Well versed

Poems about creation inspire Winnipeg artist's paintings

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For a whole year, Winnipeg artist Faye Hall dedicated every weekend to pondering a poem about the creation of the world, and then interpreting it with her paintbrush.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/04/2018 (1633 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For a whole year, Winnipeg artist Faye Hall dedicated every weekend to pondering a poem about the creation of the world, and then interpreting it with her paintbrush.

The resulting mixed-media paintings illustrate the small-format, 88-page coffee-table book Seven Whole Days, based on the poetic sequence by English writer and college chaplain Malcolm Guite.

“I did them all in exact order, memorizing each line as I went along,” says Hall, 60, who previously illustrated The Biggest Family in the World, by Winnipegger Paul Boge, which tells the story of the Mully Children’s Family organization in Kenya.

Winnipeg artist Faye Hall holds a painting of English poet and Anglican chaplain Malcolm Guite at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I went on long walks seeing what would pop into my mind.”

Those meditative walks translated into 63 abstract and realistic paintings, including one of Bunn’s Creek, near Hall’s North Kildonan home, each based on a successive line of the poem. The paintings celebrate the seven days of creation, based on the opening lines of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, beginning with small paintings for the poem’s first lines and moving up to 90 centimetres square, all featuring passages from Guite’s poem in his own handwriting.

“I had been working with text in abstract paintings before this book,” says Hall, who financed the project through crowdfunding and offering the paintings for sale.

“It’s more of a collaboration between the writer and artist by putting the words in the painting.”

Hall and Guite celebrate their creative partnership at a book-signing event, 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 15, at Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery, on the south campus of Canadian Mennonite University at 600 Shaftesbury Blvd.

About 50 of Hall’s paintings for the book are on display at the gallery until May 5, and this event marks the first time Guite will see the paintings in person.

The poet and artist met through Winnipeg singer-songwriter Steve Bell. Hall works as the administrative assistant for Bell’s Signpost Music, and Guite has written songs for and performed with Bell since 2011.

“What I felt Faye did was to use my poetry not as a line she would illustrate, but to use each line as inspiration for art,” says Guite, 60, in a Skype interview from Cambridge, England.

The combination of genres — art as well as Christian inspiration — makes marketing the book challenging, says publisher Larry Willard of Castle Quay Books in a telephone interview from his West Palm Beach, Fla., office.

But Hall’s artwork convinced him to take a chance on the book, which has sold about a thousand copies in Canada, Australia and England since it was released last December.

“The book does a terrific job in thinking beyond the classical view of creation,” says Willard about the book printed on glossy paper and also available in an electronic version.

Guite reimagines the creation of the world in Genesis 1 with his words, building a contemporary praise poem around the liturgical call-and-response rhythm in the biblical text.

“I wanted the poem not to be out there and back then,” says the long-haired and full-bearded Anglican priest, whose portrait illustrates the first day of creation in the book.

“I wanted it to be for each day of the week.”

The format of the book invites readers to pause and ponder the interplay between the poem and the illustrations, he says, and readers could use it as a guide for daily reflection in the style of Lectio Divina, a practice of prayer and contemplative reading.

“Having an artist like Faye listening to the words I have to say helps me find more in the poem,” says Guite, who is working on a multimedia project with American artist Bruce Herman and composer J.A.C. Redford.

“It can give you more the more you read it.”

After spending a year illustrating the poem’s themes, Hall says she’s not done with it yet, finding more layers of images and meanings each time she reviews it.

“I recite the poem once a week on my drive to work,” she says.

“I want to keep it in my memory as long as possible.”

brenda@suderman.com

The Free Press is committed to covering faith in Manitoba. If you appreciate that coverage, help us do more! Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow us to deepen our reporting about faith in the province. Thanks! BECOME A FAITH JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman
Faith reporter

Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.

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