Open Art” Open Studio – Jenny Meehan 

Date:  13th December

Time 2pm til 6pm

This is not a selling event, just an opportunity to come along and see some of the paintings I am working on at the moment.

Please RSVP if you plan to come along, as space is limited.

Tea, Coffee and biscuits provided.

Cntact me via my website contact form  www.jamartlondon.com 

 

We have just taken this down, but it went down very well, and got positive feedback.

 

“All Saints Church North Aisle Exhibition

Nataliya Zozulya has kindly curated a small
exhibition of varied work  by  invited artists
who participated in the “Angel Project”, in the
North Aisle of All Saints Church in Kingston.

The exhibition runs from 11th November until
25th November 2014 and can be viewed at all
times when the Church is open.

Invited artists include Nataliya Zozulya, Jenny Meehan,
Stewart Ganley and Chris Birch who are also members
of KAOS.

Everyone is welcome to come along and have look at the
show, it is situated in the tranquil environment of the
North Aisle and perhaps, while you are there, you may
enjoy a coffee at the cafe in the newly refurbished church .”

north aisle kaos exhibition 2014 all saints kingston

north aisle kaos exhibition 2014 all saints church of england kingston

 

north aisle kaos exhibition2014 all saints church of england kingtons upon thames , kingtston artists open studios group ehibition, jenny meehan, chris birch, nataliya zozulya

north aisle kaos exhibition2014 all saints church of england kingston upon thames

All Saint’s Church in Kingston Upon Thames has  been refurbished and it looks fantastic.  I like particularly the lovely angels on the ceiling which stand out beautifully.   As it is the run up to Christmas, I’d like to share my “Angels Project” design with you.

all saints church angels project design angel abstraction holy holy holy image jenny meehan

all saints church angels project design angel abstraction holy holy holy image jenny meehan

 

Ivon Hitchens

I come back again and again to admire Ivon Hitchens paintings.  They are an education in themselves.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ivon+hitchens&safe=active&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=-pxjVPvNKfK_sQTU6ILgBA&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=643

Surrey  Artist’s Open Studios 2015

I am pleased to say that I will be taking part in the 2015 Surrey Artist’s Open Studios as part of the Kingston Artist’s Open Studios group.   I plan to show some paintings and a few digital prints and though it seems ages away, I know from experience how quickly the time flies, and so invite you to make a note of the Surrey Artist’s Open Studios well ahead of the actual dates, which are from the 6th until the 21st of June 2015.  The weekends I will be participating in are the weekend of the  13th and 14th and the 20th and 21st and I will be part of a group showing in Kingston Upon Thames in Surrey.  If you are interested in joining my mailing list and/or coming along to see not only my work, but that of the six other wonderfully talented artists, then contact me via the contact form on my website www.jamartlondon.com, and I will send you further details about the Surrey Artist’s Open Studio group I am part of nearer the time.  It’s going to be good!

For general information on the Surrey Artist’s Open Studios:

http://www.surreyopenstudios.org.uk/home/visitors/open-studios/

To see my Surrey Artist’s Open Studios Page on the Surrey Artist’s Open Studios Website:

http://www.surreyopenstudios.org.uk/home/visitors/find-a-surrey-artist/artists/?mem_id=993

 

What is Spiritual Direction? – Some Descriptions for Consideration

As I become increasingly interested in various retreating practices, the contemplative way of life, spiritual direction (spiritual mentoring/guiding) as a ministry to others and invest time into researching and experimenting with this increased emphasis in my life, I have endeavoured to try and locate some descriptives/definitions of “spiritual direction”.  When I mention “spiritual direction” most people haven’t heard of the word, and it is an alien term to many people, or at least, it appears so, from my limited experience.  As is the case with so many things in life, sometimes the terminology and and language we use can present blocks to  helping people to gain an understanding of something related to faith. “Spiritual”   and “Director” are two very loaded words, and together, I think, sound rather unattractive!   It’s a shame,  but in response to my aversion to the terminology, I can at least attempt something positive by offering some perspectives on the matter, rather than just my own!  Here is one I find attractive:

“Spiritual guidance is being present in the moment, seeing and honouring the sacred mystery of the soul of another. It is witnessing this mystery and reflecting it back in word, prayer, thought, presence, and action. Spiritual guidance is modelling a deep relationship with the Divine and standing in faith and love with the other as that relationship unfolds. Spiritual guidance is a journey of deep healing and an affirmation of Holiness (wholeness), the Sacred, and the Mystery of all of life.”

