Dr Rina Arya

Reader in Visual Communications

Dr Rina Arya
Email address: r.arya@wlv.ac.uk Phone number: 01902 328831 Location: MK312a Faculty: Faculty of Arts School/Institute: Wolverhampton School of Art Areas of expertise: Francis Bacon and postwar art, the relationship between visual art and religion, abjection and disgust


My main interest is in the role of the sacred in the arts and culture, especially in contemporary secular culture. My PhD focused on the expression and experience of the sacred in ‘death of God’ culture. Since then I have published mainly on postwar British art particularly the art of Francis Bacon. This developed my interest in abjection and the body, the subject of a 2014 monograph. I am continuing my research in the relationship between religion and culture in my current book-length project on the cultural appropriation of Hindu symbols, which is forecast for publication in 2020.

Areas of research:

1. Postwar British art,

2. Abjection and disgust,

3. Theology and Visual Art,

4. Sociology of the sacred,

5. Visual religious studies.


2006. University of Glasgow, PhD.

Thesis title: Recovering the Sacred in the paintings of Francis Bacon and writings of Georges Bataille. 

1999. University of Leeds, MA, Theology. 

1998. University of Leicester, BA (Hons.) History of Art.



  • 1. Francis Bacon: Painting in a Godless World, Lund Humphries, 2012. ISBN-10: 1848220448/ISBN-13: 978-1848220447. (Long-listed for the William MB Berger Art History Prize 2013; reviewed in The Art Newspaper, Art and Christianity, Choice Reviews Online, The British Art Journal, Visual Culture in Britain, Cassone: The International Online Magazine of Art and Art Books, Religious Studies Review, Literature and Theology, Third Way Magazine, Art History).

Other Monographs

  • 2. Chila Kumari Burman: Shakti, Sexuality and Bindi girls, KT Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-9536541-3-0.
  • 3. Abjection and Representation: An Exploration of Abjection in the Visual Arts, Film and Literature, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. ISBN-13: 978-0230389335.

Edited Books

  • 1. Francis Bacon: Critical and Theoretical Perspectives, Peter Lang, 2012. ISBN: 978-3034308892. (Reviewed in Cassone The International Online Magazine on Art and Art Books).
  • 2. Contemplations of the Spiritual in Contemporary Art, Peter Lang, March 2013, in the series Cultural Interactions: Studies in the Relationship between the Arts. ISBN: 978-3034307505. (Reviewed in Art and Christianity, Literature and Theology, Centre for Spirituality Studies website at the University of Hull, Theological Book Reviews).
  • 3. Abject Visions: Powers of Horror in Art and Visual Culture (with Nicholas Chare), Manchester University Press, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0230389335.

Guest Issues

  • 1. ‘On Abjection’ for Performance Research, volume 19, issue 1, 2014. ISSN: 1352-8165.

