackfriars, Cambridge, there is a strong living tradition of making art in all media. For the existing Priory, opened in 1938, the art-making tradition began with works given to the community by the distinguished artist, poet and Lay Dominican David Jones (1895-1974) and with the sculptures of Fr Aelred Whitacre (1882-1945).
This living tradition is no coincidence. The arts have always had a special place in Dominican spirituality. As the arts are often the invisible made visible, they are a natural spiritual expression of a religion based on God becoming visible and in Jesus Christ. As a preaching order (we have OP, “Order of Preachers” after our names – we’re known as Dominicans after our founder, St. Dominic Guzmán), we seek every means to reach out to people in dialogue. In contemporary society, art has found a particular role in helping all people address the Big Questions of life. Dominicans and our friends are keen participators in this shift. Furthermore, our belief that God became human in a particular place and time and that he founded a Church for all of humankind, naturally enables us both to be local and to collaborate internationally. You will see this reflected in the work of our participating artists.
Taking up David Jones’s imaginative focus on “minor prophets”, our exhibition features artists who exercise the prophet’s vocation of seeing deeper into the present and gesturing towards a vision for the future. So Sr Pavlina Marie Kašparová’s OP’s cinema explores light as the essence of life and symbol of goodness, while from among our Lay Dominican fraternity, Zlata Vrabec makes paintings and icons from the stuff of the earth which glimpse an eternal destiny; Eddie Zengeni, inspired by cartoon art (especially the work of Mort Drucker), works on his three life themes of family, music and God; while Steven Grimwood brings the Eastern Christian icon to a western eye.
The building of Blackfriars also includes windows and images by Lay Dominican Bronwen Gordon (Pulsford) (1922-2014) as well as the sculptures of Fr. Aelred Whitacre.
The transformative power of words animates the poetry of Sr Ann Catherine Swailes OP, Julia Dale, Michael Withey and Fr Dominic White OP.
Gregorian chant is a traditional part of Dominican liturgy and the example in our exhibition also reflects our collaboration with the Dutch Dominicans in forming Dominican novices here at Blackfriars. Our chant tradition continues to be one inspiration for our composers, Fr Bruno Clifton OP, Fr Dominic White OP, and Lay Dominicans Pamela McNeil and Domenico Vicinanza.
We very much hope you enjoy our Jubilee Art Exhibition, and we welcome comments!.
For more on David Jones and artists as prophets, watch the Introductory Talk by Fr Dominic and Sr Rose, curators, from the opening night.
We would also be most grateful for donations to defray the costs.
We are especially grateful to Fr Richard Finn OP, the Provincial Archivist, Douai Abbey, Eric Morland and Kettle’s Yard for their help and advice in preparing and publicising this exhibition.
Fr Dominic White OP and Sr Rose Rolling OP, Curators
About the curators
Fr Dominic is Bursar of Blackfriars and a Senior Fellow of the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge, with a focus on theology of the arts and Wisdom theology. He is the author of The Lost Knowledge of Christ: Christian Cosmology, Contemporary Spiritualities and the Arts (Liturgical Press, 2015) and How Do I Look? Theology in the Age of the Selfie (SCM, 2020). Fascinated by the beautiful depth of ordinary things, he is also a composer and poet, participating in this exhibition.
Sr Rose’s love of the arts was nurtured from an early age by her mother, the encouragement behind her learning the clarinet, bassoon and saxophone. It was through her encounter with the ‘green sisters’ in Rome in 2012 that she first experienced evangelisation through art, an initiative reinforced during her time with the Sion Catholic Charismatic Community in the UK. Her deepest joy is to love and serve God through liturgical and contemplative prayer, which is her primary art.