Carol A. Fournier, MS, NCC, Interfaith Spiritual Director/Guide, Silver Dove Institute, Williston, Vermont, USA

(Carol A. Fournier.  “A Voice for Compassion and Wisdom:  Reflections on Interfaith Spiritual Direction.” (in publication, VT:2012))

I will continue to add to this strand in the journal every now and again.  I use the journal as my own note taking device, and it’s very handy to skim over on a mobile phone for a quick review of what has caught my attention.  I am not very good at note keeping on paper… Well, I am , but the notes get put on so many different surfaces and put in so many different places that they are impossible to track down!  I have sketchbooks which have become notebooks, random papers which have become folded into leaflet type documents, bookmarks which have become very important ideas records, only to become completely  lost in books which have also become lost!  Because space in our house is in short supply, I am finding that I tend to stuff things in whichever little crevice or nook I can find!

 

Painting

Nice quote:  “The best reason to paint is that there is no reason to paint.”—Keith Haring

Short and sweet, another little viewing of one of my much loved painters:

http://www.cvenard.com/the-painter/

The realisation that quite extreme and loose, free flowing  fragmentation in a painting could be attractive, valuable, beautiful, and interesting has never left me since discovering the paintings by Claude Venard.  I sometimes feel when I am painting with a high level of abstraction and drawing from my subconscious that I am very fortunate to be a painter in the time I am in, where I can look back and constantly locate numerous examples of fine painting with such ease on the internet.  It isn’t the same as seeing the painting in the flesh, but, it does a jolly good job of introducing ideas and approaches.  My London trips are a little less frequent now, because I have decided to spend more time painting and researching (and exercising, in an attempt to trim down my dear body a little more!) but I still look out for interesting exhibitions on a regular basis.

 

John Seed Interviews Sangram Majumdar

This isn’t new, but I have come back to it to mull.  The whole blog posting is a very good read, yet these words from Sangram Majumdar stood out for me in particular:

“The phenomena of Facebook and Twitter, is in line with the exponential nature of how we are able to find information in any form, any time. For me, choosing to be a painter is an intentional decision to work on the other side of this streaming data- the slower and the tangibility of direct human experience. But apart from being anachronistic or foolhardy, I am curious as to how our understanding of our own immediate lives, when slowed to the measure of a heartbeat, compares to our daily intake of virtual experiences. What is real?”

Read the whole blog entry which is titled “A Conversation with Sangram Majumdar” by John Seed

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-seed/sangram-majumdar_b_1344795.html

I’ve been thinking a bit about the contrast between the kind of instant clarity of information available to us now because of the age we live in,  and the contrast between this and the unknown, and un-knowable even…the mystery…much of which we find in the process of painting (and yes, spirituality)…it may be it’s very delight, and freedom.  This thrusting outwards but inwards at the same time.  This venture into experience which is realised, but not fixed in a way which ties it up.  It is a poetic thing, painting.

 

 

Well by the Foot of a Tree by Jenny Meehan, wellbeing mental health art therapy, west dean college, jenny meehan artist female painter semi abstract landscape, colourist expressionist process led landscape painting,

Well by the Foot of a Tree by Jenny Meehan

 

Painting “Road to Recovery/Well by the Foot of a Tree” is an example of some of my earlier painting. It’s oil on primed board.  I haven’t painted on board for a while, but will do so soon, as I like the surface very much!  This painting was one of the two I exhibited at All Saint’s Church in Kingston Upon Thames.   It is titled “Road to Recovery/Well by the Foot of a Tree”  I forgot to put in the more descriptive “Well by the Foot of a Tree” title on the work when it was on display at All Saint’s, so there is a very high chance that those looking at it would not have the faintest idea of what it depicts!  It was painted from a line sketch at West Dean College, so was a combination of imagination and external landscape.  My smaller paintings on board are normally around just £60 – £100.

Wholesome Quote

“Put your own work on view in your home and studio, where you must live with and confront it daily. If your images cannot nourish you and sustain your own interest at length, they are unlikely to be of use to anyone else”  (Coleman, A. D. Depth of Field. University of New Mexico Press, 1998)

Another wholesome quote from A. D Coleman.  I learn a lot from gazing at my work as it hangs in my studio and home space.   Art works need time, and a lot of it, if one is to get out of them something of what one has invested in the creation.   Yes,  I do get tired of them, and they need to be changed often.  However,  I find it helpful to review why I have done something the way I have, and it’s good use of time, as the critical reviewing can take place randomly and regularly.  It is also good to appreciate one’s own work.  There is nothing wrong with this… It’s not a pride thing at all, but a recognition of the purpose of what you have done…it’s value to yourself.   I can look back, for example at the painting above, “Road to Recovery/Well by the Foot of a Tree” and see it’s place in my developing direction artistically in a way which is very helpful…indicating which paths to follow and which to leave alone.   It’s only by constantly confronting your work, with eyes which have changed through time and experience, that you can make it useful to yourself and useful to the unfolding exploration which is the main stay of any artist’s work and even existence.

