N.B. This page is an archive only, as the Art and Spirituality Forum has been suspended since the pandemic. Many thanks to all those who have shared their time, inspiration and anecdotes with us. We hope to resume in some other form in the future.

Art & Spirituality Forum, meeting monthly in Ipswich, Suffolk

"Art has always been related to Spirituality. I can't conceive of art without it." - Norman Adams, RA



The Ipswich based Art and Spirituality forum was founded in Autumn 2013 by Cynthia Capey, affiliated to SIFRE (Suffolk Inter-Faith REsource).


 Group Coordinator: Charlotte Stewart
 Group Facilitator: Loïs Cordelia - [email protected] 07949042115 www.LoisCordelia.com


Recent topics of discussion and guest lectures:

Tuesday 10th September 2019: "Ordinary People":

How are so-called 'ordinary people' represented in and transformed by art? What do we learn? How do we relate? How does it affect us?

"Art transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary."
- Ellen Dissanayake

Tuesday 9th July 2019 - Charles Croydon will introduce our topic: "Local History of Pottery":

Charles will examine the importance of pottery and ceramics in our local Ipswich and East Anglian history, dating back many thousands of years to the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, the earliest Neolithic farmers, Bronze Age urns and Early Medieval Ipswich ware.

Tuesday 11th June 2019 - "Wood":

How has wood inspired artists and craftspeople across the centuries - as a medium, substrate, canvas, tool, subject matter, and symbol? How does wood affect us, visually, emotionally and spiritually?

'Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.'
- John Muir


Tuesday 14th May 2019: Environmental Art.

How does environmental art affect us emotionally, intellectually and spiritually? How far back can we trace environmental art? How do contemporary visual artists convey the fragility of ecological balance, the impending threat of environmental disaster, and the urgency of action? How do spiritual and religious traditions respond to this call to action?
"The Earth without Art is just 'Eh'."
(- Anon)


Tuesday 9th April 2019: "Paper":
For many centuries, paper have been a vital material for the artist, author and communicator. The earliest paper was used in China in about 200 BC. The invention of a portable writing surface heralds the spread of ideas, the ability to inform, educate and entertain at a distance, recording of the scriptures, the illustration of the stories. How have artists, authors and recorders responded to the surface and production of paper? What can you find to share with the group?

"A piece of paper can be a powerful presence."
(- Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey.)



Tuesday 12th March 2019: "Sacred Objects", led by Charlotte Stewart:

Every faith has accumulated “things” that are regarded as “sacred”, special or precious. Can we think of some objects that have resonated with us, not necessarily for their connections with a faith, but because they have particular meaning for us? Maybe because of their history, associations, connections, not necessarily religious ones.



Tuesday 12th February 2019: "Sleep and Dreams":

How do artists evoke the positive and negative aspects of sleep: peace, repose, oblivion, dreams, nightmares, sleeplessness, and what symbolic meanings are implied? Specifically, how do artists use colour, form, light and dark to transport us into the visionary worlds of altered consciousness?

Dreams are as simple or as complicated as the dreamer.”
― Brian Herbert




Tuesday 8th January 2019 - "Perspectives on Perspective":

When did perspective become part of visual art, and why was it not used in early art? How do artists use perspective, play with it and distort it? How does perspective distort our perceptions?

“Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
― Anon.


Tuesday 11th December 2018 - "Word Art":

When does word become art, and how have artists in different cultures and times used lettering to express, imply, embellish, or defy? Are handwriting, calligraphy and illuminated letters still relevant to us personally, and if so, why? What trends do we see today in creative lettering, graphics, graffiti, logos, typefaces, wordles, and so on, and how do these influence us?


“Calligraphy is an art form that uses ink and a brush to express the very souls of words on paper.”
― Kaoru Akagawa

Tuesday 13th November 2018, Robert Kensit presented a talk about Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle and its influence on modern culture and pagan theology.

“I am convinced that there are universal currents of Divine Thought vibrating the ether everywhere and that any who can feel these vibrations is inspired.” - Richard Wagner


Tuesday 9th October 2018: "The Symbolism of Flowers":

How do artists use flowers as symbols in their work, and do we notice changes in this symbolism across different times and cultures? Why are certain flowers (lily, rose, etc) associated with particular meanings in a human context? How do these depictions affect us personally, emotionally, spiritually?

