Residency Day 2

Today is cooler and cloudy. The huge entrance door is shut to retain what little warmth there is.

Wrapped in my duvet coat I sit before the alter, a magestic structure honouring Jesus the boy and the man.

Today I want to experience the feel of the chapel, rather than it’s visual qualities. I sit with eyes shut. The chill air presses against my face. The sensation is not unlike a face pack. There is a silent ringing in my ears. Real life is a distant hum. The air smells of oldness, containment.

The sun must have come out. The red and the blue of the southern window shine bright, but not for long.

I am intrigued by the ornate structure above the boy. It feels top heavy, as if it could fall forward at any moment. I am reminded of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (1882). I don’t profess to understand the symbolism of such structures. I need to focus on how it makes me feel and not how it appears, or it’s meaning.

Today I want to explore the ‘feel’ of the colours within the chapel that are much more subdued, than the stain glass. The wall panels, in various stages of decay, (ignoring the religious symbolism), faintly echo Virginia Woolf’s home, Charleston. The subdued red, green, ochre, and elsewhere the dominance of red, green and the muted beige palette of sandstone. The chairs grouped purposefully around the alter, the carpeted treads leading up to the boy Jesus, the kneeling cushion before the alter to Mary, the prayer chairs, the draped fabric, the embedded tableaux. The exception, and clearly a later addition, are the blue painted radiators that line the side walls, obscuring the lower panel.

I record the colours in watercolour. It is too cold to try to do more. I venture outside. The air is warmer, softer.

I would like to experience music in the chapel. I have downloaded some of John Tavener’s works in Spotify, but I am prevented by technology from listening today. I will try to unravel the mystery during the week and try again next week.

I return to contemplation, to the questions I need to formulate. I follow the tableaux of suffering that fill the space between the stain glass windows. The contrast of light and muted, of celebration and of sorrow, of grandeur and humble offering, the difference magnified by a burst of sunlight, that casts jewel-like patterns on the recesses of the windows, whilst casting the tableaux into further shadow.

My walk round the walls of suffering, round the edges of the building, the edges of life. Are the questions buried in the tableaux or floating in the chilled air, everywhere?

The light is starting to fade. I feel quite alone. No energy of former lives, no ghosts, just aloneness.

Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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