Refereed Journal Articles

  • 1. ‘A-theology and the recovery of the sacred in Bataille and Bacon’, La Revue Silène, www.revue-silene.com 2008, pp. 45-58 (French), pp. 59-72 (English).
  • 2. ‘The Role of Objects in Bataille’s Story of the Eye’ in the ‘On Objects’ issue, Performance Research, Taylor & Francis, vol. 12, no. 4, 2008, pp. 67-77.
  • 3. ‘Ecstasy and Pain: the ritualistic dimensions of performance practice’ in the ‘Congregation’ issue, Performance Research, Taylor & Francis, vol. 13, no. 3, 2008, pp. 31-40.
  • 4. ‘Painting the Pope: An analysis of Francis Bacon’s Study after Velázquez’s Pope Innocent X’, Literature and Theology, Oxford University Press, vol. 23, no. 1, 2009, pp. 33-50. This paper was selected as one of the most read articles in the journal from March 2008 to June 2012 and was reprinted in the Special Anniversary issue of 25 years of the journal.
  • 5. ‘The Implicit Religiosity of Compulsive Buying’, Implicit Religion, Equinox, vol. 12, no. 2, 2009, pp. 165-185.
  • 6. ‘Remaking the Body: the cultural dimensions of Francis Bacon’, Journal for Cultural Research, Taylor & Francis, vol. 13, no. 2, 2009, pp.143-158. 
  • 7. ‘The Primal Cry of Horror: the a-theology of Francis Bacon’, Artibus et Historiae, vol. 63, no. 32, 2011, pp. 275-284. 
  • 8. ‘Contemplations of the Spiritual in Visual Art’ Journal for the Study of Spirituality, Equinox, vol. 1, no.1, 2011, pp. 76-93.
  • 9. ‘Transitional Spaces: The Phenomenology of the Awayday’, Tamara Journal for Critical Organizational Inquiry, vol. 9, no. 3-4, 2011, pp. 23-33.
  • 10. ‘Assaying the Pope: Francis Bacon’s interrogation of religion’, Implicit Religion, Equinox, vol. 14, no.3, 2011, pp. 343-349.
  • 11. ‘The Neglected Place of Religion in Contemporary Western Art’, Fieldwork in Religion Equinox, vol. 6, no. 1, 2012, pp. 27-46.
  • 12. ‘Constructions of homosexuality in Francis Bacon’, Journal for Cultural Research, Taylor & Francis, vol. 16, no. 1, 2012, pp. 43-61.
  • 13. ‘Ritualised violence and the restoration of community’ in ‘Losing it’ issue, Parallax, Taylor and Francis, vol. 18, issue 2, 2012, pp. 32-44. 
  • 14. ‘Black Feminism in the Academy’ in ‘Being a Feminist Academic’, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, Emerald Publishers, vol. 31, issue 6, 2012, pp. 556-572.
  • 15. ‘Bill Viola and the Sublime’ in ‘The Art of the Sublime’, Tate online resources, 2013. Rina Arya, ‘Bill Viola and the Sublime’, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, January 2013, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/rina-arya-bill-viola-and-the-sublime-r1141441.
  • 16. ‘Religion, Spirituality and Secularity’, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, Oxford University Press, 2014. first published online: doi:10.1093/ywcct/mbu004. Print issue: vol. 22, issue 1, pp. 83-103.
  • 17. ‘Taking apart the body: abjection and body art’ in the ‘On Abjection’ issue, Performance Research, Taylor & Francis, vol. 19, no. 1, 2014, pp. 5-14.
  • 18. ‘Thinking about Abjection: a review of recent literature’ (review article approx. 6000 words), Journal for Cultural Research, Taylor & Francis, vol. 18, no. 4, 2014, pp.1-10.
  • 19. ‘Bacon and Bergson on time and motion’, Visual Culture in Britain, Taylor & Francis, vol. 16, no. 1, 2015, pp. 1-19.
  • 20. ‘Religion, Spirituality and Secularity’, The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, Oxford University Press, 10.1093/ywcct/mbu022.
  • 21. ‘Reflections on the Spiritual in Rothko’ Art and Religion, Boston College, forthcoming, 2015.

