2nd February 2022

Picasso’s painting Guernica is one of the starkest depictions of the horrors and chaos wrought by modern warfare. It was his response to a bombing raid in 1937 by German planes during the Spanish Civil War. During the German occupation of France in World War II Picasso lived in Paris and on the wall of his apartment he hung a full-sized reproduction of the painting. One day he was visited by an officer of the German SS, who evidently wished to display his cultural interests. Surprised by what he saw on the wall the officer asked, ‘Did you do that?’ ‘No’, said Picasso, ‘you did it.’ Sometimes it is the artist – or poet, playwright or musician – who opens our eyes to what we have not seen before, including uncomfortable truths about who we are and what we have done or allowed to happen in our name. Equally, art can open our eyes to grace and beauty we didn’t quite see before, as in one of Picasso’s paintings of white doves in front of a shimmering blue sea. ‘God be praised!’ I say.

Is there here a danger of putting art on a par with the gospel? Sure, art is not the gospel, but God in his sovereign grace can use many things as reflections, echoes, parables of the gospel – as Jesus did. Bishop George Bell, that great prophetic voice for justice and peace in the last century, was also a great patron of the arts – ‘auxiliaries of the gospel’ he called them. That to me sounds just right. May Tyndale continue supporting them as part of our mission.

Keith Clements