Broken Breaking Waves (My Journal VI.)

These pages in my notebook are all from early to mid January. It's been a really busy few weeks, between designing & producing the next stage of prototypes for my shawls; preparing for and exhibiting at Showcase 2015; and filming our segment on RTÉ Nationwide, as well as continuing to produce my [award-winning :-)] silk scarves & bow-ties, one each of which were presented to President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins as he opened Showcase, which is Ireland's largest trade-only event.

As I touched on in my last journal entry, I was surprised to see the drawings focus so much on 'drowning in enough', but I guess I've been learning a thousand different ways that there's never too much of enough.

[drowning] in Enough

This page opens where the last one ended, breaking down that phrase, exploring the words 'in enough'. I realised, as I read through scripture and looked at how those words appear in literature and personal writing, that they are a synonym for 'covered' in every application and interpretation, what came out of that exploration in the first page here is the concept of how we are both protected and covered from before we're even born, and the next few pages explore that further.

We look then at a page that bears a striking resemblance to a U2 song that has featured in a previous journal entry, Every Breaking Wave. It explores the idea of what it means to listen to God, our ship captain, amidst a storm when to others our action looks like inaction. What does that mean? Well I used to think that there was this concept of 'passive worship', the idea of just holding fast, but actually others have shown me how active a verb it is to worship 'passively', and that it's so much easier to engage in the appearance of busyness and productivity, and that even those who share a holistic approach to worship and mission are impatient for results that they can measure. Some sow though, others water, but God gives the increase, the mandate, and the mission itself, and so it's to him that we answer, not to our collaborators, but this is harder to do than to talk about.

Les vagues déferlante durent grâce aux barbelés,
Les barbelés cassent grâce aux vagues. 

The massacre of the french cartoonists and journalists earlier in January came as I turned to the page entitled 'La Vie à l'Encre' / 'Ca Dure'. I was building on that picture that I'd had about two months earlier of 'Every Breaking Wave' where out the artists' pen comes waves of God's ocean - a theme that has refused to leave my work now for the past year and a half! In the previous drawing, the hand was the focus and the waves, breaking as great white horses, was equal in balance. I never particularly liked the Charlie Hebdo magazine, it's crude and crass, but I, like everyone else, was both appalled and steeled by the wider context of it as an attack on freedom of expression and questioning.

Unlike the last drawing though, the hand is hard to see here, the horses take over, and we see their tragic death in the midst of barbed wire. My wife looked at it and said how it reminded her of 'War Horse' the fantastic theatrical production based around a horse conscripted into war. It struck me immediately how the horse and the sword used to be the very emblems of soldiers and warriors, and yet now it's tanks and machine guns, more the perpetuators of brutality than the advocates of an enforced peace. Those that die for love, joy, peace, patient, hope or freedom at the hands of evil-doers are victors for their cause, and those that murder and brutalise are exposed, their empty words and their propeganda is laid-bare. At the same time though they create/slander a new victim - all those in who's name they kill. But the individual human tragedies are brutal and we mourn them, as we should, and yet I wanted this drawing to show that in the equal context of the greater sea.

Breaking Waves are not lost, just broken, they roll back into the sea

I was exploring the language of 'breaking waves' and 'broken waves', but what emerges instantly in this image is that although several of the horses are torn to shreds, their primary identity is not truly horses but waves, and the sea breaks the barbs as it breaks those few waves. This, I believe is part of our call to God's great sea. In order to make sense not only of our own purposes, but also of the great cruelty that we see in the world, we have to see ourselves as part of the great Body of Christ (the worldwide church is one body with Christ as its head according to scripture), willing and able to wash over evil with goodness. Yes, we are individual people, but we are also a body more powerful than any other, but not alone, and not even as congregational churches, only as one. 

Les vagues déferlante durent grâce aux barbelés, les barbelés cassent grâce aux vagues. #EveryBreakingWave

A photo posted by Brendan Joseph (@brenyes) on

The idea of visions in nature, of course, reminds me of all those strange images we see when we look in the clouds, and so I saw the most incredible image when it came to going on the loom, The waves were like infantry soldiers, or a cavalry regiment, running as a wave in a charge against the enemy, hurtling out of celestial trenches and troughs, flooding dry land and taking it for the sea. Trenches and troughs though actually look quite like the surface of a rough stormy sea, and physically in their structure are so similar, the differences being in texture and surface. This was a challenging page to draw, and I kind of just wanted a respite from all the deep and dark turmoil that has filled the past thirty or forty pages. I found myself back at just those words, 'If not for love'. The latin word at the bottom left is 'floreat' or 'flourish', and that's what is happening here on the page. A part of the beautiful bough of a healthy tree breaks off, carrying seeds, almost certainly about to land on fertile ground and take root as it is, if not as a new plant.

Les tranchées du ciel

A photo posted by Brendan Joseph (@brenyes) on

Tired Eyes and Last Night's Clothes, What You're Wearing is fine

We return then to the darker questions, and here again there's a strong reference to a previous page that looked at how we have blood on our hands, in two different senses, one - in that we're guilty, and two - in that we're entirely free, the greater blood we bear (if we choose to accept it) is that of Christ, which covers everything, but also changes our approach to everything, and if doesn't, it should. I've drawn my hands lots before, but normally I roll up my sleeves. Here I did not, and suddenly an image flashed across my mind of a boy and girl in last nights clothes on a Sunday morning, heads hung a tiny bit low. It's so easy to look at others and judge them, it's so easy to see crumpled clothes as sartorial walk of shame, but to picture that in a church is such a beautifully striking picture of grace that we so easily miss when we change our clothes before coming to worship, when we wash our hands and mask our week's lower moments. 

Chatting to others about church, I've heard a few times that some people feel the need to be perfect, and find it impossible to appear as such when the details of their lives are known, but this page rebukes that, and rebukes too the eyes that judge 'last night's clothes', reminding me that our perfection comes from Christ alone, that his blood makes our hands clean - an irony that is so hard to fathom when we're so used to frantically trying to scrub our hands of evidence of wrong, and yet at the same time, wider society ridicules the notions of wearing our 'Sunday Best' and carrying out the farce of perfection, so many adults having being children of lies that never made sense.

The words on the left-hand page read: What you're wearing is fine - Tired eyes and last night's clothes - Be Wide Open, and on the right, you can choose to read it as you wish, either the whole statement, or the words that jump out.

A photo posted by Brendan Joseph (@brenyes) on

Sorry for poor image quality, Does anyone have advice on what lighting setup to use for photographing notebooks?

I've decided to not include developmental stages of sketches in my journal. So many of the pages are about stark juxtapositions and impossible yet extant correlations, so I want each idea to be seen as it is, and not without the counterbalancing context. BUT, I'm also sharing the development of the drawings on Instagram, where it's just me documenting a moment, rather than a resolved idea, so follow @brenyes for more of that!