Tughan, James - Kelvin Mutter
James Tughan: CONTACT: The Artistry of Jesus in Nine Faces. Oakville, ON: Nadir Publishing, 2023.
James Tughan is primarily known for being a visual artist working in visual mapping with chalk pastels, This work celebrates attachment to visible surfaces of the northern Ontario wilderness but additionally to the less visible landscape of the human psyche, through a careful use of metaphor. More recently he has been drawn into the world of poetry, which has given him a way to articulate more directly certain aspects of these worlds: in celebration and lament, in overview and intimate touch. But then the drawings have always been poetry.
In his book James Tughan asks us to consider the idea that Jesus was first an artist before He was anything else. The premise of this book in its art and its words is that in all His interactions with His creation, and the persons in it, in all our successes and failures, His artistry is clearly evident. However, it is previously unlimited artistry that not only is humbled within human limitation, but which passes through the experience of trauma. The biblical story is one of overcoming it to reinvigorate the creation and artistry itself.
James walks the reader through the artistry of His narrative drawing series, Nine Faces of Christ, and its creation to ask us to reconsider artistry as a relational phenomenon, experienced in our contact with the original Artist, Jesus.
To quote Kris MacQueen (pastor, musician, songwriter) "In Contact: The Artistry of Jesus in Nine Faces", James has written a beautiful treatise on not just the artistry of Christ, but the conversational artistry of Jesus. Everywhere that Christ is at work, Creation is happening. And wherever Creation is happening, so is communication. James paints a portrait (literally and figuratively) of an Artist-God who has the audacity to speak not just through words written and spoken, but who is fluent in every language of meaning. Sound. Image. Movement. Pattern. Colour. Injury. Trauma. Limitation. Sacrifice. Abundance. In and through it all: Logos speaks."
Available at BOOKBABY Bookshop https://store.bookbaby.com/book/contact2
Available now (softbound) at $48.37 USD. For a student / academic discount promo code, contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hardbound gift version (larger) also available from the artist (recommended for studies in theology of psychology and the arts, and lovers of drawing.
by Kelvin Mutter
Contact: the Artistry of Jesus in Nine Faces features the visual and written art of James Tughan. This book is a narrative reflection on imagination, creativity, and faith in which Tughan is the chronicler, his artistic works are the supporting cast, and the star of the story is the imaginative and creative God in whom “we live and move and have our being,” (St. Paul, Acts 17:28).
The art featured in this text, Tughan’s polyptych the Nine Faces of Christ, is a mature example of his cartographic style which employs symbolic imagery and trompe-l'oeil. Individually, and as a group, these images form a topographic map, dense and multilayered, of the artist’s reflections on the Christian story while maintaining critical distance from the genre of Religious Art. Along with his visual art, Tughan includes nine poems that imagine God’s perspective on the story and nine poems that reflect a human perspective on current events. Each of his poems, like his visual art has a topographical character. Tughan’s narrative also has cartographic feel in the way it maps the artistic, spiritual, emotional, theological, and intellectual spaces wherein he locates the Nine Faces of Christ.
Although a reader may decide to read Contact: the Artistry of Jesus in Nine Faces in one or two sittings, this book is not intended to be a book that can be idly thumbed through and then set down. Rather, Tughan’s intent is to engage the reader to journey with him as he reflects on his artistic process and the big story that informs it. To help the reader, all but one chapter begins with a set of questions that invite them to consider their perceptions of, and responses to, the focal piece of the chapter and concludes with second set of reflection questions to guide discussion by a book club, study group, etc.
I commend James for this imaginative and creative work which makes his artistry and thought accessible to those who have not seen his art. I also commend this book as one that can be read, contemplated, and perhaps enrich the life of the reader.
Kelvin Mutter, DTh.
Kelvin Mutter is a very experienced pastor, scholar and psycho-therapist who also has a long-standing interest in practical theology, trauma recovery and artmaking, also being an active art student himself, studying drawing as a foundational art form.