Easter eggs were probably the last thing on the minds of 40 paint-splattered churchgoers working hard on their artwork during Holy Week.
Each had a sheet of paper pinned on the wall in front of him or her, and had spent the time between Maundy Thursday evening and the end of Easter Sunday in a contemplative yet colourful retreat.
For most, the Holy Week Artfully Lived retreat, held at the Church of St Mary of the Angels, was the first time they had wielded a brush in decades.
Yet, they poured much effort into their creations. Each participant, even the children, averaged four to six pieces of work during the retreat and they ranged from the simple to the dramatic, from the monochromatic to the cheery.
Participants were free to choose their own subjects even though it was clear that the contemplation gravitated towards the Easter celebrations.
Said Franciscan Friar John Quigley, who conducted the retreat: “With spiritual art, your work generates an energy that gives you access to the spiritual world. It’s an invitation to come to where God wants us to be.
The church’s art ministry Heartspace@St Mary’s, had invited the Canadian friar and priest to conduct the programme as he is one of a rare breed of spiritual directors who combine art and ministry.
The priest runs painting retreats where participants use art as a means of self-expression, healing and growth.
At the recent retreat, each session started and closed with a prayer and some input by Fr Quigley, but most of the six-hour daily sessions were spent creating art. The silence was broken only when the friar made his rounds to advise each artist individually on the work they had done.
With a suggestion here, a nudge there or a re-orientation of the canvas, the retreatants were directed to explore their inner thoughts, concerns and the movement of the Spirit within them.
There were challenges for everyone, even those with art backgrounds like designer Pius Purpink, who shared: “I was stuck and had to change the orientation of my art piece to break through. And interestingly, while I chose the orientation I least liked, I struggled to work on it and something significant came through.”
Ms Esther Tan from the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was initially skeptical when she signed up.
“I enjoyed painting but I was cynical about how art could move us so,” she said. “But after just one day, I was surprised at just how much I could be touched and by just being open to the experience and the energy around.”
By Rachel Tan