 

west dean gardens photograph, west dean sussex estate, west dean college garden, black and white garden photographs jenny meehan, foliage landscape photograph meehan

watering system in glass house at west dean gardens near chichester

 

Photographic Imagery – Jenny Meehan 

I love to play around with images.

Meditation

Quote taken from the following website:

http://www.wccm.org/content/what-meditation

“Open to all ways of wisdom but drawing directly from the early Christian teaching John Main summarised the practice in this simple way:

Sit down. Sit still with your back straight. Close your eyes lightly. Then interiorly, silently begin to recite a single word – a prayer word or mantra. We recommend the ancient Christian prayer-word “Maranatha”. Say it as four equal syllables. Breathe normally and give your full attention to the word as you say it, silently, gently, faithfully and above all – simply. The essence of meditation is simplicity. Stay with the same word during the whole meditation and from day to day. Don’t visualise but listen to the word as you say it. Let go of all thoughts (even good thoughts), images and other words. Don’t fight your distractions but let them go by saying your word faithfully, gently and attentively and returning to it immediately that you realise you have stopped saying or it or when your attention is wandering.

Silence means letting go of thoughts. Stillness means letting go of desire. Simplicity means letting go of self-analysis.

Meditate twice a day every day. This daily practice may take you sometime to develop. Be patient. When you give up start again. You will find that a weekly meditation group and a connection with a community may help you develop this discipline and allow the benefits and fruits of meditation to pervade your mind and every aspect of your life in ways that will teach and delight you. John Main said that ‘meditation verifies the truths of your faith in your own experience’

Meditation has the capacity to open up the common ground between all cultures and faiths today. What makes meditation Christian? Firstly the faith with which you meditate – some sense of personal connection with Jesus. Then the historical scriptural and theological tradition in which we meditate.

Another good site to look at:

http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/christian-contemplative-tradition

 

Jenny Meehan is a painter, poet and Christian contemplative  based in East Surrey/South West London.
Her website is www.jamartlondon.com.  (www.jamartlondon.com replaces the older now deceased website http://www.jennymeehan.co.uk)

Jenny Meehan BA Hons (Lit.) PGCE occasionally offers art tuition for individuals or in shared sessions.  Please contact Jenny at j.meehan@tesco.net or through the contact form at www.jamartlondon.com for further details as availability depends on other commitments.    

 Jenny Meehan works mainly with either oils or acrylics  creating both abstract/non-objective paintings  and also semi-abstract work.  She also produces representational/figurative artwork,  mostly using digital photography/image manipulation software, painting and  drawing.  Both original fine paintings and other artwork forms  and affordable photo-mechanically produced prints are available to purchase.  

I now have available selected prints from the “Signs of the Times” series, plus several other groups of photographic and digital imagery, available as poster prints through on my Photobox Gallery.  The Photobox Gallery is a handy facility for enabling people to buy my prints in a quick, easy and affordable way.  The prints I describe as “Poster Prints” because they are not signed and checked by me, but I am very confident about the quality.  They are in fact  A2 and A3 sized laser prints on Fujicolor Crystal Archive Paper (a silver halide colour paper, designed exclusively to produce high-image-quality colour prints on both analogue and digital printers).

Here is the link to my Photobox Gallery:

http://www.photoboxgallery.com/19507

There are other options for different types of printing on the Photobox Gallery, but at the present time I am restricting the distribution of my work over the Photobox Gallery to just A2 and A2 laser prints.   However, if you do want something specific, just contact me with your requirements and I am completely free, (thanks to not limiting these particular images to “limited edition”) to arrange to have prints made to varying specifications and to be signed and numbered.

Enquiries welcome.  I have more artwork than I can display on the internet, so let me know if you are looking for something specific in terms of style, function, or subject matter. 

Jenny Meehan exhibits around the United Kingdom.   To be placed on Jenny Meehan’s  bi-annual  mailing list please email j.meehan@tesco.net requesting to be kept up to date.

Also, you could follow the Jenny Meehan Contemporary Artist’s Journal at WordPress and keep informed that way. 

