Holiness & Justice 1: Called to make a difference

This is the first of a series of 7 paintings I have made for Methodist Conference 2016, an introduction to the series can be found here.

H&J 1 High Res

Before I began in my first station as a Methodist minister I travelled to the Northernmost tip of Europe. I sat in the endless summer sun, way above the Arctic Circle amidst the tundra and looked out North across the Barents Sea. The air was still and pure as midnight approached and the sun drifted gently down to touch the horizon before rising again in the same instant.

From the top of the cliff I realised that all there was in front of me was the smooth, cold sea, then ice, then the North Pole, then oblivion. It was a moment of peace and clarity. Behind me lay the whole wide world, almost every other soul on Earth, with their noise, pain and clamouring need. As I thought of all that going home entailed my prayer was simple: “Why can’t I just stay here?”

And yet, strong as that desire was, I felt the call back. Back into the complex and wonderful world behind me where joy and sorrow intertwine. Back to a world that was far from pristine, a world who’s dirt made it real. I was called from the place of stillness to re-engage, in a deeper way.

In recent months it feels as if the pain of the world has never been more real. Here in the UK there is an increase in racially motivated attacks by a far right emboldened by the recent referendum result, a bomb explodes at Istanbul airport, latinx and other members of the LGBT community are targeted and gunned down in a night club in Orlando, and on and on. These days I can feel the hope drain from my bones. As a white cis-man living in a western country my privilege shields me from the worst (although as a gay person the news of homophobic attacks provoke fear as well as sorrow), but for some reading this the horrors may well be much more immanent. There is a strong temptation to run back to that pristine tundra, to disengage because the sum of the pain is too much to bear.

This painting is based on an image of Sophie Scholl, a political activist in Nazi Germany. In 1943 her work of non-violent resistance against the government led to her execution by guillotine at the age of 21. Here she is: still, strong and resolute.

I wonder what happens when you find a place of stillness. What cries do you hear from outside or within? Do you ignore them and try to drown them out with all the noisy media so easily at hand or do you turn to face them?

For me when I’m in that still quiet place, I find that choice. And even as hope ebbs away there is still an incessant call that is gentle and truthful that beckons me to re-engage once more. There is no romantic heroism here and the costs may be very high indeed. But each day, in our waiting or going, in our action or inaction; we choose.

H&J 2 High res detail



A limited edition series of A3 size high quality art prints of these are available for purchase signed by the artist. All profits from the sale of prints will go towards funding the creative at 35 Chapel Walk, Sheffield.

Prices: £30 per print or £200 for the full set of 7. This is a strictly limited edition of 25 prints for each painting.

If you are interested in purchasing prints then please email me: rjstott@hotmail.co.uk

In addition the framed original paintings are for sale at £425 each.

All views on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Methodist


Holiness & Justice: A series of 7 paintings for the Methodist Conference 2016

Earlier this year I was approached by the President and Vice President elect of the Methodist Church here in the UK to produce a series of paintings for our annual conference on the theme of “Holiness and Justice”.


I was keen to make some paintings that didn’t just attempt to illustrate a series of concepts but that tried to evoke and challenge feelings and ideas from within the viewer. Rather than attempting to tell the viewer something and persuade them to a particular way of thinking (which would just be propaganda) I seek to enable the viewer to take responsibility for their own ideas and experiences and for the way we live in the world.

For me, painting in this way is doing theology without words. So often the church drowns in words, as we try to say things about God.  Words are clumsy tools as we attempt to grasp the transcendent.

So with this work the onus is on the viewer to work through their own experience of God (or absence of God) to provoke an experience deeper than the rational, wordy stuff that goes on in our heads.

For each of the seven paintings I’ve used watercolour and spray paint. There’s a tension between these two mediums. Watercolour: soft, capricious and luminous, with connotations of classical and respectable art. Spray paint: harsh and oily, dense and heavy as it resonates with the subversive and illicit nature of street art. It was certainly a challenge bringing the two together. Spending a day or so on a watercolour image as I gently coaxing it’s flow and glowing colours followed by a decisive moment: laying a stencil over the image and then one bold spray of dark, sticky paint from which there would be no going back. It was remarkable to see the meaning of each painting change in an instant as I overlaid the stencil image. And so, in each of the finished paintings these two images are in dialogue with each other, sometimes in tension, sometimes pulling in the same direction. In that dialogue the viewer can find our meanings.

The theme of holiness and justice, whilst perhaps couched in language that would not be commonly used outside the church, is a vital one. For me this is about how our internal experience (which for me I would describe as a spiritual experience of God, rooted in the life of Jesus Christ) relates to the way we live in and interact with the world. It’s all very well sitting and praying and having a heart strangely warmed by a spiritual experience but this becomes self indulgent if that moment doesn’t catapult us out into the world to live and work for justice and peace. In the other direction, if we live for justice and peace, what is it that sustains us on this hard and often lonely road? Without spaces to stop, wait and breathe we will quickly burn out. And so the two elements of holiness and justice intertwine and speak to each other. It is my hope that these paintings go a small way to enabling people to reflect on how this is played out in our own lives.

The original paintings will be on display at the Methodist Conference 30thJune-7th July in Westminster Central Hall. I will be posting one image a day on this blog with some thoughts about each piece throughout the week.

H&J 7 High Res detail


All views on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Methodist Church