121.92cm X 182.88cm, oil paint on Masonite board
The large church in the background in this painting is in Albi in France. My relative, Pili Zegers, showed me a picture of this church and I loved the way that it looked like a fortress. A fortress church that needs to be defended against all enemies and wears a ferocious air. It looks like it was built to be impregnable and last forever, until the day of judgement.
The fragile part of a church in the foreground is part of one I saw in an area called the “Scottish Borders”. This area was infiltrated frequently in the past and was often under territorial dispute. The English raided the villages and burned them down, only leaving the church standing. I have seen this in many places while travelling around, a church by itself in a landscape. This got me thinking, what is all this about?
This painting is about my personal spiritual journey. I was brought up in a strict Catholic family but at the age of 10, I decided religion is not for me and wanted to travel my own spiritual path. You can see, at the right hand side of the painting, that there is a small passage and there you can see me walking away from organised religion. I am pictured at the age of 19. That is the year when I married a Brahmin, a Hindu who is very open-minded, much like myself.
This painting is, however, also about the creativity that organised religion promotes. You can see different religious sculptures and drawings from various countries in this painting. I painted these sculptures but other artists created the originals. They are of women running away, but if you look carefully, you can see that they are attached to each other, still trapped! Religion has been very unfair to women all over the world. This has always puzzled me, why this weakness? Why are women always second-best when it comes to organised religion? I would like to note that these are my very personal thoughts on this matter as expressed in this painting.
What is also very striking is that I had not seen a picture of the entire church of Albi when I made this painting. Later, when I saw the entire structure, it was very interesting to see that near where I have placed the Scottish church there is actually a similar style structure in Albi.
Making this painting was very time-consuming and getting the perspective right was challenging. The composition is noteworthy with the Albi structure in the background creating a V pointing inwards towards the Scottish church. The original Scottish church did not have glass, it had been broken long ago. I painted bits of broken stained glass in this work to give some colour and to emphasise the passage of time. The brushwork was fun, the brush dancing, moving and mixing paint all over the surface. I used up several 0.5 cm pig hair paintbrushes to make this painting.
My mother, who is a tapestry weaver, really liked this painting. She made a beautiful tapestry based on it that is just the same size as the original. It is included here.