Makoto Fujimura is recognized internationally as an artist, writer, and speaker who has made great steps to reconcile faith and art in modern culture. This is Fujimura’s interview with Crossway about this project called “The Four Holy Gospels,” which was published last January.
To Celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible Crossway Publishing approach Fujimura in 2009 with the great task of illuminating the bible, this would be the first time in almost 500 years that a single artist was commissioned in this way. Illumination is when images are created to reveal text, but then the text too reveals the created images. Using a contemporary bible translation, the English Standard Version, his work to illuminate the first four books of the New Testament was life transforming.
In the interview Fujimura shares a bit of his spiritual journey living in Tokyo studying Nihonga, traditional Japanese style painting that inspired the artwork of The Four Holy Gospels. Through the beautiful and articulate preaching of a New Zealand pastor, friendships with missionaries, and his personal study of the 19th century artist William Blake, the gospel profoundly impacted him. While Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism is syncretic, meaning that it keeps morphing and changing, Christianity remained consistent, that Jesus gave his life so that the world could know the love of God. As an artist Fujimura was very aware of a brokenness that he didn’t have a solution for… being someone who was to create beautiful works but feeling alienated from that beauty, which he called transcendence. Placing his faith in Jesus bridged the gap between transcendent beauty and his since of alienation from it.
Continuing his work in New York Fujimura experience another alienation with in the art community and the protestant church. Artist made negative assumptions about Christianity as confining and anti-development of free expression while the church typically was suspicious and in general had no understanding of the art world. Living in this tension as a Christian and an artist was difficult but from this the International Arts Movement was born to help artist wrestle through how art relates to faith, humanity, beauty, and truth.
Fujimura shares about the The Four Holy Gospels at his website, above is more about this masterpiece and the struggles in culture to reconcile modern art and faith.