In the history of Christianity, art has often been used to engage people with the Bible. Now, an innovative arts project in Glasgow is seeking to connect Scotland with the Bible again.

The Scottish Bible Society is supporting a three-year venture by Glasgow-based artist Iain Campbell to paint Luke’s Gospel. With a canvas from all twenty-four chapters, each painting will link the Biblical text with contemporary life in Glasgow.

Two years ago, Iain’s painting “Our Last Supper”, a modern take on The Last Supper featuring men from Glasgow City Mission, received attention from media outlets around the world.

Like “Our Last Supper”, Iain is painting the new canvases in The Wild Olive Tree Cafe, in St George’s Tron Church, on Scotland’s busiest shopping thoroughfare, Buchanan Street. Visitors to the cafe can interact with the artist, the painting, and the Bible.

People come into the café, and they are curious about what I am doing. They come over and often talk about their own experiences of church and faith. Others who have no faith themselves are interested in asking me about mine. I’ve never had so many opportunities in my life to talk about my faith.
Iain Campbell

A vital element of the paintings is the time Iain takes to reflect upon the Biblical text and how a canvas can be used to connect the Bible to people’s lives. Iain speaks of how important it is with each scene, “to go right back to the Bible, researching what’s actually in these stories”.

This paying attention to the text and reading it in the context of life in Glasgow is very evident in the first two paintings that have been completed.

In The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the story of the angel Gabriel announcing the birth of Jesus to Mary, Iain’s model was a pregnant Iranian refugee, and he set the picture in Glasgow’s Necropolis cemetery. Finding a statue of an angel and graves marked by stone Celtic crosses in the graveyard, Iain weaved these symbols together into a canvas that speaks not only of the birth of Christ but of his death.

For Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son (Luke 7:11-17), Iain took the common sight of flowers tied to railings in Glasgow’s streets and bridges, left by those mourning a recent death, to speak of the Lord’s power to bring new life to dead places.

Just as art in the past provided the “poor man’s Bible”, allowing those who could not read to access the Biblical text, we pray that this exciting project would provide windows into God’s living Word, through which the people of Scotland can look, and there find Christ.

These paintings can be seen in person at The Wild Olive Tree Cafe, St George’s Tron, 163 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 2JX.