Thelma Continues – Contemporary Christian Art – Art and Culture – The role they play in society – Spiritual Direction – Painting “Buried Mother”

December 23, 2014

Thelma Continues

My work on “Thelma” continues.  I have settled with “Thelma” as a way of labelling this work, as the work isn’t just one sculpture, but the whole process…Thelma is the name of the life model, and as I did work from her body, it seems right to honour that by keeping her name.  It is also useful, as Thelma has been lots of things…from a female Bishop (hooray!) to a water goddess… So she is constantly changing.  It’s great… To have found this central form, and to work in a focused way on it, is very beneficial to me right now.  Having had only peeps of the human figure in my paintings  (though it has slipped in; sometimes I have painted over it!), now the female form seems to have arrived, and brown modelling wax is fantastic!  Fantastic to work with.  I love it.

The image here is one which was taken shortly before I had a mould made…  Not all the areas which I filled in are filled in at this point, but mostly.

Der Trommler Michael Sandle  rock drillJacob Epstein, thelma jenny meehan, brown modelling wax human female figure sculpture, war recovery,  near to mould making stage

thelma near to mould making stage

It’s rather rough and untidy…I did continue for a while, but annoyingly cannot find the images which I think I took right before the mould was made!   I will look again.  Her head developed considerably from the one shown above.  Now, at a much later stage, having cast a plaster version, it is very helpful for me to have these earlier image, as I can have them to hand while I further develop the sculpture into different directions.

Here is an image of the back now, in plaster…

jenny meehan sculpture female form, thelma rear view plaster pour

thelma rear view plaster pour

I sense that this is just the beginning of a longer project… And I am interested in how these experiments will relate to my painting, because I am sure they will.  I am struck by how passionate I feel about using both the wax and the plaster.  I am relieved to find more of a focus in terms of subject matter. Plaster is amazing… powder, liquid and solid!  It’s about change…Metamorphosis!   It can take on many forms.  The process of solidification is an exothermic one.  How wonderful to have warmth coming from something which looks so cold!  It releases heat that you can feel during the hardening process. It is hot and cold, dry and wet, liquid and solid. Transformation. Alchemy!  The brown modelling wax is wonderful too!  It’s soft and sticky as it warms against your body heat.

I nearly fell over with surprise on a recent visit to Tate Britain,  for I discovered “Der Trommler” by Michael Sandle.  In the harsh, dark and armoured form, deathly ribs beneath, huge, dark, warlike form; Death, death, death, beat in the silent drum.  Heavy mark.  Wow, what a work.  The dark heavy bronze perfect, in weighty darkness too!  Here it is:

Michael Sandle ‘Der Trommler’, 1985, cast 1987<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
© Michael Sandle

© Michael Sandle

This image is copyright Michael Sandle and was copied and pasted from the Tate website.    I include it here under the terms of fair usage as I need to include it for the purpose of commentary and its use is non-commercial. I have no idea how to contact Michael Sandle for copyright permission directly, but would if I could! (I would actually want to ask an awful lot more than that, as I cannot find much information about “Der Trommler” by Michael Sandle.  I would like to know how it came to be from start to finish!  See my notes on “fair use” at the bottom of this post.  

Straight ran my mind to my black wax woman, and then, I wondered, if she might be, while weak with her broken right arm (of power) some different kind of related figure.  She too has bands, which lie heavy on her frame, but hers, (while I thought when making her), may be defensive, were rather binding and holding type bands, and with their curls, in particular, may be more life-linked and more promising than just armour.  She is now more developed still, and will continue.  She is not as curly as she was, with much more weight having been added, but it is interesting to be reminded:

thelma, early stage jenny meehan

thelma, early stage jenny meehan

Here she was, in her third day… With all the playing with the armature, and though very abstract, she was very carefully measured.  I considered the space as well as the substance of her form, so where there is no material, I still felt the form to be there.  I was very much caught with the idea of flowing water.  So the plaster has done with itself what I tried to do with some paint when experimenting;

thelma front paint view jenny meehan

thelma front paint view jenny meehan

There is something a little more war-like about this ant-headed version, I think!