Books Chapters

  • 1. ‘The Religious Significance on Violence in Football’, in Holy Terror: Understanding Religion and Violence in Popular Culture edited by Eric Christianson and Christopher Partridge (London: Equinox, 2010), pp.122-134.
  • 2. ‘Consecrating the body: the sacred and the profane in performance art’ in, Sacred Space: Interdisciplinary Perspectives within Contemporary Contexts edited by David Torevell and Jenny Daggers (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), pp. 114-126.
  • 3. ‘Art in Sacred Places’, in Site, Material, Object edited by Lin Holland and Jane Poulton (ISBN 978-1-898749-08-0) 2010, pp. 6-9.
  • 4. ‘The graphic power of Käthe Kollwitz’ in, Women in the Arts in the Belle Epoque: Essays on Influential Artists, Writers and Performers, edited by Paul Fryer (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012), pp. 210-224.
  • 5. ‘Knowledge and Value in Art’ in, The Stone Theory Seminars: What do Artists Know? edited by James Elkins with Frances Whitehead, vol 3. (University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2012), pp. 175-177.
  • 6. ‘Exploring Liminality from an Anthropological Perspective’, in Digital Media and Technologies for Virtual Artistic Spaces, (Pennsylvania, IGI Books, 2012), pp. 159-165.
  • 7. ‘Embodiment as Sacrament: Francis Bacon’s Postwar Horror’, in ReVisioning: Critical Methods of Seeing Christianity in the History of Art edited by James Romaine and Linda Stratford (Oregon: Cascade Books, 2014).
  • 8. ‘The Sacred A-theology of Georges Bataille’, in Religion and European Philosophy: Key Thinkers from Kant to the Present edited by Philip Goodchild and Hollis Phelps (Routledge: London, 2015).
  • 9. ‘Bacon’s Nietzschean sensibility’, in Bacon’s Books (working title) edited by Yvonne Scott and Barbara Dawson (TBC, London, 2015).
  • 10. ‘The fragmented body as an index of abjection’, in Abject Visions: Powers of Horror in Art and Visual Culture edited by Rina Arya and with Nicholas Chare, (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2015).
  • 11. ‘Spirituality and Contemporary Art’, in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion edited by Frank Burch Brown, (Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • 12. ‘Virtual Spaces', in A Companion to Contemporary Design (Since 1945) in the Blackwell Companion Series edited by Anne Massey (Wiley, 2017).

Exhibition Reviews and Catalogue Essays

  • 1. ‘Responses to artists’ work. Identity and Place, an exhibition of the paintings of Jagjit Chuhan and Richard Creed. Held at the Atkinson Gallery, Southport: 27 June- 31 October 2009.
  • 2. Religious Musings on Francis Bacon: A Review of the Francis Bacon Retrospective Exhibition at Tate Britain from 1 September - 4 January 2009, Implicit Religion, Equinox, vol. 12, no. 1, 2009, pp. 95-102.
  • 3. The Sacred Made Real. A review of the exhibition at the National Gallery 21 October 2009 – 24 January 2010, Implicit Religion, Equinox, vol. 14, no. 1, 2011, pp. 109-113.
  • 4. ‘Scenes from everyday life’: a review of Ben Kelly: Recent Paintings: 17 November – 18 December 2011, The Gateway Gallery, Macclesfield.
  • 5. Great Exhibitions in the Margins 1851 -1938. A review of the conference held at the University of Wolverhampton, organized by Marta Filipova, on 26-27 April 2012, Journal of Curatorial Studies, Intellect, 2013. 
  • 6. ‘The Body Unbound’, catalogue statement for Jagjit Chuhan, New Paintings, Victoria Gallery and Museum, Liverpool, 1 February – 27 April 2013. 
  • 7. Scenes of Northern life: the work of Ben Kelly’, catalogue essay for Looters and other Stories, Gateway Gallery, Macclesfield, 2013.
  • 8. The World of Ben Kelly, catalogue for The World of Ben Kelly, ClarkArtLtd, Hale, 2014. 
  • 9. Review of Francis Bacon and the Masters at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, 18th April – 26th July 2015 for Art and Christianity 83, Autumn 2015.

