Pandemic season has opened up so many possibilities, whilst at the same time closing others. In March 2021, I took part in an individually guided retreat at home. Usually my rhythm is to go away to St Beuno’s in North Wales for a silent retreat. Living in a vicarage, with a daughter at school, silence wasn’t exactly the thing. I had the gift of a retreat director in South Africa, as I journeyed with God.
This meant I was retreating, amidst the chaos and mess of family life, but also amidst all my bits & pieces, my art supplies.
I don’t know about you, but one of the things I struggle with, is that when we talk about God’s love, of everyone being loved and known by God – I find this easier to accept about other people than I do about myself. With myself, I see the mess, I see the chaos, I see the good intentions, I feel the pain. I notice the disconnections, the times I can’t connect with others, the times I disconnect so deeply with myself.
Within my retreat space, my guide invited me to ponder God gazing on me. I found this really hard. So hard, that I did the laundry. I mopped the kitchen floor (that may have been the last time I actually mopped the kitchen floor). I went into full on avoidance mode. It’s really painful. I’m scared to let in that sort of love. I’m scared to be seen, really seen and known.
I was pondering our creation stories, and how we portray creation in art. Often it is with everything ‘just so’. For example Michaelangelo’s painting, with a naked Adam in the world on the left of the painting, with a white background, and human shaped clothed God on the right, surrounded by creatures in the heavens. God is reaching out to Adam.
This is clearly placed colours and forms picture… everything in its place….
In the middle of pandemic, amidst mess, chaos and pain, how does this connect, what does this say about creation.
Alongside looking at this painting, I was also reading Catherine Keller’s work – Face of the deep, which particularly notices the early verses of Genesis, and speaks of a theology of creation out of the deep, out of the chaos (rather than out of nothing.)
I had a play with Keller’s ideas… and used acrylic paint pouring to experiment with them. In pouring, you put all the paints that you want to use into a cup, and then pour the cup of paint onto the canvas – the colours mix and swirl, but not in a way that can easily be controlled. (Video of pouring here)
I continued playing with pouring, and used this method to create a large eye, that is a pink iris. Colours in a cup, tipped onto canvas, colours and beauty revealed, as breath is blown over the surface of the paint.
Tipping the canvas.
This painting, making an eye, out of chaos… an eye that is a representation of God’s eye, gazing on me… on you…
It took me nearly a year, to be able to sit with this image of God’s eye, gazing on me. To accept that God might look at me, in the same way I imagine God looking at others.
Shame runs so deep. The feeling of not being good enough, of not being worthy, of being unlovable, of being different, of not fitting.
It took me a long time, months before eventually I can now sit, letting God’s eye gaze on me, to see me without shame, made as I am.
I wrote on my painting my own rewriting of Genesis 1, with a bit of psalm…
In the beginning, silence, depth, chaos, vibrations, becoming breath. Let there be differences. Deep calls to deep. Sink deep and feel that I am God. Let there be creativity and compassion, diversity and connection, spirituality, joy and paradox. God saw it was good.
My hope… are we willing to let God look at us… look at each other… and allow God to see that we are good.