Art and a Monastic Practice: Drawing and Lectio Divina

Iain MacLellan
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My proposal for the upcoming conference is this: to explain the artistic practice of a meditative reception of beauty, how to formulate an internal vision, and bring that vision back into one's presence through artistic practice, in order to heighten one's regard. An artist's meditative way of looking, is a way of understanding creation and all created things. Ultimately, it is one's regard, one's level of reverence for what one sees, that engages the innate human ability to reach a visual transcendence. Beauty reveals itself, inasmuch as one is open to it.

This is done by relating the mechanics of lectio divina to the mechanics of artistic observation. This could be a easy group participation with paper and watercolor as part of the session, or facilitated simply by my own demonstration. I am a painter and draughtsman whose work is interested mainly in the human figure. The human form bears a beauty that is supreme and most elusive. I paint young figures in very simple compositions, with a strong emphasis on human form and its placement with things in the world, with tactile form, sheer light, open spaces, in pure color. I have been diligent in determining how these elements are evocative of the contemplative side of life, relating the practice of lectio divina (holy reading, "seeing") to the practice of art (painting and drawing, "doing".) This follows of course from the Benedictine motto, Ora et Labora. This means drawing from Sacred Scripture, the Rule of Benedict, commentaries (Saint Bernard, Gregory of Nyssa, Saint Augustine, and contemporary writers) with mediation and notes, to heighten the sense of imagination and observation. Artistic practice is both prayer and work.

For instance, I have just finished a study trip to the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where I have examined, in a meditative fashion, the sight and sound of this monastery/museum. As a monk and artist, this allowed me to live my monastic and artistic sensibilities simultaneously. My plan is to paint human figures in new configurations of these monastic spaces, in meaningful compositions relating the human figure to monastic architecture and it essential elements. There is a strong cultural significance for the meditative realization of beauty, and a spiritual urgency to understand it in our world.

Keywords: Meditation and Silence, Monastic Spirituality, Drawing, Painting, Religion and Culture
Stream: Art in Communities, Constructing Art Worlds, Arts Education, Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Iain MacLellan

Director, Alva deMars Megan Chapel Art Center, Saint Anselm College

I am a Benedictine monk, artist, art director, and educator. I have and MFA in painting from the Graduate School of Figurative Art, the New York Academy, New York. My work as an artist if focused mainly on the human figure. I teach drawing mostly, including Renaissance drawing techniques. Most recently, I have been developing my practice of a meditative kind of drawing and how this relates to the practice of lectio divina.

Ref: A06P0340