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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Spreading the gospel with paint

By Andrew Mulenga

Chantelle Mullins with her painting The Majestic Lion of Judah - 
The Messiah, (Acrylic on canvas)
“The eyes pierce your soul. And God begins ministering to your spirit. There are no words to describe His majesty. You stare in awe. At a piece of Heaven on Earth. All this from a Holy Spirit, heavenly inspired painting”, reads part of an exhibition write-up for a painting by daring young South African artist Chantelle Mullins.

Daring because the 23-year-old decides to unapologetically declare her Christian faith and spirituality in an exhibition that is part of a secular arts festival and society that encompasses everyone from the free-thinking, atheist-type academic, the Rastafarian, multi-racial Hare Krishnas and the lawfully liberated gay people.

Chantelle's replica of 15th century master Michelangelo's
famous The Creation of Adam
Not only does she risk being labelled a self-righteous altruist, it is her very first show and launch of her career, and she risks the reality of not making a single sale. But she could not care less, literally. After all, her show at the Albany Museum ends up attracting a steady stream of viewers over a two-week period during South Africa’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown early this month.

“I know very well the work might offend none-Christians, but then God said to me, Channy (the short form of her name) do you want to please man or to please me? So I’m not embarrassed by God, I think he is awesome. People can take it or leave it,” She says in a convincing, silky-smooth voice that resonates with the pious aura of a telephone helpline operator.

Much like the evangelical pastors who profess they commune with God directly, even on a daily basis, so does Chantelle. Where they (pastors) have a pulpit and a congregation, she has paintings and an exhibition space.

Rivers of Living Water
(Acrylic on canvas)
“I have to glorify Him (God) and not brush it under the carpet. At the same time it’s my exhibition if people don’t like it they can leave. Some people walk through quickly; look at me in a funny way as if they have seen a crazy person and leave. But some people walk up to me and share their life stories, burst into tears and then I will pray with them”, she says smiling, evidently gratified.

She says that touching people spiritually through her work means a lot to her and she well understands when they do burst into tears because she has been down that road before.

“I have not always been a Christian so I have been through that journey but now I would like to help set everyone free like me. People go drinking and want to have an alternative reality, they start taking drugs and want to find pleasure, a form of escape, I’ve been there before until I finally met God”, she says.

As a painter, the upcoming artist has not yet developed a definitive style and may still be rightfully exploring with her technique although she does seem to have developed a palette of chalky blues, pale yellows and reds, but of the colour choices too, she says they are divinely inspired.

Her exhibition, however, features some works that she created while at City Varsity in Cape Town where she studied motion picture design which also includes several disciplines of art such as video production, photography, puppetry, sculpture and classical painting. Which explains a marionette dragon floating from the ceiling of the exhibition space as well as a fairly large replica of Florentine master, Michelangelo’s 1510 fresco, The Creation of Adam that showcases some of her pre-celestial talent.

Chantelle’s exhibition may not have been preeminent among the dozens of shows at RSA’s National Arts Festival, but then again belief in her work coupled with the faith that it comes from a higher being gives it a sparkle that the others do not have.

“Because I have a relationship with God I just follow him I walk through his doors and follow his guidance. At the moment I believe he will open greater doors that will lead to greater exposure I hope to become international with my art as a tool to minister to people and get God’s word out there, ultimately it is to glorify Him,” says Chantelle.

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