Note About Following Jenny Meehan Contemporary Artist’s Journal 

I would be very pleased if you would  choose to “follow” the Jenny Meehan Contemporary Artist’s Journal at WordPress and keep informed of what I am up to this way.   Just press  the “follow” button and pop in your email address.  You determine how often you get updates and you don’t need a WordPress account to follow Jenny Meehan Contemporary Artist’s Journal.  

You tube video with examples of photography, drawing and painting

by Jenny Meehan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAXqzMIaF5k

Website Link for jamartlondon:  www.jamartlondon.com 

Digital photography can be viewed on http://www.photographyblog.com/gallery/showgallery.php?cat=500&ppuser=5491

Notice regarding my use of images on my Jenny Meehan Artist’s Journal blog:   I always try and contact the relevant artist if I include images of their work on my blog and make clear the source.  Where images are taken from other websites, I make it my practice to  cite the source and normally include a link to the place where the image was found.  When I include images I do so in the belief that this will not cause commercial harm to the copyright holder. I  believe that this is fair use  and does not infringe copyright.  Images are used in order for me to comment and reference them in relation to my own creative and artistic practice.  When I include extracts of text, I also do so with the understanding that again, this is permissible under the widely accepted fair usage terms with respect to copyright.

Outline of my “Fair Use”  rationale, which is applicable to all images from other sources which I include on this blog:
There is no alternative, public domain or free-copyrighted replacement image available to my knowledge.
Its inclusion in my blog adds significantly to my narrative  because it shows the subject which I want to refer to and relate to my own artistic practice and is necessary in order for me to communicate accurately my observations/critical appraisal/appreciation/educate my readers, in understanding my perspectives on art and life.  Inclusion is for information, education and analysis only. The text discussing the significance of the included  art work is enhanced by inclusion of the image. The image is a low resolution copy of the original work of such low quality that it will not affect potential sales of the art work.

 

My images:  Don’t use them without permission.  Contact me in the first instance.  Please.   If you wish to use them under the “Fair Use” it’s really nice for me to know you have found, like, and wish to comment on them.

Also:

Copyright for all works of art by Jenny Meehan is managed by the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) in the UK. If you wish to licence a work of art by Jenny Meehan, please contact DACS as indicated below:
Design and Artist Copyright Society
33 Old Bethnal Green Road
London E2 6AA
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7336 8811
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7336 8822
email: info@dacs.org.uk
website: http://www.dacs.org.uk

 

Jenny Meehan's Studio Tent for Painting

Jenny Meehan’s Studio Tent for Painting

 

Well, here it is… The Studio Tent…

There are a few too many things in it right now, but appearances can be deceptive, it is ideal for painting in!  It is a little cold right now, so I am tending to use it mostly as a prayer tent rather than painting in it.  Still cold, but the heavenly thing about it is that is is my space.  Our home, much appreciated as it is, and even with the wonderful kitchen extension, still does not give me a room of my own.  So having this space, however small, is heaven on earth, it really is.  The ceiling of the tent is transparent tarpaulin, which lets in loads of light and is perfect.  The tent is situated at the side of the house, so it is fairly sheltered.  The front is completely open (if wished…. currently some tarpaulin hangs there… which means that if I need a very great distance between myself and the painting, then I can easily have it as there is space to move back from the easel.   It can be used for painting on the floor, but when I paint a highly abstracted painting I do tend to work on four at a time in the early stages, and so it is not so good for that.  It will be great in the Spring and the Summer to make more use of it.    I am not too miffed about the lack of warmth..  I have heard many artists in commercial studios, for example Wimbledon Art Studios and the ASC Studios at Hook Road, Kingston,  have reason to complain about the temperature in the Winter being too cold.. Often studio spaces are not in conventional buildings, but have plastic roofs and such like… So I don’t feel deprived in any way at all.

I have, as you can see,  a lovely lamp which currently has some LED solar lights in it.  I also have a few candles and have placed my chimera near to the front of the tent, so I can have a fire if I seek refuge in the Studio Tent one evening!    (Not too close to ignite the tarpaulin, I trust!)  I have seen little camping heaters, but will leave that for now and see how the fire goes… I prefer fire.

I was very pleased with the company who constructed the frame for my studio tent, and so I would like to give them a mention.   I always think good customer service is worth mentioning…http://www.tradersupplies.co.uk/market-stalls-equipment.html

Here is the blurb:

“We are the UK’s largest and most established manufacturer of market stalls and market stall equipment with almost 40 years of manufacturing excellence to our name. An unrivalled knowledge and expertise of the British market industry is built into every single one of our market stall products.

