Pentecost Trinity

Monday 25 May - Friday 27 November 2015

Paintings in this exhibition

Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger version with description:

Exodus

This was a surprising finish just before Christmas, 2014.  It started one day when I was listening to the news.  Bloodshed, bombing, broken promises; I came to the studio and grabbed paint. Then I did my usual painting out of my brushes at the end of any studio day.  Slowly, I began to see the middle shadows as people shapes and I began to see the pillar of light on the left and the pillar of cloud on the right.  The cloud is in a hot yellow sky, filled with fumes of war and injustice.  The light is in a cool blue sky, the shadows of explosion still quite fresh.  A tiny yellow person stands out from the crowd - not a yellow coward, but a luminous figure making a way through it all. The title is not simply the name of the moving out of one thing on to another, it is the Bible epic drama, with the painting including the directional pillar of fire by day and the pillar of cloud by night.

One

This painting began as a surface to paint out my brushes and palette at the end of each studio day.  The more I painted out my brushes, the more human shapes appeared.  One day I noticed that some of the shapes made a single large head and then I realised that this canvas wanted to speak.  As it did, I realised that no matter what colour, shape or size we are, somehow, we are all one.

Padonna

I heard the news of yet another male star able to devastate children’s lives, tragically, repeatedly. I thought, not all men are like that.  This image of a father and child came to mind one morning, and it seemed an easy thing to do; a child on a father’s lap. But it was a struggle to paint.  It wasn’t until all four hands were showing that the relationship felt safe and I could see a larger picture. 

I saw parent and child—mother and child—Madonna.  I realised this was Padonna.  Then the background became classic renaissance Madonna blue.  And that blue had hints of delft pottery and indigo dyes—the patterns and colours of empire imposed into African states, moving people as commodity. I recalled seeing delft pottery in Ghana and seeing Ghanaian basket weaving in North Carolina. I saw the triangle trade and had to paint it.  Empire continues even now, and the fabric frame presented itself in the colour of copper; a colour of commodity routinely removed from the African continent.

This Padonna pair is exuberantly black – a deliberate pointer to the culture of white Jesus imposed on so many.

Bourdeilles Tryptych

This set of canvasses started life in Bourdeilles, the Dordogne in 1996.  After Brian Wren, it was Pete Gray who made me paint again and he who made this mounting.  August 6, 1996 saw us in Perigeux, buying canvas and stretchers, paint and brushes, turpentine and a wonderful white oval plate for a palette.  All was new.  The first images on these canvasses were of summer sunflowers and French cottages, painted while I listened to James and his guitar merging in music.  In the summer of 1999, flowers and cottages gave way to three couples in differing types of relationships.  In 2000, the canvasses whispered a deeper message and reminded me of the classic medieval triptych declaration of the Trinity.  This is my version. Three parts, three dimensions.  Undefined.

That you may have life

Rainbows are huge for me. I love them because I have to find the dark to see them. Placing my back to the light, pursuing the search in the dark clouds, there they are – all the colours in the universe arching in one (or two) shining bows, reminding the dark that it is only vapour.

I tried so often to paint rainbows, finding twee results. This just catches a moment. It is hard to see on this photo, but the painting is mounted on glass, of which you can just see the faint outside edge. The glass mount is just that, glass. See through to whatever, reflecting whatever. The rainbow is the light, the glass almost water.

The title is from the gospel of John, my favourite theologian, who has Jesus say, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.

I wrote about rainbows:

You have to know where the light is

To see the promise

In the dark.

You can catch glimpses,

Without knowing.

If you stare at the dark on those caught times,

You’ll see the coloured promise.

Stare.

Study.

Wonder.

Know the light behind you.

Study its source.

Then,

each time you see the dark,

Drenched in dour and damp gloom,

Look.

With the light behind you.

Courage.

To meet the dark.

“I promise.”

“No more destruction.”

Life.

Light.

Word Becomes Flesh

This began in my new studio on a gift canvas from Luke. As I worked, I saw three persons of the Trinity, imagining the top person Creator, the centre person, Spirit and the one of the edge, the Incarnated One.  But as time went on, I recalled the theologian Carl Rahner’s note that any one of the Trinity could have become The Christ.

I enjoyed watching the female creator with her blond plait, but began to see that she could easily be Spirit Light and the Incarnated One could be female.  I enjoyed working with Spirit as an African Caribbean male with his warmth and energy, yet, as he plays with energy, he could be Creator and that the Incarnated One African Caribbean. As the Jesus figure holds light with no fear he could be Creator, and as an Arab, he could have been Spirit at anytime in Old Testament Prophets.  What we know is that Word becomes flesh.

The heavy damask cloth reminds me of heavy curtains in church alcoves and side chapels.  Under the fabric bounces Trinity symbols, pushing through the traditional church fabric to remind us again and again that there is no fixed way of knowing God.

