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  • Susanne Irving

Last Saturday I was invited to exhibit 5 paintings at L’Abri in Greatham where I had spent some time during a sabbatical in 2019. I decided to show how some autographical pieces have planted the seeds for my current work.

One of the first pieces I made while I was at L’Abri was a piece I called “Origins”. It was produced on a 14cm x 14cm (ca 5 ½ “ x 5 ½ “) piece of Khadi paper.

At the time, I was meditating on some of my favourite lines from Psalm 139: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

As someone who was once told that I was only born because it was too late for an abortion, the psalmist’s perspective on life has always been a great comfort to me.


My initial idea was to stitch into the painted paper to create texture and layers – but once I had made some holes with a needle, I loved the way the light shone through. It gave me a fresh perspective on my time in the womb.


L’Abri did not have a studio and I sat at a writing desk, so it would have been difficult to produce a big painting. In hindsight, I am also aware that I was still unsure about my place in the art world. So I tended to keep my paintings small, even though my art tutors had always encouraged me to work big.


I had worked through my past in counselling and also through creative writing, but something tangibly shifted when I created this small piece.


A few weeks after I left L’Abri, I created my biggest artwork to date at 90cm x 90cm (ca. 35 ½ “ x 35 ½ “). It is also called “Origins” - though I was imagining the start of the universe rather than my own conception when I worked on this...





I now love working on a large scale. The challenge is to go small again for an exhibition organized by the Petersfield Arts & Crafts Society in late autumn where each artist is given a maximum of 50cm x 50cm hanging space for 4 paintings.