Encyclopedia Entries/Articles

  • 1.‘Bill Viola’: the Grove Encyclopedia of American Art, edited by Joan Marter, Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • 2. ‘John Currin’: the Grove Encyclopedia of American Art, edited by Joan Marter, Oxford University Press, 2010. 
  • 3. ‘Ilya Bolotowsky’: the Grove Encyclopedia of American Art, edited by Joan Marter, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 307-308.
  • 4. ‘The Middle Ages’: Encyclopedia of Social Networks, edited by George A. Barnett, Sage, 2011, pp. 530-533. 
  • 5. ‘Mary Kelly’: The Multimedia Encyclopedia in Today’s World, edited by Mary Zeiss Stange and Carol K. Oyster and J. Sloan, Sage, 2011, pp. 556-572.
  • 6. ‘Rites of Passage’: Encyclopedia of Global Religion, edited by Mark Juergensmeyer and Wade Clark Roof, Sage, 2012, pp. 3000-3005.
  • 7. ‘Cycle of rebirth’: Encyclopedia of Global Religion, edited by Mark Juergensmeyer and Wade Clark Roof, Sage, 2012, pp. 1091-1093.
  • 8. ‘Male Gaze’: Encyclopedia of Gender in Media, edited by Mary Kosut, Sage, 2012, pp. 195-196.
  • Featured as a video for SAGE Media & Communication Video Collection, published in 2015. 
  • 9. ‘Feminist Theory: Women of Color Perspective/Multiracial Feminism’: Encyclopedia of Gender in Media, edited by Mary Kosut, Sage, 2012, pp. 187-188.
  • 10. ‘bell hooks’: Encyclopedia of Gender in Media, edited by Mary Kosut, Sage, 2012, pp. 168-169.
  • 11. ‘Last Judgment’: Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception vol. 6, edited by Eric Ziolkowski et al., De Gruyter, 2013.
  • 12. ‘Georges Bataille’: Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology, edited by Jon R. McGee and Richard L. Warms, Sage, 2013, pp. 56-57.
  • 13. ‘Caspar David Friedrich’: Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception vol. 8, edited by Eric Ziolkowski et al., De Gruyter, 2014.
  • 14. ‘Arundhati Roy’: Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, edited by Saër Maty Bâty and Immanuel Ness, Palgrave, 2014.
  • 15. ‘Isaac Julien’: Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies, edited by Henry Schwartz, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.
  • 16. ‘Lucian Freud’: Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, edited by Danielle Child, Routledge, 2015.
  • 17. ‘Coming Out’: The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies, edited by Nancy Naples, Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.

Book Reviews

  • 1. Actors, Pilgrims, Kings and Gods: The Ramlila at Ramnagar, by Anuradha Kapur, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2006 in Implicit Religion: 11.3, 2008, pp. 331-332.
  • 2. Sacred to Profane: Writings on Worship and Performance, edited by Anjum Katyal, Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2006 in Implicit Religion: 11.3, 2008, pp. 332-335.
  • 3. GirlTalk/GodTalk, by Joyce Ann Mercer, San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2008, for Implicit Religion in Implicit Religion, 2009. 
  • 4. Popular Spiritualities: the Politics of Contemporary Enchantment, edited by Lynne Hume and Kathleen McPhillips, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006 in Implicit Religion: 12.3, 2009, pp. 349-50.
  • 5. Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century, by Craig Detweiler, Grands Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2008 in Theological Book Review: vol. 22.2, 2011.
  • 6. Reading Spiritualities: Constructing and Representing the Sacred, by Dawn Llewellyn and Deborah F. Sawyer, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008 in Theological Book Review: vol. 22.2, 2011.
  • 7.Things Done Change: The Cultural Politics of Recent Black Artists in Britain, by Eddie Chambers, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012 in Visual Culture in Britain, vol. 14.3, 2013, pp. 386-7.
  • 8. How to use Type by Lindsey Marshall and Lester Meachem, London: Laurence King Publishers, 2012 in Visual Communication, vol, 13.1, 2014, pp. 115-117.
  • 9. The Religious Life of Dress: Global Fashion and Faith, by Lynne Hume, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013 in Implicit Religion, 2014.
  • 10. A-Z of Spirituality, by Steve Nolan and Margaret Holloway, Basingstoke: Palgrave on Centre for Spirituality Studies, University of Hull website, 2014. http://www2.hull.ac.uk/fass/centre-spirituality-studies/book-reviews/review-a-z-spirituality.aspx.
  • 11. Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present, by Eddie Chambers, I.B. Tauris: London, 2014 in Art History, June, 2015.
  • 12. The Lyre of Orpheus: Popular Music, the Sacred, and the Profane, by Chris Partridge, OUP: Oxford, 2013 in Theology and Literature, 2015, pp. 1-3.
  • 13. Design and Truth, by Robert Grudin, Yale University Press: New Haven, 2011 in Implicit Religion, 2015 (forthcoming).

