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The Birmingham Trinity


Last week involved a lot of travel, but it was travel to make art and make it with other people so it was all good.

Firstly, I attended the Breakout Pioneer Conference. I’d been asked fairly last minute to contribute something creative so came up with an idea for creating art and collages based on people’s dreams and on what they might hear God whispering to them as they opened themselves artistically. I asked people to go out and sketch and keep in mind the question ‘what is the infinite that God wants me to see?’ as they drew inspiration from the ordinary stuff around them. Then asked people to make collages from what they brought back. There were some lovely pieces.

Some of them look like Matisse could have made them 🙂

I travelled on to another gathering – the New Parish Conference, this time in Birmingham. It took place at St Martins in the Bullring, a beautiful historic building right next to some of the most contemporary architecture in the Bullring shopping centre, with the Rag Market to its opposite side.

I took two groups out into the city, again to sketch, to listen and to observe and created with them some of the same small collages. I used the themes we’d all picked up on, and some of the pieces of artwork to collage into a larger piece, very roughly based on Rublev’s Trinity icon.

The icon is said to represent the Trinity, the three angels being those who visited Abraham. As I walked round Birmingham, I had a sense of being a guest there, at one moment isolated, then next welcomed by the city. I felt as Abraham did, being invited to take a place at the fourth side of the table and commune with God in that context, a welcome wariness. There are bits and pieces of Birmingham in the picture, probably some actual dirt from the streets – as we took texture rubbings from the pavements and walls, and in the repeating patterns. You may recognise the circles as the pattern on the Selfridges building which dominates that part of the city, reflected everywhere in windows and street furniture. Then just round the corner is a bit that’s frightening at night – as overheard by one of our artists.

I kept to a palette of greys, with the occasional point of bright colour, as we had observed in the city itself. It’s deliberately half realist, half abstract, because that’s a style I’ve been reaching for as an artist, it’s something I appreciate in others work and want to reproduce myself. The realism gives you a hook to understand it and the abstraction sets you free. I want to create a balance between the two.

The painting as above is pretty much how I left it at the end of the conference but I wasn’t really finished – I’d simply run out of time! There’s not much left to do, but a couple of details to add and finishing touches to make. It’s nearly there – enough to be able to show you all.

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