Artistic journey in the faith

Ervin TanFeature

Artistic journey in the faith

Givers is a series that features how Catholics, in ways big or small, help to build up the Church. ln this issue, writer Richard Toh discovers how an artist found her calling to serve God after participating in the Angelico Art Award 2016.

Darkness to Light came in as one of the finalists for the Angelico Art Award 2016. Photo: Roseline Tan

Painting always came naturally to 52-year-old Roseline Tan, who is an architect by training, interior designer by preference, and artist by desire and passion. She loves all things creative and excelled in art at CHIJ St Joseph Convent and Hwa Chong Junior College. However, she always struggled to find a subject matter she was passionate about to paint.

After going through most of her life without painting, her interest was reignited after doing portraits of her son, Jesse, while staying in Japan when her husband was posted there for work. Upon returning to Singapore, Roseline started painting contemporary portraits of her family members.

“The walls in my house were bare for the longest time before I painted and hung up contemporary art of my family,” she shared.

Finding her calling

It did not take long for Roseline’s reignited passion for painting to take on a spiritual approach, after she attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) organised by the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC). Already active in various ministries in the Church of St Ignatius and with Marriage Encounter, Roseline’s CER experience inspired within her a desire to use this gift to serve God.

As Roseline sought her calling, she came to learn about an art competition, the Angelico Art Award.

The first steps

The Angelico Art Award encourages artists to explore the integration of faith and art, through paintings. It is a platform that promotes Christian art expressions not just within the faith community, but beyond it too.

She decided to take part in the competition, and while exploring the theme, “Who do you say I am?”, Roseline realised that she had finally found the subject matter that she had been searching for. She revealed, “It combined art and faith together! Hence, I was able to use my painting as a medium through which I could express God’s glory. I thought it could be my first step towards answering His call.”

Darkness to light

Inspiration for her painting, Darkness to Light, came to Roseline when reflecting on the emotional baggage that comes from being hurt by others, or by hurting them. She explained, “I painted it in a linear manner to depict a journey. We would typically start in a state of darkness, one that we can only escape from by encountering Christ and following Him towards His light.”

Roseline’s piece turned out to be a finalist in the competition, but did not win the top prize. “There was a tinge of disappointment at first,” she confessed. “However, I was happy to be able to meet the other participants and see their artwork. More importantly, through participating in this competition and by the grace of God, I finally found a subject matter to paint. Something that touches me deeply and helps me express my own faith journey, all its joys and challenges at the different stages of my life,” she continued.

Learning that her painting managed to sell at the Angelico Art Exhibition for a handsome sum of $10,000, thanks to a generous buyer, further gave Roseline a sense of value for her art. This was the final piece in her journey to find a purpose for her gift and passion, as it now gave her inspiration to use this talent to raise funds for God’s Church. The knowledge that her artwork was donated to Fr Adrian Danker, and that it would be placed in St Joseph’s Institution, the alma mater of her son, Jonah, completed the blessed experience.

Answering the call

Clear that this was how God wanted her to serve Him, Roseline started looking for opportunities to use her gift to support the Church. She decided to approach the organisers of the Church of St Ignatius’ feast day celebrations, after hearing that they were fundraising for two religious congregations; the Daughters of St Paul, and the Cenacle Sisters.

During the feast day, Roseline set up a booth offering to paint family portraits. In total, she committed to eight paintings, and managed to raise a total of $9,600, which was split evenly between the two religious congregations.

Soon after, in conjunction with the Cana Film Festival, Roseline was invited to take part in an art exhibition where she painted Mother Mary in a painting entitled Heart of the Helper. This was later donated to the Verbum Dei Missionaries to help with their fundraising efforts. She was most grateful that it finally raised a tidy sum of $13,800 at an auction to contribute towards the funding for their mission house.

She was later approached by the Church of the Transfiguration to paint for their fundraising needs. She painted Dawn of the New Covenant, by far the most daunting undertaking due to its sheer size, measuring 4.5m by 3m. It depicted the scene after the Transfiguration of Jesus and took a total of two months to complete. Together with two paintings done by Fr Joachim Chang, it raised a total of $400,000, which contributed towards the construction of the new parish in Punggol.

Using your gifts

Being grateful that her journey of self-discovery started in many ways with the Angelico Art Award, Roseline is planning to join again in 2018. She would very much like to encourage more artists to consider taking similar steps towards combining their passion for art with their faith, to glorify God, the source of all their gifts. “Everyone has gifts from our loving God. He puts us all here to be gifts for each other,” she concluded.

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