We Know Only in Part

I started this painting some while ago, collecting the CDs and DVDs we had finished with and couldn’t really be passed on. The top left is an individual canvas, stretched by Luke, the wonderful donor of a bulk of my supplies. That grew in my old studio on its own. The seven independent rectangles are also painted on pieces started by Luke. The center canvas is an enlarged painting of a drawing I did whilst listening to a theological conference on scripture. It was only in my new studio with all the room and light that I realised all of these fit together and indicate ways of knowing. As the Bible book of Romans tells us, in this life, we will only ever know in part.

And it Was Good

I had no idea what this painting would be.  It started from the wood and fabric.  The uprights are 300 year old yew, given by a neighbour whose family, generation by generation, couldn’t bear to throw away the pruning remains.  The cross beams are from my son’s old Futon.  The fabric is fine painter’s canvas.  The colour began when I was painting at an Arts-in-Action event at Oxford Castle in 2007. It was stored unfinished, and emerged again at my studio which looks on to the Oxford canal.

It unfolded through the years, making me think of poetry about the blanket of the sky and the unfolding of the universe.  Suddenly I saw the small Yew branch from the left, which felt a little like a magic wand.  And there it was, a creative act of sorts.  None of us truly know how the universe began or why we are part of it.  Scientists know how, more or less, and early theologians of many faiths tell stories about how it and we came to be.  All we know is that at some time, it was good.  The title comes from our Old Testament Creation stories.

Hear

The world of visual art calls this painting a noisy painting.  The colours jostle each other and fight for attention.  This is the pull of colour.  Hear, particularly, and the rest of the Octave series, relies on the power of colour and its relationship to the human brain in order to say larger and connecting things. 

Every colour on the planet is a mix of three primary colours – red, blue and yellow.  When our brains see one of these colours on its own, our brains are compelled to want to see the other colours which will make up the whole spectrum.  Mixed together, the opposite two primary colours become complementary colours. When we see red, our brains want to see yellow and blue mixed, so green.  When we see blue, our brains want to see red and yellow mixed, so orange, and so it goes.

In Hear, each wide stripe is a primary or complementary colour, but they don’t work from left to right in order.  In each wide stripe is a small stripe of the larger stripe’s complementary colour.  This painting is difficult to see clearly because our eyes keep moving in and out and back and forth.

In the very noise of our own lives, in the noise of our communities, in the noise of our societies, in the noise of our own families, we are simply asked to hear.  We are asked not to shut our ears, but to seek out the important sounds in the midst of the noise.  There is a shock of a white stripe emerging in Hear.  There is peace and light in the midst of any noise, if we hear it. 

Watch

A red, hot, almost dark sunset shows itself to a green figure on a beach.  The sunset could almost be flames, yet the figure stands cooly, hands on hips, one leg bent at the knee.  The figure is peaceful, waiting, watching for what next.  To watch is often to do something very active, or the reverse – being almost still.  This person seems neither, appearing to be completely relaxed in the face of such a remarkable sunset. It’s as if s/he has all the time in the world, watching for whatever will come next.

So often in our lives, we are asked to watch something or someone – a film, a television show, food cooking, the neighbour’s cat, our friend’s child, a rucksack whilst someone pops somewhere else. We can watch with great energy, focussing completely on the film or the TV, watching the boiling food as we watch the timer.  We can watch distractedly, back to our books whilst the rucksack sits on a train chair.  We can watch with annoyance, not sure if the neighbour’s cat will attack the garden.  We can watch with worry, not sure if our friend’s child will be in all right in our care.  Somehow, we don’t quite manage to simple relax and watch, taking in everything in our sight. 

This green figure calls us to a simple and complicated task.  Watch. Pay attention, yet relax.  Take it all in without worry or distraction.  Wonder what is next.  Watch.

Fly

An orange figure flies up out of the blue water.  Water, not sky.  The figure has energy, flying up to the light, the dark shadow of the water below his/her very body. We don’t expect the idea of flying out of water – we expect the idea of swimming.  But somehow, this figure is flying, arms fully out, no water stopping the final emerging to the air above.  This is a confusing notion, this flying out of water, yet it seems no problem to this orange human.

So many times in our lives we feel as if we are under water.  We are certainly overwhelmed by things, by ideas, by other people, by things happening in the country we live in, let alone the things happening in the countries where we may have been born.  We can feel as if we are drowning in difficult times, sinking in debt, covered by worry, surrounded by things which made us feel like we can’t fly at all, but float helplessly in what feels out of our control. 

This warm orange figure encourages us to see that we can fly out of the overwhelming. We don’t need to drown in what we feel we can’t control.  If we lift our arms and look up, we can see outside of what we think holds us in, and begin to see ways out.  Just believing that we can fly out is the beginning of us breathing the air above the water.

Chill

A purple figure sits on top of a cliff edge, welcoming the dawn.  A cliff edge.  S/he is relaxed, taking in the atmosphere, perhaps awed by the light.  The colours are warm to hot, but the title is Chill.  The cliff edge is a scary place, but the title is Chill.  In almost complete opposition to the image, we keep reading the word, Chill.

