“Evangelising the culture” - Resurrection art exhibition

Rene de los Reyes with Inner Turmoil at Farm St
Rene de los Reyes with Inner Turmoil

“Churches which contain beautiful historical art have an understandable tendency to cling on to it and even parishes with little in the way of art have got out of the habit of considering the commission of new art”  explains Mike Quirke, one of the artists behind the Resurrection exhibition which was displayed at the Hurtado Centre and Farm Street Church hall over the last two weekends.

“Exhibitions like this are very important to raise the profile of Christian art in a secular world, and to remind clergy of some of the potential and opportunity to make their churches beautiful with new interpretations of scripture in different media”.

The Resurrection exhibition was organised by the Hurtado Jesuit Centre in collaboration with St Patricks Studios. Thirty artists exhibited over 70 pieces, making it the biggest exhibition of Christian art in London for over a decade. 

John Cook puts finishing touches at Farm Street church hall“It was very noticeable how the exhibition, once installed in the Hurtado Centre hall, completely transformed the room” commented John Cook, one of the exhibitors, “ It was no longer a canteen but a place of contemplation.  It isn’t just about seeing the work, but feeling it as well.”

God is present in the painting

British Jesuit scholastic Rene de los Reyes is one of the exhibitors with three watercolours in the exhibition. "It was my late father who taught me to paint" explained Rene, "I was a very sickly child growing up, I couldn't go out and play sports with my brothers so I developed painting as an activity.  I was doing proper portraits in charcoal at the age of seven, and I started using acrylics and oils at school".

Rene didnt start using watercolours until he joined the Jesuits in Birmingham in 2013.  "Acrylics and oils are too bulky and expensive when you are being sent around the world," he explains "but watercolours are the most difficult medium!"

Rene started using watercolours on the first day of his first Ignatian retreat:  "I did one painting at the end of each day, inspired by my daily meditation.  It became like a colloquy.  But for my second retreat I took a different  approach and painted my first prayer straight way, and during colloquy I would paint on top of the painting, and the second colloquy I painted on top of that.  My spiritual guide was also a painter so we would look at the painting together.  It was amazing to see how God was present in the painting. I paint because God talks to me in this way, in my meditation everything is full of colour and represents God's goodness". 

The painting Inner Turmoil (pictured above) is composed of eight layers of finished work, one on top of the other.  Rene describes how  "in this picture I am struggling to show I am a good person, the raging sea is inside me and trying to engulf me.  If I know I have sinned I know there is someone there to keep me afloat in my struggle."

Spiritual and creative support

John and Mike are artists belonging to St Patrick’s Studios in Wapping. Fr Digby Samuels first invited artists to use the empty school building of St Patrick’s in 2003 with the idea of ‘evangelising the culture’. The studio aims to bring together artists wanting to develop their work in a supportive Catholic Christian setting, and to reach out to the local community and beyond by exhibiting and workshops. It is an ecumenical project – artists coming from a variety of Christian backgrounds and non-faith backgrounds. Currently 12 Christian artists have studio space in the Old School Building at St Patrick’s, creating an environment for mutual spiritual and creative support.

The exhibition continues at Farm Street Church Hall until Sunday 30th April 5.30pm.