Posted by: owizblog | March 7, 2016

The View From Here… Thought For The Day, BBC Radio Scotland, 7 March 2016

A few days ago my wife and I were dragging our already-aching legs round Madrid’s great Prado art gallery from one breath-stealing masterpiece to another, for five mesmerised hours. And we did it uncomplainingly, though the marble floors did mean that, sometimes, what you were really looking for among all this astounding artistic glory, was one of those simple wooden benches they seemed to have every five or six rooms, just to sit and rest, and contemplate in comfort.

So I smiled appreciatively to read of a sculpture in which the seating is the art. Emily Binks has won a prestigious arts prize for a shelter created from abandoned sofas she found on the streets.

Emily Binks

Children construct dens; adults build homes as part of their building of their lives. The artist says she built the “temporary shelter” with bits of furniture she found around Edinburgh, to offer people the chance to “develop a new understanding of objects both in art and day-to-day life.”

One of the scarce wooden benches in the Prado is in front of Tintoretto’s “Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.” It’s positioned so that if you sit just there, the lines of perspective draw you in, and make you a participant in the scene. The painting originally hung in a church, and the bench is just where the pews would have been, where Tintoretto wanted you to sit to look. That bench is, in a sense, part of the artwork, the only place from which you can really see what it means.

El_Lavatorio_(Tintoretto) 2

Emily Binks, Tintoretto, art creates a space, makes you stop, invites you in, offers you a new understanding, a new perspective.

At the beginning of John’s Gospel, Andrew and Peter start following Jesus, and he turns, and says “What are you looking for?” “Rabbi,” they say, rather oddly, “Where are you staying?” Where is his shelter? “Where’s he at?” He says “Come and see…” Religions, and religious people, have a dreadful history of coercion and arrogance. In the end, though, faith can only ever be an invitation to a new perspective. Come and see what it looks like from here…

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