And the Female Bishop was also a force to be reckoned with!

sculpture celebrating the ordination of women bishops jenny meehan

sculpture celebrating the ordination of women bishops jenny meehan

thelma pulling jenny meehan

thelma pulling jenny meehan

There’s quite a lot of strength, and this version got me thinking very much of wading through deep water, which is something I will develop.  From water coming from above to deep water!  This really is going to give me a lot of room for experimentation!  I wanted to get it cast in bronze but I don’t have the money, as it would cost a few hundred pounds, which is out of my depth, right now!

Thelma’s breasts have changed…Initially they were like this:

thelma breasts wax sculpture jenny meehan

thelma breasts wax sculpture jenny meehan

I was talking to a lady on the course who had had a mastectomy…This must have seeped into my subconscious!  I later felt that the fuller breast, which I kept in a much rounder shape, even when building up the flatter one, felt more like an engorged breast, full of milk.  I am currently evening them out a bit, but the sculpture did have a maternal phase for sure:

thelma mesh mother version jenny meehan

thelma mesh mother version jenny meehan

There are other version images, but I will share another time.  I did work quite intensively on this, so far for about seven days.  And now the plaster will no doubt open up many more days!  I now have a long stint of research ahead of me.

Torso in Metal from The Rock Drill Bronze sculpture by Jacob Epstein, 1913-14

Rock Drill or rather “Torso in Metal from ‘The Rock Drill’”  is also at the Tate:

Sir Jacob Epstein ‘Torso in Metal from ‘The Rock Drill’’, 1913–4<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
© The estate of Sir Jacob Epstein

The image above is copyright the estate of Sir Jacob Epstein.  Bronze sculpture by Jacob Epstein, 1913-14, Tate Britain.  Included for non-commercial purpose of commentary only.   

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.

This may have possibly influenced “Der Trommler”  by  Michael Sandle, I wonder?  Well, I know not, but it certainly makes me feel better about my peculiar sculpture, and the rather alien appearance it has!   That beak like head…In fact, any strange head, is particularly disturbing somehow, and Thelma’s head is something I will be changing quite a bit, though the central line does strike a note of determination, without being the visor-like shield which both the Epstein “Rock Drill” and the Sandle “Der Trommler”   have.   So it may be alien, but it is not as menacing.    Both the Epstein and Sandle also have ribs showing, while with Thelma I felt drawn to the womb/belly area, and in doing so communicate more of a sense of being filled, rather than drained of life/nourishment.

The “Rock Drill” was originally in plaster, and part of a much bigger work which included a rock drill.  There was a reproduction of this made.  When his friend died in the trenches,  the work assumed a painful significance for Epstein, who then separated the head and torso from the rock drill, cast it in bronze, and showed it as an independent sculpture.  See this link:

The soft part in the middle of Torso in Metal from The Rock Drill interests me…Is this unnervingly the embryo of another to come?  Even the soft part has some sinister possibility?

Jonathon Jones wrote ” “Robbed of its legs and towering tripod-drill, with damaged bronze limbs, The Rock Drill becomes a nightmare image of the future as remorseless, unending war. It is more moving than the original, because it is a wounded machine, a human machine.”

So maybe, that soft part,  seen in the torso, could be some soft humanity, some wound, internal? In the torso, the active arm is cut right back…This is the one which included the clenched fist, grasping the top of the drill. Now disabled, it is indeed easier to see the soft form as some vulnerable part, which it is pretty impossible to do when the whole reconstructed “Rock Drill” Sculpture looms before one, I should imagine.  In my own body, the area between my rib cage there is the place I feel most strongly.  It’s a central, primal, emotion area…anger and fear…both, seem to come from there. Well, all emotions seem to be felt there.

