These four paintings carry the title 'My Back Yard'. So often we practice 'NIMBYism', being keen to keep certain people at a distance, or not realising how important they are to us. Others are simply not part of our awareness, yet fulfil a vital role. I count myself privileged that those represented through these paintings have been important influences in my life, and that I have been led to recognise the fact.
These paintings relate to Seafarers, homeless people, those who live with impaired intellectual capacity (learning disabilities, dementia), refugees.
A period as a Director of the Sailors' Society (chaplaincy to seafarers around the world) made me aware of our dependence on these folk who sacrifice much of family life etc. to bring 90% of all we consume to the UK by sea.
Working with Solihull Churches Action on Homelessness highlighted the fact that street-sleepers, whose situation challenges us when shopping, are only a small percentage of the issue, with many others in refuges or sofa-surfing. They are all around us and not always 'down and out'.
The pianists are from the L'Arche Community for people with intellectual disabilities and assistants. The scene begs the question, who is guiding who? We all have gifts to give or receive - relationships are always 2-way.
Work with RESTORE in Birmingham and in helping to settle Syrian refugees in Solihull has put faces to the thousands more represented in news bulletins. It is too easy to consider Calais as none of our business.
In these ways I am conscious of the place of these in my life, but continue to be challenged by the teaching and example of Jesus in the light of which I am aware of my failings.
How do I find beauty in this mess of pigment, oil and scribble?
Is it by capturing a memory of this, or another place, in times past - the sun’s warmth, the buzz of insects, the lazy fish gliding too-and-fro, a gentle breeze caught in the willow fronds, the vibrant colours flickering across the water? Not entirely, for you may have passed by too quickly or not have been there at all.
It is not through great measures of planning on my part, as the artist. I am aware how random much is and that I am not well-trained in the study of colour and light. I strongly sense the image is as much a gift to me, as it is to any viewer and my question is ‘How did I do that?'.
Is it natural intuition or does the Spirit move across the waters of my mind - bringing light, life and colour into being - bringing a strange order to the chaos of stroke and smudge - re-creating what the eye perceives and shaping a fresh beauty for others to behold?
I believe so. It is grace!
Two disciples are eager to see if the story of the open tomb of Jesus is true. They discover the grave cloths inside and then return to where they were staying.
It is puzzling that, while we are told that one disciples 'saw and believed', we also learn that they did not understand that Jesus would rise from the dead.
I think that I would expect a similar eagerness to discover what had happened - to discover the risen Jesus and 'put some flesh' on the experience of an empty tomb.
Elsewhere the question is asked of those seeking the body of Jesus 'He is not here. Why do you look for the living among the dead?'
The questions that these incidents leave with me are:
Are we as eager to discover where Jesus is alive today as we are to believe in the empty tomb?
How do we relate faith in an amazing historic event to faith in Jesus who lives today?