Scary places, scary moments.  They happen so often.  We may feel that we’re on the edge, seeing too far into the distance without knowing what to make of it all.  We’re too high above, seeing how far we could fall and we make ourselves afraid.  We think ahead of what could go wrong in so many ways, like this person, being able to see so very much from such a frightening place.  We heat ourselves up with worry, tottering on an edge of problem, afraid to look to a warmer place.

Chill.  Simply cool down. Reduce the temperature.  Feel cooled to the core.  On whatever cliff-edge we feel heated by fear, on whatever edge we are confronted, on whatever scary high place we feel afraid we might fall, this person asks us to stop.  See the new day.  Sit a while.  “Chill out.”

Call

A red figure sits at the top of a high forest, light filtering in through the leaves at the very top to the dark closed forest below.  The figure looks relaxed, certainly enough to hold on with only one hand as the other hand cups his/her mouth to call.  This is a high place, yet lush and warm, the trees almost cradling the caller. From such a high place in such a dense forest, it might seem odd to call out and expect to be heard.  But this person expects to be heard – the body is relaxed, not flexed with the effort of yelling. 

Moment after moment, day after day, some of us feel as if we call and no one hears.  We feel far away, tucked up in a space no one could see and our voices aren’t heard.  It can be in our homes, in our families, in our shops, in our streets, anywhere.  Somehow, we don’t feel as if we’re making the kind of noise which will get attention.

This red person says to us – expect to be heard.  Feel strong enough to only hold on with one hand and let the other reach out to make our voices stronger.  Expect that someone will hear.  This red human reminds us that so often we are the ones who tell ourselves that no one will hear us.  Like her/him, we can grow our expectations and believe that our voice will be allowed and heard.  Speak, this figure says.  Expect that someone will hear.

Wait

In a dark purple space sits a yellow person. Settled back, relaxed into what feels like a chair, one foot resting on the other, s/he sits. Waits.  What for?  No idea.  But waits.  There is no sign of the figure doing worrying things – no head on hands, no gripped fists, no clenched knees, no turning of the head to look elsewhere.  In the dark unknown place, the figure sits. Waits.

Oh my, we wait in our lives.  We wait for busses, for trains. We wait for food, for shopping queues to die down.  We wait for news, we wait for packages, we wait for children, we wait for parents, we wait to be seen, we wait to be heard, we wait to go online, we wait to go to bed, we wait until the alarm rings to wake up, we wait until we’re told we don’t have to wait.  We’re told to wait. We wait to be collected. We usually don’t want to wait.  Now is when we’d prefer, not later if it means we wait.  Waiting can be awful. Waiting makes us lose our patience, lose our nerve, lose our energy.

This yellow person in this purple space says Wait.  It is all right.  It can be a time to be relaxed and to enjoy.  The time won’t go any faster, but it can be a good time.  With one foot rested on the other, the person says, let the waiting be an activity in itself.  Wait.  It may just bring peace.

Leap

A blue person.  Red orange and yellow orange flames.  A leap.  Of what?  Who would willingly enter flame?  Is the person jumping? Falling? Flying?  We can’t know. Like other people in this series of paintings, this person is so oddly relaxed.  S/he almost looks like the arms are out in a run to welcome a friend in the distant fog or fire. It doesn’t seem right that there is so much peace in the body and so much power in the fire.  Yet the figure is peaceful and the flames are fierce.

There are days like this. Days when the fires of our lives seem to bristle and flicker and flame around us.  There are days when it seems our families are on fire, our towns ablaze, our cities burning ahead and behind us.  We can be worried and afraid to move, wanting to find a place away from the flame where we feel more safe.

This shockingly peaceful blue person says – Leap.  See the truth of the flame all around you, but go – leap – jump or fall into the life around you.  The fire eventually dies out and you will stand in the ashes, the one person not afraid to see what comes after the fire.  The amount of courage it took this blue person to leap into these flames can’t be seen.  All we can see is that the person did it. Leap. 

Be

This is the last in the Octave series.  Be. It brings the series to a close with a neat sequence of eight.  In Christian circles, eight is a good number – the first day of the week, the day when Jesus met his friends after his death. Many church objects are eight sided, bringing a sense of completeness to otherwise incomplete lives. This painting also completes the colour series, bringing all the colours together.  If all colour is mixed together, the result is either black or white.  Coloured light mixes together to make white light and coloured paints/pencils mix together will make black.  Well, they make black if all the colours are perfect, but they’re not.  So the result of mixing all the colours of paint together is brown.  Here they are – all the colours to make lots of browns.

In Be, the browns remind us of the colours of human beings.  Instead of purple and yellow and orange and green, people are combinations of all colours. Be shows us a variety of human colour, weaving in and out of each other, the ebony and peach and beige and chocolate, not able to be contained in any one box. There are little moments of the pure colours and flashes of gold. 

Be speaks to us of acceptance, of simply being who we are, where we are, with all of our variety. None of us is easy to define, no one of us is only the one who waits, or leaps or calls, or chills, or flies or watches.  We are all made up of everything and have so much more alike than we have different.

Octave ends with the statement:

Hear well, watch peacefully, fly when you think you can’t, chill when you feel worried, call and expect to be heard, wait with attention, leap for all you are worth and in the end, be you.



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