A Mural to Muse Over   Leave a comment


I believe that art works best when it has a message: when it is trying to provoke thought and discussion about a particular topic.  This is why I’m intrigued by a recent piece of art depicting the 7/7 London terror attacks which has come to my attention.  Some have questioned the timing of this work (as the inquest is currently ongoing), but would there ever be a ‘right time’ to produce it?

"Age of Shiva" by Mark Sinckler

The piece is a mural by artist Mark Sinckler entitled Age of Shiva and it is currently on display at the Marks & Stencils pop-up gallery in London.  The title of the work is interesting because Shiva is the name of the Hindu deity of destruction.  In Hinduism, it is Shiva’s responsibility to oversee the removal of certain elements of the universe so that other items can be created – this is part of the Hindu beliefs about the cyclical nature of the world.  This implies that Sinckler regards the 7/7 attacks as the destructive point of a cycle in human fortune and this potentially means he believes that a time of re-creation, and so a more prosperous time for humanity, is now due.  However, it is not immediately clear whether Sinckler thinks we just need to bide our time until this better future arrives or if he wants to encourage people to work towards making this brighter tomorrow appear.

Whilst I am aware of the fact that different people will interpret this mural in different ways, I do want to point out the religious iconography within the work and offer my view on it.  There are two specific parts that I think are relevant from a faith perspective: the line of people stretching up towards the sky and the angels watching from above.  The people who look almost as if they are being pulled by some invisible force into the clouds seems to convey a message of humans being dragged away from their earthly existence towards ‘heaven’ (as this is traditionally depicted as being above the earth, in the sky).  The angels who can be seen in the mural seem to be looking on as if they are powerless to help.

It is worth noting that these are two ideas lifted from Christian tradition, whilst the title originated from Hindu traditional beliefs.  The 7/7 attackers carried out their plot because of their extremist views masquerading as part of Islam, which shares some of its traditions and symbols with Christianity.  Therefore, the use of angels and the implication that heaven (or paradise as Muslims would be more likely to say) is ‘in the sky’ will also be recognisable to Muslims.

The Sun kicked up a fuss over the weekend when they published a story telling how Sinckler is a Muslim and that he is trying to ‘cash in’ on the 7/7 attacks.  However, discussing his artwork, Sinckler said he “wanted to jolt people into seeing the results of these thoughts put into action”. In my humble opinion, he is simply trying to make others aware of what the impact the beliefs and ideas they hold might have on others, albeit in an extreme way.  Most importantly for Sinckler, he wants “to make people think about the effects of faith.” If this is his aim, then surely it doesn’t matter whether what his own personal faith is (or if he is of no faith), what matters more is that he wants to challenge the current view that a person’s faith is beyond fault.  We should be encouraged to discuss, question, debate and be critical of the religion we subscribe to – that is how societies are able to progress.

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Posted 01/12/2010 by thinkmindy in art, belief, conscience, Religion

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