Friday 5 June 2009

Quakers Today, A Good Thing

My day today is shaped by meeting some Quakers at the Friends House in Chichester. Two dignified and gentle elderly Quaker ladies came to my Open Studio Exhibition which was held over two weekends in May, and asked me about Steve and the paintings I want to exhibit of his last days and his death. They came for both weekends, and offered the possible use of their Friends House in Chichester for the proposed exhibition.

My feeling about this is that the Quakers are worthy and admirable people. Their quietness, understanding and peacefulness make the offer of their place of worship for Steve absolutely right. It makes me feel there is something good at work out there in the ether, with my interests at heart.

My Open Studios was a fun and light hearted set up, all my large colourful Ladies on display, flowers and cushions making the atmosphere light and bright. There were Angels in evening dresses on display, flying into the sky; there were finely painted portraits, full of colour and individuality, loaned back from families for the event. In my studio were the witty religious paintings, with a rather quirky sideways take on our Christian story. And lastly a whole wall was given over to the Jesus on the Tube display, and as much information about how jolly and professional I am as could be fitted onto an A4 piece of paper.

And into this Happy Display of Fancy Art came my two Quaker ladies. They had read the sad and deeply personal article in the paper about how I was trying to understand Steve's death through my painting, and wanted to find a venue to exhibit them. Maybe they had expected a more sombre set up, paintings of a gloomy and serious nature, and me in dark clothes speaking in little above a whisper. My Quaker ladies asked me gently if I was the same person, and I said Yes. There was a silence. I asked them if they would like to see the paintings, and they said that they would. So we went through the barely clad and brightly coloured Ladies, past the teenaged Mary and Angel Gabriel, past the Male Madonna to the back of my studio where I had hidden the paintings from the public eye. I felt they were too raw a subject to display without some warning. My two Quaker ladies saw and held these images of a ravaged human body, saw and understood the pain in the artist's hand as she painted her dead lover, and made me feel as if I was doing a right and magnificent thing.

After putting the paintings back and covering them up, I was invited to visit the Friends House in Chichester today at midday. So I am going, and even if nothing comes of this meeting, my two Quaker Ladies have touched me deeply. I am looking forward to today immensly.

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