The Reformation

Colour, Ben Dolman 2012

White, Ben Dolman 2013

Last autumn I photographed a building that was half demolished exposing the inner structure to the outside, this spring I came across the same building but it had been painted white and the internal openings boarded up.

This newly whitewashed building reminded me of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s (1517) ninety-five theses criticising the Church of Rome’s doctrines and practices, the reformation was a movement that started in northern Europe the previous century and went onto create a great schism of western Christianity, it was a reaction against the Roman Catholic Church and led to the development of the Protestantism. During this great schism in western Christianity there was unrest throughout Europe as the two ideologies of Catholicism and Protestantism clashed as the reformers used the newly developed printing press developed by Johannes Gutenburg as a means to express and spread their ideas and question the established Christian authoritarianism in the face of the inquisition set up by the Church of Rome to counter-reform the new ideas of the reformation .

One particular aspect of the Reformation was the development of a more reactionary Protestantism that took great exception to all things that were ‘popish pomp and rags’, an objection to the ornaments and rituals of the Church of Rome, a church they saw as idolatrous. The Calvinists, dissenters and nonconformists sought to reclaim the church from Catholicism and removed and destroyed all things that could be construed as idolatrous, sculptures were defaced, murals and frescos painted over and altarpieces smashed. The whitewashing of the walls created a space free of distraction for them, a pure space for the ‘direct’ word of god. The removal of the illustrative and the representational in later years led to the development of Minimalism is western art, an art form not unlike the Reformation that sought a pure concept and structure over the ornate eliminating all non-essential forms and embellishments.

In the two photographs of the building one is vulnerable, chaotic, exposed and decorated in gaudy colours and the other later photograph of the same building now depicts it made safe, the openings closed, the gaudy colours have been painted over with whitewashed, the building has been neutralised.