Whether you’re a new market trader or seasoned professional, we have a solution. Whether it’s a traditional counter market stall for over the counter retail, a walk in market stall for ultimate coverage or a special purpose market stall tailored to suit your specific requirements, we have a solution.”  from the website link above.

As you can see they manufacture market stalls.  After much thinking outside the box on my part,  which ranged from adapting sheds to pop up gazebos,  I suddenly realised that the answer to my studio problem was to get a market stall steel frame made, and just like the market stalls, drape this with tarpaulin!  It is perfect for an outdoor studio, very affordable indeed, and very versatile!  It keeps out the rain and lets in the light… which for painting anyway, is all that I need.  It is really strong and well constructed, and  the company could not have been more helpful.  I let them know my specifications and they came up with a basic design for the framework.  I am thinking of having a small extension unit added on to the back of the current one next year… As room for storage.  And maybe a table.

The tarpaulin I used for the top and sides was this very strong yet light tarpaulin:  http://www.tradersupplies.co.uk/clear-mono-tarpaulin-heavy-duty.html

The tarpaulin on the sides is a collection of tarpaulin’s I already possessed… bits and bobs left over from old tents and such like are used for the sides right now.  It makes it look rather ramshackle which I quite like, but you could have a much more tidy appearance if you used new clear tarpaulins.  I like the gathered thin tarpaulins as they have in insulating effect, and it certainly does provide a shelter.   A sheltered place to paint in!  It’s a great combination of an enclosed place but very very light…perfect for making judgements about colours.  Which is my main thing right now.

I have crates to store some paint in, but I will be getting a cool box soon, as I don’t want paints to be ruined by the cold and frost.  I will keep a limited supply in the tent.  I have too many paints to store them all in the tent but plan to use the tent for middle stages of paintings mostly, where a limited colour selection will do.

The Studio tent is 5 foot wide and 8 foot long…and the cost of the frame when I brought it just over a year ago was only £130…. That must be the cheapest artist’s studio around!!!!!  The tarpaulin and other bits didn’t add much onto that.    I am sure there must be lots of painters and other artist-makers around who need a little bit more space to work in but don’t have the money to rent a studio  at the moment.  Artist’s studio space is so expensive, and also has the time limitations of needing to travel to the studio space, which all costs time and money.  I am quite certain that there are many artist-makers who could benefit from my idea of using a market stall as an artist’s studio space, and so I hope sharing my idea here will be useful to someone else.  If you want very cheap studio space, with plenty of light, and have some ground to put it on…then this is the answer.

Last thought on the cheapest Studio ever…You might need to weight it down in case of high winds, but mine is in a sheltered position, and a few large plastic milk cartons filled with water seem to be sufficing!  And welcome the snails in, if they seek shelter!

 

lyrically abstract english modernist painting colourist expressionist, romantic exploratory female artist jenny meehan

another highly abstracted painting….colour is the matter, light is the reason…something like that!

 

Mmmm, this one isn’t far off…

Nice Quote:  “Be sensitive to your sensitive inner capacities to respond to color.” (Nathan Cabot Hale)

Maybe this explains the attraction I have with not painting objects right now…I find the hook of colour alone sufficient to satisfy me!

 

Paintings…

I have a few on the wall and on the floor.

I like my feet…

The floor is wonderfully cool, hence the lack of shoes.

I’ve given up on the hope of painting really BIG paintings.. Around 70 x 50cm suits me OK for now.  It’s a practical matter.  I need to have them up on the wall in order to have plenty of time to contemplate them.  Not possible with larger paintings right now!  Never mind.  Work with what you have.

Interesting read below… Not new, but caused a stir.  From art musings to theological musings…

Note in particular…

” the most basic truth about God’s nature is that He is Love, not wrath and punishment.”  

(text of Dr John’s lent talk is included below.)

The God of Wrath
Lent Talk 2007 by Dr Jeffrey John, dean of St Albans
Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 4 April, repeated Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 April

The instinctive feeling that suffering must be a punishment sent from God seems to lie deep in the human soul – or it does in mine anyway. In my case it may have something to do with the fact that I was brought up in a tradition of Welsh Calvinism which took a pretty firm line on sin and retribution.

In my childhood I also had a naughty great uncle, a man who very uncalvinistically drank and smoked and swore and womanized. He died a happy man, as you might imagine, but at a rather early age, of cirrhosis of the liver. His funeral was the first time he’d been in Chapel since his wedding. But the really memorable thing was the sermon, and the gasp of disbelief as the minister took a text of appalling relevance: Psalm 55, verse 23, “Y pechadur ni chaiff fyw hanner ei ddyddiau”…; “The sinner shall not live out half his days, for thou Lord shalt bring him down to the pit of destruction”.

