Temenos 3: Into loss

This is the third image in the series of Temenos paintings. The introduction to this sequence of work can be found here.

A woman walks alone through the subterranean passageway of loss. The fractured halo of grief around her head. There are many gateways into sacred space, the liminal place where we are changed in the deepest parts of our being, but the threshold of loss is the most painful to undergo.

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A piece of our life disappears, a person, a relationship, a home, a job; and we are left reeling at the consequences. Even years later the grief can resonate through anniversaries or objects discovered that uncover the concealed pain.

Many years ago, during the summer after I finished at university I spent some weeks interrailing around Europe with a good friend. It was the days before the ubiquity of the internet and smartphones were still a sci-fi dream so we relied on paper maps, a chunky European rail timetable and the goodwill of people we met en route. Ever the time optimist I hoped to see the major sights of Europe over 3 short weeks and so we attempted to do Paris in a day: ridiculous in retrospect. Our plan was to use le metro and pop up at salient locations to experience the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and so on before dropping down underground to speed between the various tourist spots to emerge once more into the light. It was a curiously dislocating experience.

Moving through the earth with no sense of direction or distance or time before bursting into the day above it was hard to discern how these places connected and related to each other. Only time and wandering in the light would have enabled us to join the dots of these disconnected spaces.

So to emerge from the tunnel of loss is such a disconcerting experience. A piece of who we thought we were has gone forever. We are in unknown territory and there is a sense of disconnection between who we were and who we have become through the process of loss. Perhaps wandering for some time in the light will help us pick up the thread of our identity, perhaps we will never find it and the sense of loss is compounded so that this is not only a loss of that which we we grieve for but also a loss of the very idea of who we are. We emerge from the tunnel blinking and bewildered with tears in our eyes.

This experience of loss is at the heart of the story of Jesus. He gives everything and then, hanging in the bright sun, he shouts out with the ultimate crisis of faith and identity, “my God why have you forsaken me?”. He gave everything of himself and at the end experiences a deep dark absence. A void that his friends entered into, having centred their whole lives and their whole sense of self around trusting in Jesus they experience all of that ripped from them in his death.

In this cold lonely tunnel beneath the earth there are no comforting words to help. That fractured halo of grief splinters and cuts us. Broken glass to the heart.

Keep going.


The full set of Temenos paintings along with accompanying poems by Ian Adams are available to exhibit from September 2017. We are now taking bookings from those interested in showing the work in a public venue and simply ask that transport costs are covered. In addition an artist’s talk, poetry evening and/or led meditations that engage with the work can also be arranged.

For more information contact rjstott@hotmail.co.uk


2 thoughts on “Temenos 3: Into loss

  1. Spending time with this image it strikes me that the only way is forward, even if it is forward to an uncertain future, and that most of us will spend at least some of our lives walking such tunnels, if nothing else we can know that not only Jesus, but other pilgrims have walked this way with groans, sighs and despair…
    The encouragement to keep going is a much needed one. Thank you

  2. Mary Mccabe
    9 September 2017, 08:18
    This is a long response as fits where Ive been recently, but also seems poignant, as I’m writing it whilst waiting to enter an MRI tunnel and am wondering how long it will last and what will emerge. I can also relate to that sense of being in underground train tunnels, feeling lost while the rest of the world seems to know where it’s going and being so weighed down with luggage and the weairiness of travel, that I lost hope of what seemed like neverending passages of time or or having to face haven taken a wrong exit and needing to re-enter the tunnel again. This returning back and forth into tunnels, reminds me of the harsh reality that loss isn’t a one off event, but it remerges throughout our journey of life.

    What struck me initially though was a play on words of ‘loss’ and its connection with feeling ‘lost’, of not knowing where you are going anymore, which I’d not made before. It reminds me of Kobhler Ross’ observed stages of grief -of disbelief, denial and shock and a disconnection with reality in the state of despair, where there can be total feelings of detachment from life and hope. You alude to when you mention a disconnection or disorientation as you emerge into the light, symbolised by the broken halo. Also, the girl who seemingly appears very normal and insignificant and getting in with everyday life, is infact covered by this broken halo and reminds me we can often not realise the extent of loss that others maybe carrying, as its not always visible to those around.

    On a more personal note I can relate to that sense of loss of identity when all hopes and dreams were smashed – of children not born or conceived, of a failed business or work venture, of friends not healed but who died, of people trusted who left and of a church not accepting of all.

    But hardest of all is the seeming loss of faith and ability to find God in the midst of renching pain and loss, when all that you’ve built you life on is ripped away and you don’t know who you are anymore and what you believed in or stood was shaken. Where its no longer possible to go through the shadow of death knowing God with you, because he seems so distant or you are so blinded by your loss.

    Here I can identify with what you’ve previously called the ‘Easter Saturday’ for the disciples. By reframing it as a road to deepening of faith is liberating – to discover instead of loosing my faith, that I am going deeper and that when all is striped away something new can emerge and the hope of the resurrection remains, is extremely encouraging. Thanks Ric.

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