This week my friends at Farnham Baptist Church hosted an exhibition of work by students at UCA Farnham. The theme of this exhibition was “Hope”, which led to a really interesting range of work. (The £250 prize probably helped too!)
It was interesting to see the variety of ideas about hope represented around the room, which came out in a really interesting discussion on the opening night. On one hand, there was the sense that hope is something fragile and delicate – there were balloons and feathers, and a great shot of a baby born seconds before the photo was taken. But as we discussed this aspect of hope, something else came through, that there is always hope. Hope is fragile because it’s based on something intangible and future, but there is always potential.
Another theme which came out was the idea of relationship – hope is found in reaching out to other people, or in being reached out to – a view captured by this sculpture…
This piece by Timothy Holt explored a similar idea, but from a totally different direction. He focussed on sadness and the way it’s expressed. By using a toilet tissue dispenser you’d normally find in a public toilet, the piece explored the communal aspect of sadness and grief. When hope seems to have run out, we reach out to other people for comfort. We look to other people to restore hope. I think there might have been a few too many ideas going on, so that it ended up sounding a bit over-analysed. But it definitely stood out in the gallery (both in terms of its theme, and because it’s a toilet roll holder), and the judges commended the artist for entering it.
And one other theme I noticed was the use of light. Lots of the pieces used light or bright colours to represent hope. Interestingly, the winning entry comprised four large photographs of individuals looking into the night sky, each accompanied by the subject’s reflections on the significance of the night sky for them. They talked about the awe they felt looking into the dark sky, the sense of connection they felt with distant family members, and the peace they felt knowing that their problems were tiny in comparison to the cast universe. On a similar theme, but from a different angle, I loved this portrait by Matthew Veira. It shows a girl staring into the glow of a computer screen, although we don’t see the screen. In this portrait, the light makes her look gloomy and even ill. There’s a look of expectation in her eyes, but also a real sense of futility. The light in this painting doesn’t bring hope – at best it can only offer false hope.
As a Christian, I find all of these approaches to hope really interesting. For me, hope isn’t wishful thinking, or a positive mental attitude. It does look to a future that I can’t see, but it isn’t fragile because it rests on historical events. There really is a link between hope and relationship – hope really is found in relationship. In Jesus, we can be made right with God and adopted into his family. Eternal life isn’t just being granted an extended lifespan; it’s being restored to a relationship with the God who made us and loves us.
Light as a metaphor is used throughout Scripture to talk about God and his action in the world. He’s the one who creates light, and he chooses a people who are to be a light to the nations. And, supremely, Jesus is described as the light of the world (John 8:12), the light for a people walking in darkness (Isaiah 9v2).
Against a dark backdrop of hopelessness, Jesus is the light of the world because he is the one who can offer real hope – hope now and hope for the future.