Well, you know where you are with religion like that; but belief in divine retribution isn’t confined to Welsh Calvinism. Some years ago there was a small earthquake on the island of Crete, which the local bishop promptly declared was God’s punishment on the Cretans for practising contraception. And it’s not so many years ago that some people in the Church of England were seriously wondering whether God had personally hurled a thunderbolt at York Minster in a fit of pique at Bishop David Jenkins’ consecration. It is a pleasing thought in some ways, I admit, but it does leave you with an alarming picture of God if you carry it through.

Even on a personal level we seem to have this instinct that good fortune or bad must somehow depend on how good or bad we have been. Something awful happens and what we do? We look up to heaven and say “What have I done to deserve this? – as though divine rewards and retributions really were immediate and automatic.

Now, as it happens, there is some biblical backing for this instinct. In most of the earlier parts of the Old Testament, the bits that date before the Babylonian exile, this is precisely the way God’s justice works. Sinners are struck down on the spot; Sodom is razed to the ground; whole clans are wiped out for the transgression of a single member, and the people of Israel suffer or prosper in direct proportion with their obedience or disobedience to God. At the personal level, if a man is healthy and happy it means God approves of him, he must have been behaving himself. Bu if he’s poor, ill, luckless, childless, and subject to cirrhosis or earthquakes, then he must be a bad man, God is obviously punishing him.

“The Lord preserves the way of the righteous” says the Psalmist, “But the way of the ungodly shall perish”…. “Once I was young and now I am old” he says, “Yet I never saw the righteous man begging his bread”. I must say I’ve always felt, reading that, that the Psalmist really needed to get out more. Because of course it’s nonsense. The theory doesn’t work, and after the experience of the Exile most of the later Old Testament writers saw very plainly that it doesn’t work; but it remained a persistent theory. And of course a very convenient one, if you happen to be rich, successful and healthy, because it gives you the added bonus of knowing you’re in with God as well. But if you are none of those things, then not only do you have to suffer your misfortunes, you have the added burden of knowing God doesn’t like you either.

There’s a much-ignored passage in Luke’s Gospel that tells us very clearly what Jesus thought about this theory of retribution. The disciples come up to Jesus one day and tell him about two recent events in the Palestinian news. In Galilee Pilate had just staged a massacre of some sectarian Jews who had been holding an illegal sacrifice; he had actually had them burned along with their offerings. And then in Siloam, a suburb of Jerusalem, a tower block had collapsed and killed l8 people. The disciples were very excited about all this and distinctly inclined to gloat. These people had got it in the neck, so they must have deserved it; besides, they had just been to Jerusalem and Galilee with Jesus, and those people had refused to listen. So plainly they had it coming to them. But when Jesus replies, what the disciples get is a wonderful smack in the mouth. “Do you really think the Galileans were worse than anyone else because they suffered? Or do you suppose the people in Siloam were greater sinners than anybody else?

The fact is that throughout the New Testament the primitive theory about the relationship between justice and suffering is turned upside-down. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer. Blessed are the hungry, he said, not the well-fed. Blessed are the poor, not the rich. Blessed are the sick, the miserable, the disreputable, the outcast, the down and out. They are the ones who will get their reward. If anything, a man’s suffering and failure in this life are the sign of God’s special blessing and care for him, not the opposite.

Come to that, how would Jesus himself have fared by the standards of worldly success? He who was the best and most holy of men, who should have been the happiest man alive if the old theory had been correct, turned out to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

And then finally, at the end of it all, he got himself crucified. Crucifixion may or may not be the worst form of torture in the world, but it had a particular theological significance we mustn’t miss. As St Paul explains, crucifixion was the method of execution which, according to the Law, was the special sign of God’s ultimate punishment, his absolute curse: “Cursed be he that hangs upon a tree”. On the cross, says Paul, Jesus took the place of all those who were supposed to be punished according to the Law. “God made him into sin who knew no sin”. “He became a curse for us”.

But hang on – you may well say – what exactly does that mean – ‘Jesus took our place’ ? Does it mean, then, that we are back with a punishing God after all, and that the Cross is somehow to be understood as God’s ultimate punishment for sin?

That’s certainly what I was told in my Calvinistic childhood. The explanation I was given went something like this. God was very angry with us for our sins, and because he is a just God, our sin had to be punished. But instead of punishing us he sent his Son, Jesus, as a substitute to suffer and die in our place. The blood of Jesus paid the price of our sins, and because of him God stopped being angry with us. In other words, Jesus took the rap, and we got forgiven, provided we said we believed in him.