“I paint flowers so they will not die.” - Frida Kahlo

Tuesday 11th September 2018: "Embodiment - a tangible or visible form of an idea", introduced by Charlotte Stewart:

Most peoples and most faiths have imagined, pictured and sculpted their ideas of deities, spirits, angels, devils, demons and mythical beasts. For some faiths these images are forbidden, but for the many faiths who permit images, this has been a major topic of art. From images of Egyptian animal-headed gods, Christian angels and devils and native American totems, to Australian Aboriginal spirit animals and Chinese dragons, there is a rich heritage of images to reinforce our faith or frighten us into obedience. Some of the greatest of the world's art is to be found in these ideas.

How do we approach these images and ideas? Could they have divine inspiration? Do they continue to have power? Has our knowledge of science reduced the power of these imagined creatures? Do we have favourite images?

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” - Aristotle

Tuesday 12th June 2018 - "Creation Myths":

How have artists across the centuries depicted the theme of the creation of the world, of its inhabitants, and specifically of the human being? How does this relate to the role of the artist as a creator? What parallels do we find in music, literature, dance, and so on, and which of these affect us most, personally?
"Everything starts from a dot."
- Wassily Kandinsky

Tuesday 8th May 2018 (coinciding with the 92nd birthday of Sir David Attenborough): "Animals":

What are our favourite animal paintings and why? How do artists use animal imagery and symbolism to comment on the human experience? How does an increased awareness of the intricately fragile beauty of the animal kingdom (thanks to Sir David Attenborough and many others) affect our perception of spirituality and the soul or spiritual capacity of animals?


"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
- Anatole France


Tuesday 10th April 2018 - "Spring and Rebirth":

How does Spring serve as a metaphor for physical and spiritual renewal? What symbols, stories and imagery do we associate with themes of rebirth, resurrection and reincarnation, and how do we respond to these personally?

"Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix."
- Christina Baldwin


Tuesday 13th March 2018 - "Aboriginal Art", introduced by Charlotte Stewart:

Charlotte will examine the richly layered art, mythology and culture of the original indigenous population of Australia, believed to have arrived there some 40,000 years ago, and their extraordinary and complete relationship with the landscape. We will consider the following: how has isolation from other cultures shaped the imagery, materials, techniques and ideas of this art, and how has modern contact with world art as well as intense suffering and persecution influenced the vision of aboriginal art?

"Those who stop dreaming are lost."
- Australian Aboriginal Proverb

Tuesday 13th February 2018 - "Spirals", introduced by Lois Cordelia:

What is the significance of spirals, in art, in spirituality, in healing, or in any other context of life, and how do they compare with circles? How do they affect us visually and symbolically? How have artists used them to convey their ideas and visions?
"The spiral is a spiritualized circle. In the spiral form, the circle, uncoiled, has ceased to be vicious; it has been set free."
- Vladimir Nabokov



Tuesday 9th January 2018: "Stories, Signs and Symbols", introduced by Charlotte Stewart:

How do symbols and images influence the spiritual traditions they represent, and vice versa? Why do some faiths forbid depiction of figuritive form and how do artists circumvent this prohibition? What changes do we notice with the passing centuries?

"If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint."

(Edward Hopper)


Tuesday 12th December 2017: Marie Grueber presented a talk about "Transformation through Art":

"In the process of working with art, I have experienced deep transformations. In my exhibition The Grieving Mother, I have illustrated my healing journey with art as a long term process. However, every piece of artwork has been transformational in its own right. Through art I learned to accept the most difficult of emotions. Anger, hatred, anxiety, pain. Art didn’t judge me when I was throwing pieces of clay on the floor or put torn out artwork into a blender. It just accepted me as I was and patiently transformed the artwork into a new piece. In this humble process it transformed my emotions into something manageable."

"Through making we transform matter, and in turn matter transforms us."
(Satish Kumar)



Tuesday 14th November: Robert Kensit presented a talk about Music:

"I will be showing the work I have been doing this year of artwork which interprets pieces of music. A few examples from my current project are attached, but I won't give away what the pieces of music are. It might be interesting for people to bring along any CD/LP covers that they particulartly like. I am also attaching a music file (Scriabin 24 Preludes Op.11 - No.1 in C major) and if you can distribute this, maybe some people might like to have a go at making an interpretation of it and bring the results to the next meeting."

Tuesday, 10th October 2017: Dance.

How do we define "dance", and in what ways do we connect it with spirituality? How have artists across the centuries and in different parts of the world interpreted dance through visual art? What does dance mean to us on a personal level?

