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Painting With God

January 2021 – British, former L’Arche assistant in the UK
Katharine Hall is now a contemplative Anglican nun in Wales, and also a painter.
Here, Katharine answers the question « What nourishes your inner life? ».

« What nourishes my inner life ? » is a strange question: is there a dichotomy of inner and outer when I am made as one ?

Seeking to nourish my inner life lead me first to L’Arche communities and then to a life of contemplative prayer where my inner and outer life is one: my vocation. I am one with the whole of creation; and because of, and in, Jesus Christ I am one with the Father. There are many things that lead me into the fullness of life, that lead me into a deeper relationship with God. Over the years I have discovered that silence, solitude, the reading of Scripture and participation in the Eucharist are bass notes for me. I have come to these through people; through the sharing of that deep longing to be loved. This has led me to my own cry for love and to share the vulnerability of Jesus, whose life is love.

This led me into dark places. I had no words for the pain I felt. I had no words for my longings. And so I began to paint and to find a different language. I painted with my fingers, using oil pastels. I needed to be physically engaged in this conversation with myself. I responded to my own cry with shapes and colours. I was creating a conversation through touch, sight and silence. I let the colours speak to me. I listened to the images. My whole being was engaged.

Then I shared these images with another and a new conversation began. But the more I painted the more I knew the fundamental conversation was between God and me. The more I became aware of myself, the more I was open to hearing the Word of God spoken in silence in these lines and colours. The fact of painting, of single hearted focus takes me beyond self-preoccupation and self-interest. I am listening out for the Other: I am awaiting His coming. The active attention necessary for the creation of a painting itself creates a new and intimate space into which God comes. He is present to me. He comes. He nourishes my heart.

Scripture tells me that God is always turned towards me, and that He longs for me to turn and be with Him, face to face. When I sit to paint, I turn to God. Every painting is an act of conversion. Just as I have this sense of being drawn out of my darkness into the Light of God through painting, so too when I am out walking, I am waiting on God. All of creation speaks: the wind, the light dancing through the autumn leaves, the coldness of winter air, the pregnancy of the early morning, the petite scuttle of a hedgehog and the bejeweled dew on a spider’s web. All these are outside me and yet they are also of me. My eye, my ear, my nose, my hand, my foot draw all this wondrous array of colour, shape and life into my heart. I am made one with creation.

So, what nourishes my inner life ? All that enables me to come into the Presence of the One who loves me.

M. Katharine SSC, Tymawr Convent, Wales

Paintings above by Katharine Hall.
From the left to the right :
“Thomas” (2013)
“Soul Song” (2012)
“As pants the hart for cooling streams” (2015)

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