Politics and Religion – 'The Open Debate'
A little art for this Lord’s Day – a painting entitled The Open Debate by Philip Bouchard, 1997-8.
It hangs in Portcullis House and contains many themes, but central to the painting is the idea that ‘politics is like a never-ending game of chess’. It explores the religio-political tension at the heart of Parliament, which has not only been a recurring theme throughout British history; it has been evident in recent debates over the time limit for abortion, faith schools, the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill, or the effects of the Sexual Orientation Regulations upon Roman Catholic adoption agencies.
The painting depicts a bishop and a knight in conversation on the edge of a chess board facing the Palace of Westminster. Bouchard says: ‘The Bishop symbolises the Church and spiritual values and the Knight, the State and temporal values.’
The positioning of the chess pieces is according to a famous end-game study called the 'Saavedra Position' which ‘has a very curious history with a number of twists and turns’.
One wonders what the final twist and turn shall be, and whether the Church-State relationship is approaching its endgame.