On day 2 of the ‘Art, Faith and Mission’ intensive lead by Rev Ric Stott, we were asked to take some materials out into the environment and let that inspire us to create something. The whole idea was to let the environment say something to us that only that place could.
As I was walking down the road I stopped by this telephone box. The first thing that I noticed was that the window pane was smashed. The second thing that I noticed was the sticker on the back wall that said ‘Call The Sun’. I’m not sure what quite stuck me about this whole thing, but it was almost as if the person had smashed the window in order to reveal what was in the back. The wordplay between Sun and Son also struck me. Shouldn’t the sticker read something like ‘Call your son’. The Sun of course could mean the newspaper, but it’s difficult to tell. Inside the box there was rubbish and leaves in a big puddle. The poor telephone box felt forgotten and unloved.
My first idea was to have something over this broken pane with a ‘peep window’ that would let you look inside, so you could see the sticker. I realised only then that I forgot to take any tape with me, so that wouldn’t really be possible. I still decided to take the middle out of the paper, then I held it against the back wall of the telephone box and just started to draw on it.
It wanted it to feel like it went on further, as if the back of the telephone box was also broken. I did the rays coming out from the words and then did the darker frame which was supposed to represent another thing that had been broken. As I started highlighting the ‘glass’ in white I thought of the sudo-beatitude ‘Blessed are the cracked, for they let in light.’ Thats what the broken window felt like. It felt like it was drawing you into see what was on the back wall. It felt like it was broken in order so that the light would shine through it and illuminate the words.
Thinking about these words, I knew that I wanted them represented in some way. I am constantly watercoloring scripture or famous quotes, but without watercolours I was a bit lost. My original idea was to write the words on the already existing paper I was working on. I quickly dismissed this idea because I didn’t want to ruin it. (This probably says something about me.) So I wrote it on a bit of paper. Luckily by this point I had found some small sticky notes, that I used to stick the paper to the wall. But stepping back and looking at it, it didn’t seem quite right. The words overshadowed the image I had created. I liked the way it all drew you in, but the quote detracted from the image which was what I wanted the focus to be on. Also it frustrated me that I couldn’t do my best calligraphy with mediums I am completely unfamiliar with.
So I ended up rewriting it several times before I was happy. I realised I was putting too much effort in just trying to make the work look pretty. The whole point was to make the words speak for themselves. So I decided to put the words on the front of the telephone box so that it drew people in. The whole process of doing art inside a telephone box was also interesting. In a way it gave me a protective little box to work in without noticing how many cars were going past. (Even if it was slightly waterlogged, and I did drop my chalks/charcoal into the water. )
Thinking about it theologically I think that for anyone walking by they might not think about God. Although the words might conjure up some image of the sermon on the mount for people who know it. I think anyone can take from it what they want. That is the point of art I think. At least I think thats what the point of the exercise was. When we put art into the world, whether secular or spiritual it will mean different things depending on who sees it.
Reflecting on it now I still am not sure what that whole process meant. All I know is that I followed whatever I felt the Spirit was urging me to do.This was much outside my normal artist comfort zone. For one I normally keep all my art for myself, and very rarely let people see it. So to leave this in this space felt weird, yet right to me.
Much of the credit I owe to Rev Ric Stott. Partly for the ‘task’ of going out there and creating something and partly for giving me the supplies which let me do it.
Peace and Joy.