"I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance."
(- Friedrich Nietszche.)


Tuesday 12th September 2017: Touch, with a presentation and introduction by Charlotte Stewart:

Of all our senses, touch is possibly the first we experience and of primal importance. From birth, if we are fortunate, we are held in loving arms, wrapped in soft stuffs, feel our mother's skin. We learn how to use our eyes through feeling the objects we touch. We learn to use our miraculous hands to order the world. Things are hard, soft, sticky, prickly, smooth, rough, warm, cold. It  is not surprising that touch is used in spiritual experience. Consider the rosary, the comfort of those simple beads, passing through the hands as prayer. Many faiths use touch as part of ritual. Holding hands. Holding a sacred object. We may have objects that we touch in passing or hold for a while, which we feel to be important, or evoke memories, or suggest through touch, something of the mystery of life and time.


Tuesday 11th July 2017: Portraits: Every Face tells a Story.

What stories do we read in human faces and how do artists convey these through portraiture? Which portraits (famous, historic, or otherwise) stick in our mind and why? How do self portraits differ from other types of portrait?

Tuesday 13th June 2017: Barry Fowler introduced the theme of The Experience of Silence, which included group discussion and a brief meditation, followed by the opportunity to share thoughts on this experience.

What does silence mean for each of us, where can we find it, and how does it affect us? What examples of visual art and imagery evoke calm? Do we practise meditation, prayer or visualisation of any sort, and do we include the practice of art in this category?
"Silence is one of the great arts of conversation."
(~ Marcus Tullius Cicero)

Tuesday 9th May 2017: Sacred Space and Architecture.

What makes space "sacred" to us personally? What do words such as "dedicated", "consecrated", "holy" mean to us today? What architectural features (entrances, domes, spires, orientation, etc) signify buildings of worship and why? What objects and visual art (altar paintings, murals, statues, stained glass windows, calligraphy, etc) do we find inside such places? If we were to design our own place of worship, what would it look like?

Tuesday 11th April 2017: Charlotte Stewart presented a richly illustrated talk: Colour in the context of Art and Spirituality.

"Colour is beyond words. In the same way that many of our spiritual awarenesses are literally indescribable, so the relationships between colours can be deeply meaningful. For me a colour relationship can have a great significance, in the same way that music can reach into our souls, without words. I will look briefly at the science of colour in relation to vision, because at the time when I began to look seriously at the way colour works in our vision and brains and souls, that is what I studied. Then I hope we can just enjoy looking at images and discussing the idea of colour and spirituality."

Tuesday 14th March 2017: Robert Kensit presented part 2 of his illustrated talk: Journey of a Pagan Artist - Fylfots and other shapes.

"Starting with the ancient design most people know as the swastika, for the past few months I have experimented with designs to reclaim it as a good and fruitful symbol. This has led me to creating increasingly fluid and abstracted images, drawing inspiration from Jackson Pollock, psychedelia and fractal geometry." ~ Robert Kensit

Tuesday, 10th January 2017: Stars, Planets and Constellations in the context of Art and Spirituality.

Why has humankind always been so fascinated by the stars and planets? How have different cultures and their artists interpreted them, and how have these images prevailed and transformed in the modern "scientific" consciousness? How relevant are they to us today?


Tuesday, 13th December 2016: Caroline Mackenzie (artist and sculptor) presented a talk: The Trinity – an interfaith approach.

Caroline will bring a terracotta sculpture in which she interprets the doctrine of the Trinity from a Christian perspective that draws on insights from psychology and Hinduism. Caroline will then speak about the sculpture in relation to Sarah Coakley’s book “God Sexuality and the Self: an essay on the Trinity”. This will be followed by general discussion on triads, triangles, triptyches and so on and their significance in the context of art and spirituality.


Tuesday 8th November 2016, 10.30 am - 12.00 noon: Art, Spirituality and the Environment
How does environmental art affect us emotionally, intellectually and spiritually? How far back can we trace environmental art? How do contemporary visual artists convey the fragility of ecological balance, the impending threat of environmental disaster, and the urgency of action? How do spiritual and religious traditions respond to this call to action?
"The Earth without Art is just 'Eh'."
(- Anon)

Tuesday 11th October, 2016: Our guest speaker Robert Kensit presented a talk: Journey of a Pagan Artist (part 1)


Tuesday, 14th June 2016: "The Spirit of Paper-Cutting" - a richly illustrated talk by Lois Cordelia

To set paper-cutting in context, we'll begin with a brief "world tour" of cut-paper traditions from around the globe. Lois will introduce a few examples of her own work, before reflecting on the significance of paper as a medium (as opposed to simply a "canvas") for art. In opening up to discussion, we'll consider what appeals to us about paper-cutting, and how it can express and symbolise spiritual aspirations.

