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Religious broadcasting thriving

Soulwaves Radio, which produces and syndicates interviews on religious and social affairs to Irish local radio stations, has had a good year, it’s AGM heard on Friday 29 April. Soulwaves Director Miriam Gormally said there was a high percentage uptake of the three digital interviews they send out weekly to religious programmes broadcast from local and community radio stations around the country.

The Jesuits were one of the founders of the radio interview network syndicate which began life as 3R productions back in the nineties. Today there is still Jesuit involvement through board members Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, who regularly supplies interviews for the station, and Brendan Staunton SJ, who was also the guest speaker at this year’s AGM. It was fittingly held in Church House, the Dublin headquarters of the Church of Ireland who have been funders and co-workers with Soulwaves since the early days. So too have many religious congregations including the Mercy Sisters. Marie Stewart, chair of the Soulwaves Radio board is herself a Mercy Sister and co-founder of 3R.

At the end of the morning’s business meetings Brendan Staunton gave a stimulating power-point presentation through which he explored the visual arts as a means of communication that had parallels, he believed in Vatican II’s emergence from a traditionalist and tridentine past.

He began by quoting the old rhyme which set the tone for his talk:”Cezanne, grave man, pondered the scene and saw it with passion of orange and green; and weighted his strokes with days of decision, and founded on apples – theologies of vision”. Brendan’s own talk was indeed ‘a theology of vision’ as he took in the broad sweep of the history of art but highlighted in particular the shift from the traditional perspective of painters like Giotto and other giants of 16th century art, to Cezanne who saw ‘perspective’ for what it was, namely an illusion that deceived the eye.

Cezanne rejected  traditional art which dealt with still life, portraits or narrative subject matter from the bible or mythology and did so with a single view point that guided the eye to monocular vision, balancing the elements of its narrative art into a harmonious whole that was pleasing to the eye.  He saw this type of art as lifeless, stale, even sterile. He knew that there was more to art than imitation and more to perception than reason thinks of. “The eye has reasons that reason knows not of”,  is what Cezanne held, according to Brendan. He believed imitation could be replaced with interiority and colour could now leave its home of representation,  “A tree doesn’t have to be green”.

According to Brendan Staunton, Cezanne,  weaned himself from a textual base and a historical narrative. He moved from the mimetic (imitition) to the aesthetic which involved the viewer in interaction with multiple viewing points and a decentralized vision. His discovery was built upon by subsequent modern painters.

Brendan drew the parallels with the breakthrough of Vatican 11. Up until then it could be said that the Church for many centuries communicated a tradition with a single view point that required acceptance not inclusivity, imitation not participation, and was a-historical as opposed to culturally contextual. Cezanne’s methodology and theology of vision was mirrored in the methodology and theology born out of the second Vatican Council.

“Cezanne knew there was no turning back and modern life themes were here to stay. He inaugurated what became a shift for artists who would paint the real word, the concrete conditions that shape our consciousness and awareness. The shift was to the empirical. The opening sentence of Vatican 11’s document on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes, echoes this turn to the inductive and experiential. The starting  point is experience and affectivity rather than the bible or Church teaching.”

Not surprisingly a lively and engaging debate followed on from his presentation with many of those in the room vocally vowing to get themselves to an art gallery knowing they would make the visit with a new vision and deeper appreciation.