 “Epstein in his Rock Drill sees furthest of them (vorticists) all into a cold technological future, dreams most openly of metallic power – and then sees the agony of such a new world in his second version of his great sculpture.”   Jonathon Jones  (The Guardian Tuesday 14 June 2011)

“…unless the events of a life are translated into
significant meanings, then life holds no more revelation than death, and possibly even less”


Contemporary Christian Art

Found this…Will be useful to me:

As I start to think about bringing images and symbols into my painting again, I am taking a process of researching others work/thinking and also reviewing my own.  I have found my interest in Ignation Spirituality very useful indeed both personally, in the form of a regular practice of the Examen, and also in relation to a change of heart in terms of my willingness to use biblical narrative in my visual art.  Attending an Ignation Retreat Day at the Mount Street Jesuit Centre in London brought a renewed willingness to bring my imagination and creativity to play more intimately with my own spiritual understandings and experiences.   So I have a sense in which, after much tension between two pulls…One being the search for a subject matter which I could focus on in a conscious way for an extended period of time and the other being the desire NOT to pin myself down to any particular subject matter in a conscious way…Yeah,  I have a sense that things might just be coming together anyway.

It interestingly doesn’t feel like a change of direction…  It is more a sense of revelation.  Certain things, ie water, brokenness and fragmentation,  rocks, emotional blockages, stasis and fluidity,  the human figure,  birth and death (so fundamental!) and disintergration/devastation in relation to wholeness/transformation… Well, they have always been there.  It’s as if I can just recognise them more clearly as, rather than being piecemeal, and under the surface, they now announce themselves with a louder unity.  I dislike even using words to pin these things down…immediately, I feel “Oh, yeah, “life”  “death”…yeah, well that pretty much covers everything, doesn’t it.  However,  the general expressed in the specific, is maybe something else in it’s generation.  So I shouldn”t worry about repetition.  Searching for some novel new idea or concept may be a thankless quest, maybe even hopeless. Probably.  The ground is rich by virtue of years and years of accumulated matter.  It’s lived and died, and brings life and death again.

Spiritual Mentoring

I  continue my strand on the way that “Spiritual Direction” has been described:

“Spiritual direction can mean different things to different people. Some people understand it to be the art of listening carried out in the context of a trusting relationship. It is when one person is trained to be a competent guide who then “companions” another person, listening to that person’s life story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.”

Rev. Jeffrey S. Gaines, Presbyterian, USA

Quite like that one…the listening part, in particular, is a real skill.  I am rather in awe of the listening skills of my own spiritual mentor and of my therapist!  (I prefer to use “mentor” rather than guide, as I see the guiding/direction part of the interaction as something which comes from within the person, rather than something I do…It is more a matter, to my mind, of encouraging the person to keep by the/and realise, the well which brings most life to them in terms of their spiritual life).  

I am a real newbie in my thinking about spiritual direction, but am enjoying thinking about it, none the less!  I am interested in the way that my own spirituality and creativity interact, and how stepping out  creatively can have such a positive influence on a  sense of significance, meaning and purpose in life.  I have recently been accepted onto the SPIDIR training, which is one day a month training for two years.  I am delighted about this.  SPIDIR is an informal ecumenical Christian network promoting spiritual direction.



santissima trinita 1927 winifred knights female british painter

santissima trinita 1927 winifred knights female british painter

With thanks to Sacha Llewellyn for allowing me to include this image and its accompanying text. Readers may wish to consult the website

‘Tomorrow morning I am going right up into the mountains with a mule and a very beautiful cover & some Anticoli peasants to see a miracle which happens every year, at Valle Pietra, in the Abruzzi’. (Letter from Knights to her Aunt, 1923).

While I have not gone on a pilgrimage, I use walking in my own contemplative practice almost every day.  Since walking the Labyrinth at St John’s Waterloo, I realised that walking, like swimming, is a great way to get my mind into a gear which enables me to think more clearly about things.  It is rather like painting, but with no specific object in mind.  Maybe a painting is like a pilgrimage, in the sense that there is an object at the end of it?  Hopefully, a miracle of some kind!

This lovely painting, shown above,  by Winifred Knights has a lovely “other worldliness” about it, but expressed in the natural landscape.. I do like that combination!

The painting below is mine… Water and flowers tend to go well together, as flowers wilt without water!




Falling Flowers - Jenny Meehan

Falling Flowers – Jenny Meehan

Water Flow and Flowers… Falling Flowers.   That kind of thing.