Well, I don’t know about you, but even at the age of ten I thought this explanation was pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical. What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this we’d say they were a monster.

Well, I haven’t changed my mind since. That explanation of the cross just doesn’t work, though sadly it’s one that’s still all too often preached. It just doesn’t make sense to talk about a nice Jesus down here, placating the wrath of a nasty, angry Father God in heaven. Christians believe Jesus is God incarnate. As he said, ‘Whoever sees me has seen the Father’. Jesus is what God is: he is the one who shows us God’s nature. And the most basic truth about God’s nature is that He is Love, not wrath and punishment.

Some Christians go through their lives without grasping this. I recently came across an interview given by an elderly priest who said it wasn’t till he was nearly seventy that he was finally set free from his picture of an angry God.

Fr Robert Llewellyn was nearing retirement when he was appointed as custodian to the shrine of the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich. Until then he’d regularly recited the confession in the prayer book which speaks of God’s “wrath and indignation against us” without a second thought. But Julian’s teachings changed his life, because through her he met a God who didn’t need placating. Instead he says he became “drenched in the love of God”. He realised, as Julian did, that the wrath of God is no more than a human projection, and that for God to be God, he can’t be less merciful and loving than the best of human beings. As Julian wrote,

wrath and friendship are two contraries… For I saw that there is no manner of wrath in God, neither for short time nor for long;—for in sooth, if God be wroth for an instant, we should never have life nor place nor being.

The cross, then, is not about Jesus reconciling an angry God to us; it’s almost the opposite. It’s about a totally loving God, incarnate in Christ, reconciling us to him. On the cross Jesus dies for our sins; the price of our sin is paid; but it is not paid to God but by God. As St paul says, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Because he is Love, God does what Love does: He unites himself with the beloved. He enters his own creation and goes to the bottom line for us. Not sending a substitute to vent his punishment on, but going himself to the bitter end, sharing in the worst of suffering and grief that life can throw at us, and finally sharing our death, so that he can bring us through death to life in him.

There’s a song by Sidney Carter which ironically sums up our misunderstanding of the cross, in the words of the impenitent thief:

It was on a Friday morning when they took me from the
cell,
And I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well
Well: you can blame it on Pilate, you can blame
it on the Jews
You can blame it on the Devil – but it’s God that
I accuse;
It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and
me –
I said to the Carpenter a-hanging on the tree.
Like the impenitent thief, we too can be so fixated on our picture of the punishing God of power we imagine up in heaven, we can’t grasp he’s really down here, bleeding and dying at our side.

The most powerful illustration of this I know comes not from a Christian writer but a Jew, Elie Wiesel, the holocaust survivor and Nobel prize winner, who described his experience of Auschwitz in a famous book called Night. In the face of so much horror and evil many lost their faith; yet for a few it became, paradoxically, a new realisation of God’s closeness to them. In one harrowing passage Wiesel tells how a young boy was punished by the guards for stealing food. He was hanged on piano wire, while all the other prisoners were forced to watch:

For more than half an hour the boy stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony before our eyes. We were all forced to pass in front of him, but not allowed to look down or avert our eyes, on pain of being hanged ourselves. When I passed in front of him, the child’s tongue was still red, his eyes not yet glazed. Behind me a man muttered, ‘Where is your God now’? And I heard a voice within me answer him, ‘Where is he? Here He is. He is hanging here on this gallows’.

For me – if not for Ellie Wiesel – this above all is the meaning of the Cross: that God is one with us in our sufferings, and not just 2000 years ago but through all time.

On the cross God absorbs into himself our falleness and its consequences and offers us a new relationship.
God shows he knows what it’s like to be the loser; God hurts and weeps and bleeds and dies. It’s a mystery we can hardly glimpse, let alone grasp; and if there is an answer to the problem of suffering, perhaps it’s one for the heart, not the reason. Because the answer God’s given is simply himself; to show that, so far from inflicting suffering as a punishment, he bears our griefs and shares our sorrow. From Good Friday on, God is no longer “God up there”, inscrutably allotting rewards and retributions. On the Cross, even more than in the crib, he is Immanuel, God down here, God with us.”

“that God is one with us in our sufferings, and not just 2000 years ago but through all time.”   Surely, yes, this is the heart of the matter.

