'Reimagining Paul' Exhibition

Reimagining Paul is an exhibition of two newly commissioned works of art created to spark conversation about the apostle Paul and the interpretation of his letters in contemporary society.

'Reimaging Paul' Exhibition Logo

As the named author of a number of letters in the New Testament, Paul is a dominant figure within Christian tradition. How his letters are best understood has been the source of debate since their earliest reception. Trying to understand more about Paul himself is also no easy task. Reimagining Paul therefore seeks to help viewers visualise Paul in new ways, connecting to contemporary themes of identity and asking how we might interpret Paul and his letters today.

Photo of the high altar at Rotherham Minster,. The altar has a green frontal and stands in front of reredos, above which are a series of stained glass windows. To the left of the altar is a painting on an easel depicting a nude, white man against a dark background, suspended by a web of thorns. To the right of the altar is a yellow and lilac neon text piece which reads 'Like this I am more' across two lines.
Photo by Grace Emmett

The two Reimagining Paul pieces are not currently on display but were previously exhibited at Rotherham Minster, St Mark’s Sheffield, Doncaster Minster, Sheffield Cathedral, and Coventry Cathedral during 2022 and 2023. Some of the displays were accompanied by talks and events, and all displays featured an opportunity for viewers to give feedback on the two works of art. You can find out more about each work of art below, as well as viewing the most recent exhibition guide.

St Paul of the Thorns by Elizabeth Tooth

St Paul of the Thorns depicts the artist’s husband, who has a disabling pain condition. Here he is imagined as Paul, surrounded by a web of thorns that both restrain him but also elevate him. The painting draws inspiration from 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 and Paul’s famous ‘thorn in the flesh,’ which has puzzled interpreters for centuries as they have tried to work out what Paul’s ‘thorn’ might be. Tooth’s painting invites reflection on the body, particularly as a body-in-pain, and allows viewers to consider again Paul’s ‘thorn’: namely, what sort of relationship does Paul have with the ‘thorn’ as described in 2 Corinthians?

Photo of a chapel with an altar in the background and a painting in the foreground, left of centre. The painting is on an easel and depicts a nude, white man against a dark background, suspended by a web of thorns. Windows on the right hand side cast light on the wall and door on the left hand side of the image.
Photo by Stanhope Photo

Described as one of 'the most exciting fine art portrait painters in England today' and a 'modern-day renaissance master', Elizabeth Tooth's paintings feature in many public and private collections all over the world; including the UK, France, Iceland, Germany, North America and South Africa.

‘It is the creation of likeness which fascinates me; a glint of gold in the shadows, the flicker of an eyelid, the shimmering pulsation of nerves under skin... likeness is always at the centre of my work.

Humans relate to images of other humans, particularly faces, on a visceral, subconscious level; this is why portraiture is especially powerful and relevant. After layers of meaning and concept are stripped away, that relationship remains.

Using the historically-loaded medium of oils I set out to create jewel-like treasures, like altar pieces or icons intended for personal devotion.’

To see more of Elizabeth’s work, please visit her website.

I am more like this by Bettina Furnée

l am more like this is a neon piece that displays alternating flashing text over two lines: ‘like this’ and ‘I am more’. These words are an extract from the New International Version translation of 2 Corinthians 11:23, which in its entirety reads: ‘Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again’. In this verse and the wider passage, Paul boasts (‘as a fool’, 11:17) of various hardships he has suffered in the course of his ministry. By isolating words from 11:23 and presenting them in flashing neon format, the words can be read as an ambiguous identity statement prompting two questions: ‘like what?’ and ‘more what?’

Close up photo of a yellow and lilac text piece which reads 'Like this I am more' across two lines. Stained glass windows are visible through the spaces between letters.
Photo by Stanhope Photo

Born in The Netherlands and based in Cambridge (UK), Bettina Furnée is a studio artist at Wysing Arts Centre. Her practice ranges from text and moving image to sculptural installation and public realm commissions.

Using found text or interviews as material, her work features wordplay, language, sound, absurdity, the everyday, slippage and fear of no-return. She often works collaboratively with other artists, writers, musicians and researchers and engages participants in longer-term projects and public art schemes with themes of migration, identity and agency.

She has been commissioned extensively, exhibited in solo and group shows, and awarded residencies and grants in support of self-initiated projects. Most recently she was selected for Syllabus VI (2020/21) and in 2019 toured collaborative and participatory choral performance work Even You Song.

Bettina Furnée read art history and trained as a letter cutter before graduating with a Masters in Public Art from Chelsea College of Arts.

To see more of Bettina’s work, please visit her website.

Exhibition guide

About the project

The project has been led by Dr Grace Emmett, with support from Dr Ryan Collman, and based at the Sheffield Centre for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies. It has been funded by grants from the Sir Henry Stephenson Trust and a University of Sheffield Knowledge Exchange Grant (HEIF). For any questions about the project, please contact grace.emmett@sheffield.ac.uk.

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