Further information

Conference Papers

  • Paper: Representation and Tokenism in the New Art History, Conference – ‘After the New Art History’, University of Birmingham, March 26-27 2012.
  • Paper: The a-theology of Francis Bacon, ASCHA, MOBiA, New York, February 8 2011
  • Paper: Axiological issues in Schwitters, Conference on Schwitters and appropriation, Chester University, June 10-11 2009.
  • Paper: The Religious Hangover of Bacon, Denton Conference on Implicit Religion at Denton Hall, Ilkey, May 8-10 2009.
  • Paper: Consecrating the body: the sacred and the profane in performance art, Conference on Sacred Space, Liverpool Hope University, September 16th 2009.
  • Paper: The Implicit Religiosity of Compulsive Buying, Denton Conference on Implicit Religion at Denton Hall, Ilkey, May 9-11 2008.
  • Paper: Levels of Reality in Surrealism, Conference on Altered States at St. Deniol’s College, Harwarden, February 1-3 2008.
  • Paper: A comparison of Ballard’s Crash and the dolls of Hans Bellmer, Conference on J. G. Ballard, University of East Anglia, May 5-7 2007.
  • Paper: Time, Motion and Disintegration in Bacon, Conference, ‘Repeat, Repeat’, Chester University, April 19-20 2007.
  • Paper: Atheology in Bacon and Bataille, Conference on Georges Bataille, Newham College, Cambridge, April 2006.
  • Paper: The Importance of Transgression in Culture, Conference on Ethics, University of York, October 2002.
  • Paper: Transformation in the art of Francis Bacon, Conference on Magic, University of Glasgow, June 2002.
  • Paper: The Annihilation of vision and Identity in Bataille, Conference on Desire, University of Essex, June 2002.
  • Paper: Violence and death in the Sacred, Conference on Theology, University of Edinburgh, May 2002.
  • Paper: Death and Desire in Religion, Conference on Dangerous Sex, University of Glasgow, April 2002.
  • Paper: Fragmentation in Bellmer and The Bacchae, Conference on Religious Studies, University of St Andrews, June 2001.
  • Paper: The Papal Image in painting, Conference on Postmodernism and Spirituality, University of Central Lancashire, March 2001.

Invited Talks

  • October 27th 2012. The 30th anniversary of the BLK group. Paper: TBC.
  • May 10th 2012. University of Glasgow, Centre of Literature, Theology and Arts. Paper: Contemplations of the spiritual in Western Art.
  • January 19th 2011.  University of Leeds, Department of Theology. Paper: Violence and the Sacred.
  • October 13th 2010.  Leicester University, School of Management. Paper: The Phenomenology of the Awayday.
  • March 17th 2010. Liverpool Hope University, Department of Theology, Religious Studies and Philosophy.  Paper: Fieldwork in Religion.
  • February 20th, 2010.  Tate Britain.  Symposium on The Contemporary Sublime.  Paper: Bill Viola, new media and the contemporary sublime.
  • January 27th, 2010.  Essex University.  Paper: The Mind-Body Problem.
  • May 20th, 2009. Leicester University, Department of the History of Art and Film.  Paper: Anti-narrative gestures in Bacon.
  • March 19th , 2009. The Arnolfini, Bristol.  Paper: Remaking the Body in Bacon.
  • January 21st, 2009. Reading University, Department of the History of Art.  Paper: An analysis of Bacon’s theories of motion through Bergson’s theories of time.
  • October 14th, 2008. The Grosvenor Museum, Chester.  Paper: Francis Bacon’s art of distortion.

Dr Rina Arya is Director of Studies for the following PhD students:

  • Carol Meachem,
  • Clive Moore,
  • Sara Saeidlou,
  • Daniel Somerville.