Art and Culture – The role they play in society interesting article in The Observer by Peter Bazalgette

Peter Bazalgette,  (the Arts Council Chairman), has published an article in The Observer highlighting the role the arts play in society and focusing on the health, wellbeing and educational benefits of culture.  He notes: “Although the arts do not pretend to be a front line health service, we’re coming to understand how they can function very effectively in a complementary role.”

As an artist who sometimes (thankfully not too much!) comes across people who ask me “What’s the point?” of what I focus my time on, or who have simply not spent any time thinking about the value of the arts in society, it is always interesting to find a read like this!

Read the article by Peter Bazalgette in the Observer here:

On the subject of health and well being, one of the paintings that has given to me very much in terms of positive mental massaging is this painting by John Martin which can be found at Tate Britian.  I have gazed at this painting on many occasions:

The romantic in me, enlightened once again!

This is an excellent essay.

Apologies, reader, I am using my Journal as a note taking device… I do this, but it doesn’t make for good reading in itself.  It’s very handy for when I am out and and about, and I want to look back on something I have found and referenced.  Quick, easy, and all held within the long and rambling strand on a single blog!

I am always  keen to make my Jenny Meehan Artist’s Journal blog more concise and not such a large accumulation of pretty much everything I spend time mulling over. (However, I am, of course, unsuccessful in this respect!)  I am a little bit conscious that it might be read (with being on the internet!)…Though please just skim, skim, skim... that is the wonder of reading things on the internet, and the wonder of scrolling down your phone at high speed.  Things have changed.  I don’t really need to worry about oppressing you with detail or not ordering things enough, you can do it so easily yourself!

So, skim over the surface, as you will, dipping in here and there only when caught with particular interest!

Everything nowadays requires a great deal of filtration…because there is so much, too much, to choose from.  This brings a complexity into life which can make it harder to define one’s own path. My journal  helps me narrow down all I come across, at least a little bit.   If you read it, and it serves in some way to provide some interesting routes for your own thinking, then I am well pleased.  If it dissolves into endless ramble, which I know it does from time to time, this is part of the intention.  I am not seeking to craft a resolved structure in my writing, but chase, my endlessly meandering mind, a little bit here and there, attempting to find some kind of light in the never ending darkness!   The question “Where am I going?” is always going to be a bit of a mystery!


Well, it is happening, in it’s normal piecemeal fashion.  I am constantly working on one thing or another… Be it constructing frames for paintings (this is both cheaper than buying frames, and far more satisfying!) or just experimenting with materials.  I’ve found myself in the depths of abstraction once more…  working in that drawing from the subconscious way again, with no pre determined plan at the outset.  I like the surprise of seeing what evolves.  I like not knowing what will be.  I like to meander my way through the painting process and just respond as it happens, sometimes changing my mind.  It’s a great big risk and I love it.   It stretches my out of my comfort zone, which seems to be my main enjoyment.

Buried Mother Oil Painting - Jenny Meehan

Buried Mother Oil Painting – Jenny Meehan

This painting “Buried Mother” ((oil on canvas) started out as a mother and child (flip over to the left in your mind) but became “Buried Mother”.   I’ve just made a frame for it, but haven’t decided quite which colour to paint the frame as yet.  Gosh, I love oil paint.  So forgiving.  It’s quite interesting starting one painting, reacting badly to it, and covering it over!  (always a risk when painting a mother and child for me! ) Maybe it is  cathartic, in some sense, to realise that some image, from memory, might be, quite literally, re-covered!


Well, that’s it for this year, Have a Great Christmas!


Jenny Meehan is a painter and designer based in East Surrey/South West London.
Her website is  ( replaces the older now deceased website

Jenny Meehan BA Hons (Lit.) PGCE also offers art tuition.  Please contact Jenny at or through the contact form at for further details.   

 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.   

Jenny Meehan exhibits around the United Kingdom.   To be placed on Jenny Meehan’s  bi-annual  mailing list please email 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

Website Link for jamartlondon: 

Digital photography can be viewed on

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.


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