It’s interesting…that our Creator may be angry, in a sinless way,  (righteous anger…because of evil and the damage it causes) but not punishing…hostile, destructive, and all the other distortions which sometimes happen to us with our sinful natures…anger against what is wrong is more a kind of passion, and a passion to act, and to act IN LOVE.  A motivating force kind of passion.  Not destructive.  It’s a shame that so many of us tend to get caught in a very primitive idea of God…as being some kind of volcano maybe…erupting and destroying anything in its path.  We accuse God of not acting, but deny his work through Christ, in both Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And we, in our natural natures, tend to push God away.   Or maybe we maintain a negative conception of God, forgetting that our Creator has always been able to forgive us, even before the work of the cross, as our Creator God  is eternally forgiving, as the Trinity  is eternally loving.  Oh please,  all I can say for myself, is that I want the work of the Holy Spirit to continue, and bring me to a change of mind and heart, that I will continue to embrace this mysterious yet wonderful God of perfect love.  How amazing it is, that he/she has made himself known through Christ, incarnate.  And we may see the life and spirit of God within us too…flourishing, if we choose to obey.

(ps… re the he/she bit…I find it helpful to remember that the “He” we so often use to refer to God, includes both he and she)

…………………………………..

I wonder if my thoughts on the above will make their way into my painting… Need they?  Should they?  Will they?

The work of an artist,  an artist who is also a Christian, need not profess any conceptual thoughts in itself…It might be taken of evidence of this or that, or understood in many ways,  and I wonder at times, if I start to include some narrative in my painting, what this narrative might be.  I prefer words for narrative.  I prefer to ask people looking at my painting to make their own narrative. Make their own sense of it, if they are open to doing that.  However, I would not discount the possibility of anything happening.  You never know.  I may well look back in time at what I have written and cringe, because my perspective has changed.  And with my interest in Ignatian Spirituality, I might find I want to use my pictorial imagination in my painting a little more!!!! (for it may be that I end up investing more time in dwelling in the biblical narrative).  I may have some interesting ideas that I feel I want to explore in painting and drawing.  At the moment, I prefer to write about these thoughts as I work them out.  I often write poetry, to enjoy that tension of the written and the visual.   To enjoy the slight openings which poetry seems to make in the logical construction of some of my mind!  For now, though, I remain mostly working with non-representational (in the pictorial sense) paintings.  They are challenging to me, and I like this.  They are like climbing a very tricky mountain, because you just don’t know what is going to meet you next, and I like this.  It is only when I look back at them,  I get some idea of what I was meaning and exploring in the process of creating them.  And I like this.  Alot.

Here are some I am working on right now.

summer 2014 jenny meehan painting in progress

summer 2014 jenny meehan painting in progress

 

Summer 2014 is very  nearly finished…I have now left it for some time, before I do any thing else on it.

 

river journey painting in progress jenny meehan

river journey painting in progress jenny meehan

I like this painting above very much as it is…  but for the sake of learning and exploring and experimenting, I will continue with it.  I am particularly aware right now of how my painting has gone into patches of colour and drips and blobs, which is fine, however, I am interested in the linear part of this one.  The need to include it was very strong.  I may well take it back into a more familiar route, however, while I can happily leave it as it is, I want to push on forward.  I might regret this.  I feel though that if I continue, I will open up a few more ways of potentially viewing it, which is hard to resist.

 

Jenny Meehan is a painter, poet, and Christian contemplative  based in East Surrey/South West London. She is a member of Kingston Artist’s Open Studios, Surrey Artist’s Open Studios, Kingston Arts, and Guildford Arts.  Her interest in Christ-centred spirituality and creativity are the main focus of this artist’s journal, which rambles and meanders on, maybe acting as a personal (yet open to view)  note book as much as anything else.  If you read and enjoy it, this would be an added bonus! 

Her website is www.jamartlondon.com.  (www.jamartlondon.com replaces the older now deceased website http://www.jennymeehan.co.uk)

Jenny Meehan BA Hons (Lit.) PGCE also offers art tuition for individuals or in shared sessions.  Please contact Jenny at j.meehan@tesco.net or through the contact form at www.jamartlondon.com for further details as availability depends on other commitments.    Commissions for paintings are also undertaken at affordable prices.

 Jenny Meehan works mainly with either oils or acrylics  creating both abstract/non-objective paintings  and also semi-abstract work.  She also produces representational/figurative artwork,  mostly using digital photography/image manipulation software, painting and  drawing.  Both original fine paintings and other artwork forms  and affordable photo-mechanically produced prints are available to purchase.  

Jenny Meehan exhibits around the United Kingdom.   To be placed on Jenny Meehan’s  bi-annual  mailing list please email j.meehan@tesco.net requesting to be kept up to date.

 

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