Paintings and prayers have a life of their own

Sending a painting out is an act of faith. From the sanctuary of the studio where I pour creative energy into a piece of work I feel the gut wrench of releasing something precious and personal to the vagaries of the world. But when I find the courage to do this the work takes on a life of its own, it is no longer mine to control and as a painting travels through the world they often leave a wake behind them, things churned up for good or ill, spreading out to the horizon.

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These two images were made a couple of years ago when I shared in a day event with an organisation called Changing Attitude. CA is a group in the Church of England who seek the wellbeing and liberation of LGBTI people. Rarely have I met a more open, loving and vibrant group of Christians. We gathered in a beautiful Anglican Church and I worked throughout the day as an artist in residence. These two pieces, one taken from a drawing I made of a statue of Mary with her child and one of a drawing of a crucifix in the church, were for me the embodiment of the faith, prayers and worship I experienced on that day. They emerged from that amazing community of people.

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Over the last few days the Anglican Church has been in turmoil over questions about the inclusion of LGBTI people in its life and ministry. As an outsider looking in it isn’t for me to pontificate on Anglican machinations but I do see and hear of the deep pain that the Church is causing to LGBTI people across the world because of its current way of being. And so it seemed right to offer these images again as a sacrament of the prayers of faithful LGBTI people, a prayer that offers solidarity with those who suffer and also hope that the world can one day be different, a longing for a time of liberation and justice.

I never know what’s going to happen when I send an image out into the world and I never know what’s going to happen when I send a prayer out into the world. Both have an energy, both make a change, both leave that churned up wake in their path. And now I find that these images have been tweeted around the world to hundreds of people and my friend Sally has taken one down to Canterbury to enable conversation with people around the primates meeting.

Sally says of one person she encountered ‘They looked at my poster and said “well Sally, we do agree on your biblical quote” but were speechless in response to Richard’s crucified Christ.’ I’m happy for my work to render them speechless.

It’s a tiny thing, the tiniest fragment in the face of overwhelming injustice. But offered in faith in the Creator God and offered as a gift that is not for us to control or dictate an outcome then I believe that tiny things like prayers and paintings can spread out and change the world.

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