Journey to Beauty Through Arts and Creativity

A journey towards Beauty is also a journey to God. Fr Raul Tabaranza, a Comboni missionary from the Philippines is exploring this journey, making use of his artistic painting talents.

Art says a lot; if you can read the message of a painting, the artist’s emotion is always there. Even though a work of art may not be easy to understand or to like for everyone, we should learn to read a work of art and to find its beauty, no matter how abstract it may be.
Some may appreciate an abstract painting even when they do not find meaning in it or are incapable of interpreting it. The colour combination, the strokes and delicate details, and the harmony of the different elements make the piece beautiful. It may not be relevant to some, yet very meaningful to others.

Recently, I have visited the chapel of St Little Brother Charles de Foucauld, in Rome. I fondly called him my Seraphic Little Brother. The artist, through his painting, uses a unique way of expressing his prayer and reaching out to God. He captures the Beauty of God and the Blessed Mother Mary, in simple ways as fruits of his contemplation. As a hermit, he was constantly praying, writing journals and poems, and painting his thoughts. Art can be a form of prayer and meditation.

My works of art are also very varied in form and style: from abstract paintings, paper collages, clothes collages, doodles, newspaper canvasses and more. My strokes vary according to my time and mood. An artist is like a chameleon: changing styles and colours, blending paints, enjoying a wild imagination and varied ideas of artwork based on reflection prayer. St. Charles de Foucauld expressed beauty in many different ways too.

There are always spiritual motivations in art. If one visits museums and galleries, one sees the beauty of art in for example sacred walks or sacred dances. There we find the artist’s hidden “spiritual posture” painted with striking colors. The fascinating book “Two Dancers in the Desert” portrays Charles de Foucauld and his Unseen Partner (God), as experiencing a spiritual dance during his eremitic journey. With great trust in God, one need not be afraid during one’s life journey, for one will always have a safe landing. Even though I was given that book more than ten years ago, the images are still very present in my heart. I painted my version of the same title.

The journey towards Beauty through art requires a great deal of imagination and the use of one’s senses. It is always transformative, as one develops patience, appreciation of silence or solitude, valuing of time and resources, communing with nature and getting closer to God, as one executes one’s talents. As a self-taught artist, I am still on a journey, exploring my talents.

There is still so much to learn and to develop. I feel increasingly closer to myself, knowing myself better and probably becoming closer to God in many hidden ways. Expressing beauty in art is life-enhancing; it helps us to rediscover resources that are present within us. It is about creating our own space, expressing our faith, cultivating our imagination with vision, and transcending our current moment in life into the future, which is spiritual and hopeful.

Many people visit museums and galleries seeking religious motivation, regardless of their religious denominations. They experience awe, great reverence, and stimulated emotions recognizing the presence of God. Visiting sacred places makes one wonder because many paintings will lead one to reflect on and experience God’s presence. These places display ancient works of art and religious and cultural artefacts which are instrumental in strengthening our faith.

Another inspiring icon in capturing beauty through art is St. Therese of the Child Jesus. She was given the duty of painting and was relieved from her work in the sacristy. She expressed her prayers more in art through painting and poetry, including community and social activities through plays and drama, like the production of Joan of Arc. Her artistic talents were the fruit of her prayer and deep contemplation.

Paul Claudel, a French poet wrote: “Looking at a work of art that illustrates the spiritual testament of St. Therese of Lisieux, we could say that the eye listens and the soul is elevated.”

My latest doodles engage more gospel stories, traditional celebrations and the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. I also have many doodles with varied expressions. My paintings are more abstract, having deeper symbols and meaning.

The journey of an artist is not only about capturing beauty but also about delivering messages of faith, hope, and love. I guess that this is the real essence when your message is conveyed artistically. It is a spiritual process for an artist, hoping to bring about spiritual experiences for others. Art is an approach, a method of evangelization, presenting the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
I look at myself, asking if painting is affecting my journey as a missionary priest: in the real sense, not at all! In fact, it helps me strike a balance. I juggle with multiple roles and many other commitments.

I paint my prayers and capture their beauty. It has been a challenge, but my priesthood and my commitments are sources of inspiration too. It is all about flexibility of time and remaining an active participant in our missionary and community life. I had other dreams when I was young, I wanted to be a doctor and a teacher, but God chose me to become a Comboni missionary priest. Therefore, I see it as a great privilege because I have discovered more gifts and talents in myself, being a missionary priest. I feel that I must nurture all the gifts entrusted to me by God, and make them fruitful for the kingdom.

Finally, I think that artists are not merely painting, singing, dancing, writing, and performing, but they are heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity. For me, painting started as a hobby, yet now, I feel it my responsibility to let my fellow human beings see and experience the real beauty around us: the beauty that God has created for us. (Painting: Dancers in the Desert, inspired by St. Charles de Foucauld’s book Two Dancers in the Desert)

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