ABBA AMMA - Improvisations on the Lord’s Prayer book cover
I am delighted that Nicola Slee has chosen to use my painting ‘Restore’ for the cover of her new book ‘ABBA AMMA - Improvisations on the Lord’s Prayer’.
Nicola has worked in theological education for the past 30 years, combining this with a freelance portfolio of writing, retreat work, spiritual direction and consultancy.
The Lord’s Prayer unites Christians of all traditions. It is the first and perhaps only prayer that people learn by heart. However, its patriarchal and kingdom imagery do not resonate universally today. How do we pray the prayer Jesus taught us in ways which are authentic and life-giving?
Nicola’s book, emerging from years of praying the Lord’s Prayer, offers a series of prayers and poems written in response to it. Each prayer uses the address Abba or Amma: Aramaic terms of intimate address to God as father or mother which reflect Jesus’ usage, drawing on the abbas and ammas of the Desert Tradition as well as our own parental relationships.
It aims to integrate our whole human journey into the vocation of being a follower of Jesus. An extended introduction explores why praying the Lord’s Prayer is significant, how it is problematic, and how contemporary theological reinterpretations offer fresh perspective on it.
Above all ‘ABBA AMMA’ inspires me to pray at a time when our world feels very weary and in need of honest prayer.
Books can be purchased from the publisher Canterbury Press.
Printmaking and research
In recent weeks I have been developing colour studies for the ‘Do the Little Things’ map. I am now in the final stages of printing the triangular plates to make the print which will comprise 20 equilateral triangles. The locations of the map will be marked in gold and my hope is that it will tell a story of human connection during the pandemic, whilst offering a broader vision of global interdependence for the future.
Last week I visited Tate Liverpool Tate and spent time looking at Bruce Onobrakpeya’s beautifully tender ‘Fourteen Stations of the Cross’ Linocut prints. The apostles wear Adire prints from the Yoruba region while Roman soldiers are dressed in colonial-era police uniforms. As I embark on the printmaking stage of the ‘Do the Little Things’ map it was inspirational to spend time looking closely at Onobrakpeya’s sensitive and striking prints.
Angel Hand - print for Ukraine
As a small gesture I am joining with other artists via artistssupportpledge.com to help the people of Ukraine during this time of crisis. Throughout March I have been selling limited edition images of ‘Angel Hand’, printed A4 size as giclee prints onto Hannemuehle Photo Rag 188 gsm archive quality paper. Each print is numbered out of 50 and signed and cost £50.00 with free shipping. All profits from sales go to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. To date Artists Support Pledge has raised over £100,000 for Ukraine Support Pledge. ‘Angel Hand’ prints are still available to purchase from our Lever Arts Shop. This image was made some years ago as part of a series of angels’ hands called ‘Watchers and Holy Ones’. Printed as a collograph, the distressed lines and marks within the original print speak of a struggle and pain, as well as witness, as the all seeing eyes stare into the darkness. As I watched helplessly the horrific crisis unfold in Ukraine, this image came to mind during my reflections.
Peace of Wild Things
Becky Morse-Brown (Art Therapist) and I are enjoying preparing a Creative Quiet Day inspired by Wendell Berry’s poem ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ to be held at The Woodbrooke Centre, Birmingham on Friday May 6th.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
‘The Peace of Wild Things’ is a beautiful poem of courage, healing and hope. The day will include a short introduction to the life and work of Wendell Berry (American poet, environmental activist and farmer). There will be opportunities to work in silence, along with time to rest in the wonderfully restorative grounds at The Woodbrooke Centre, which has a walled garden, labyrinth and lake.
The day is now fully booked but if you would like to be updated on future Creative Quiet Days please contact Lever Arts.
‘Connected by a Thread’
This month I am preparing to exhibit a large Cyanoptype that I made during the Pandemic at St Andrew’s Church, Shifnal. It will be the first time that the piece has been seen publicly as I made it at a time when communal spaces were off limits. Chris Thorpe, the vicar there, plans to use the piece during the Good Friday Liturgy.
During the first lockdown I went on daily afternoon walks to Highbury Park near my home in Kings Heath, south Birmingham. Life felt unsettled, destabalised, strange and weird. Normal reference points - the routine of work, the company of friends, trips to the shops were stripped away and I felt vulnerable and reflective. In the words of the musician Nick Cave, written at the start of the first lockdown, ‘Our sudden dislocation has thrown us into a mystery that exists at the edge of tears and revelation, for none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.’
Like many, I found a sense of grounding and reorientation in the immense beauty of the natural world around me. The park which I explored daily had once been part of the estate of Highbury Hall, the Victorian ‘country’ residence of Joseph Chamberlain the politician and Mayor of Birmingham. In a corner of the park a large Southern Magnolia tree shed large, generous leaves that decayed very slowly, rotting down into a gauze of fine veins. These leaves spoke to me of the intense beauty of life, alongside its fragility. Not knowing why, I started to collect them on my walks and soon had hundreds of these delicate, gossamer-thin skeletal leaves.
Later that summer I started creating ‘blueprints’, or cyanotypes, an early photographic process first used by Victorian botanists such as Anna Atkins to record plants. I placed the leaves on to light sensitive paper and exposed them to the sun, creating a photographic impression of the leaves in negative - the veins appearing while out of a deep blue. For this 3 metre high piece I connected the leaves by their central veins and, after experimentation, a simple vertical line of them felt like the right composition. Many of the leaves are hanging upside down, reminiscent of beads of dripping tears. Their delicate latticework of tiny veins also recall the bronchial trees of human lungs. Here is breath struggling, leaves/lungs broken, damaged, half-there….the faltering breath of life.
There is strength in this image too. The connected leaves in negative are, for me, suggestive of the interconnectedness of all life in all its precariousness and fragility. Here is a kind of core, a spine of connected vertebrae, something raw and essential enduring after certainties have been stripped away.
‘Connected by a Thread’ detail
Cyanotype on 410gsm Somerset velvet paper
In recent weeks I have been developing colour studies for a new commission. I will be soon be ready to move on to larger canvases. I am enjoying the gradually lengthening days and increased light levels.
My client loves the colour orange and I have been taking colour references from Strelizia, the glorious South African Bird of Paradise flower.