A piece of paper can be a powerful presence."
(- Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey.)



Tuesday, 10th May 2016: Dance in the context of Art and Spirituality

How do we define "dance", and in what ways do we connect it with spirituality? How have artists across the centuries and in different parts of the world interpreted dance through visual art? What does dance mean to us on a personal level?

"I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance."
(- Friedrich Nietszche.)

Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 1.30 - 3.00 pm: Change, Metamorphosis, Transformation, Transfiguration


Do we personally embrace or resist the fluidity of change? How does art on the theme of metamorphosis affect us on an emotional level, and why? How have artists over the centuries evoked dynamic processes of transformation and transfiguration through static visual art mediums?
"Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly."
(- Anon.)


Tuesday, 9th February 2016: Guest speaker Norman Sanders speaks on the theme of "Mathematics and Art - How Renaissance Artists found the Sacred in the Maths and Geometry of the Ancient Greeks". 
How do artists use mathematics, mathematical tools and symbols in their work, and how do we respond, emotionally and intellectually? How does mathematical art inspire the viewer to perceive beauty and order, to question the levels of reality, to contemplate the place of the human being in relation to the rest of the universe, and to evoke the sacred and the infinite?
"Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?"
 (- M. C. Escher)

Tuesday 12th January, 2016: "Sun, Moon and Stars: Cosmic and Celestial Imagery in Art"
How have artists responded to this theme across the centuries? What colours, symbols and imagery have they chosen to convey their visions, and what feelings do these inspire in us? How do such interpretations of the cosmos relate to our personal or universal world view, and to the world of modern science?
"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."
(- Friedrich Nietzsche)


Tuesday 10th November 2015: The Macabre in Art
What do we understand by "the macabre"? What fascinates and/or repels us about the macabre? How do artists respond to this theme through visual art, imagery, symbols and poetry, and what emotions do these evoke in us?
"There is no exquisite beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."
(~ Francis Bacon, Essays (1625), Of Beauty.)


Tuesday 13th October 2015: Angels in Art


What do we understand or mean by "Angels"? How have artists' depictions of angels evolved across the centuries, and why? What is special about angels (wings, haloes, light, colour, etc), and why do they fascinate artists? How are contemporary artists reinterpreting angels for postmodern, post-religious viewers?

Tuesday, 9th June 2015: Heaven and Hell

The concepts of Heaven and Hell seem to exist in many religions, and have been depicted by artists across the centuries. How does this imagery relate to our own faith, if we have one? Is it still relevant to us today? What sort of emotive response does it produce in us? How do contemporary artists interpret such themes? Please feel free to bring along some images, pictures, artwork, and so on, to share with us all.


“The mind is its own place, and in itself
 Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven”
~ John Milton (from Paradise Lost)


Tuesday, 12th May 2015: Special Guest Lecture by Dr. Chinmayi Nath: "Self-help, self-realisation and self-stabilisation in Spirituality".



Tuesday, 14th April 2015: Sacred Places
What makes a place sacred? We will consider churches, temples, trees, mountains, henges, ... the human mind and heart - what are your ideas? Feel free to bring relevant imagery, artwork, and poetry to share and discuss.
"Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again."
 (~ Joseph Campbell)


Tuesday, 10th March 2015: Special Talk and Presentation by collage artist Dale Mann: “Eve as Victim, Icon and Superstar”

Tuesday, 10th February 2015: Special Guest Lecture by Caroline Mackenzie, "The Boundaries of the Sacred" - The Image of Woman in Hindu, Christian and Secular (Western) Art.

Tuesday, 13th January 2015: "New Beginnings"


With the start of a new year, we will be discussing the interrelated themes of new beginnings and rebirth, with a particular focus on the symbols that different cultures have chosen to express these ideas, including, but not limited to: The Phoenix, Janus ("January"), the Butterfly, Celtic Knots, Lotus Flowers, and so on.

Keywords: art, "art history", dialogue, discussion, forum, interfaith, ipswich, "quay place", spirituality, "st mary at the quay"