Religious Art: Body and Soul - theme for annual lecture delivered at Notre Dame

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 21-8-2012

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Publication Place



Exploring and challenging contemporary viewpoints through the combination of religion and art was at the centre of The University of Notre Dame Australia's annual Slattery Lecture held in August.

This year's guest lecturers were art historian, Dr Rod Pattenden, and ABC broadcaster, Dr Rachael Kohn. Both were in Western Australia to judge the Mandorla Art Award, one of Australia's most prestigious Christian art events.

They were joined by Professor Matthew Ogilvie, Dean of the School of Philosophy and Theology in Fremantle and Dr Angela McCarthy, an academic in the School and Chair of the Mandorla Committee. The theme of the 2012 Slattery Lecture was 'Religious Art: Body and Soul'.

During Dr Pattenden's presentation, he promoted the importance of art as a tool for communication. He spoke from his first hand experience as a Uniting Church pastor who is involved in using church spaces to allow congregations to be challenged by artists in their understanding of God and the world.

He said religious art had the possibility to offer new insights on the evolving nature of religion around the world and to remind people of the "utter beauty of being alive".

Dr Kohn took audience members on a journey through the 'soul of art' suggesting the need for understanding the importance that art can have in the development of spirituality. She said the soul of religious art could hasten and challenge faith, as well as allowing its viewers to become more "active players" as part of God's creation.

The internationally acclaimed radio presenter concluded her presentation by saying that the challenge of religious art is to enable its viewers to see God's face. For this goal to be achieved, Dr Kohn said viewers' reactions, reflections and interpretations of different religious art works needed to be encouraged and not suppressed.

"The artist who produces religious art, reveals in the painted or sculpted scenes from life, a hidden, abiding presence of divinity which wills us to be more than anonymous players in a meaningless universe," Dr Kohn said during her presentation.

Dr McCarthy said religious art was a significant symbol of how its artists and viewers defined and believed in God.

"Artists are able to express images that help us further develop our image of God from being a very two dimensional static image, to one of great life and richness that continues to grow and expand as we grow in wisdom," Dr McCarthy said.

Professor Ogilvie concluded the lecture reiterating the importance of art in religion. He thanked the guest speakers and the audience for participating in the 2012 lecture.

"The Lecture is named in honour of Fr Peter Slattery who served as the University's Deputy Director of Development from 1990 until his passing in 1995. After his death, his father, Jack Slattery, endowed the lecture in his honour," Professor Ogilvie said.

For more information about the Mandorla Art Award, visit www.mandorlaart.com.

MEDIA CONTACT: Michelle Ebbs: Tel (08) 9433 0610; Mob 0408 959 138 Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093