Process and Pilgrimage - article in Retreats Journal
Art has a vital role to play in communicating faith and enriching the faith journey. An image can inspire, challenge and comfort. It is visual theology. In my teaching and lecturing work, I find that working with images, as much as making them, leads many to fresh insights. For example, each of the many thousands of representations of Christ upon the cross opens up a particular way of understanding its meaning.
Some people read the central part of the composition in Ecstasis (which can be found on the Gallery Shop) as a Christ-like figure. This is not entirely intentional, but more of a happy accident. The image evolved gradually, as my work often does. I seldom start with a fixed idea which I then seek to represent on paper. More often, I simply begin with an intuition and motivation, from which the picture slowly emerges. In this image, I was aware of wanting to evoke something of creation, of the Spirit hovering, the flame of passion and energy; also of wanting to suggest the flow and swirl of life-giving water, springing from, or being absorbed by, the earth. It is the latter that seems like a figure with arms outstretched, perhaps in an act of sacrifice, yet maybe an open embrace, or simply out of irrepressible joy. Behind all these elements are spheres reminiscent of space beyond our own world.
The colours chosen are strong and uncomplicated. Each blends into the next in the unique way that soft pastels have of responding to the touch of a fingertip, blurring the edges and allowing each part of the picture to feel as though it is a part of the whole, rather than separated by hard boundaries.
All my work has the ultimate aim of witnessing to the reality of faith, though not all the images are necessarily ‘religious’ in theme. Some of my imagined landscapes I hope to be ‘charged with the Grandeur of God’. Other images are drawn from remembered thoughts and experiences. These often seem to speak to others, maybe bringing their own memories to mind.
I have greatly valued my own experience of retreat. Sometimes I have gone with the express intention of making creative work, knowing that a place free from any associations will bring fresh ideas to the fore. At other times, I have taken retreats simply to take time out to notice God’s work in my life. All I can then expect is the unexpected: God has a way of always taking me by surprise. There have been occasions when I have begun a retreat full of apprehension and anxiety, but I have never come away with anything less than the absolute assurance that I am loved. If I could bring a fraction of that assurance to others through my work then I would be well satisfied.