‘The Baptism of Jesus Christ’ is a massive painting by Marek in Our Lady’s Church on Lisson Grove in St John’s Wood. This memoir entry from 1980 is about my dad’s initial talks with Father McGowan to get the project going. The painting was completed in 1982, just three years before his death, and it’s still there today. Although my dad wasn’t around for most of my upbringing, Our Lady’s Church was a regular feature – I always looked up at that painting and thought of him whenever I had to attend. – AZ
I’m waiting to hear the decision on an important matter for me, very important indeed.
Our Lady’s Church in St John’s Wood, where I got married, has a wonderful large wall in the southern transept. The parish priest has envisaged a painting there depicting Jesus. The wall is 18 by 18 feet, or around 6 by 6 metres. The design I created delighted him.
“It has mysterium, terribilita,” he told me.
The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovers above the halo surrounding Christ’s head. Behind St John, there’s a lamb grazing. The River Jordan connects with heaven, flowing vertically through the whole painting from top to bottom.
“But where will we get the money to prepare the wall, the scaffolding, the materials?” asked the good-natured priest. He’s a Scot, so he’s not too keen on splurging. I scratched my head. For now, we don’t discuss my fee. I’d really like to do the painting though… even for free.
I can’t seem to forget that unusual wall, even for a moment. I keep going to the church on the quiet, just to look at it. To pray to it. What amazing light in that transept! The side windows cast a muted glow.
The church was recently renovated, but nothing has been done in this section yet, luckily. The priest dreams of putting a baptismal font there, as they still lack one. If there’s a christening, they’ll probably, Lord help them, use a plastic bowl. I told him that I’d draw up plans for the whole interior.
“Great,” replied the Scot, “but how do we convince the parish council? How do we convince the Westminster consistory that we even need a painting on the wall when the church doesn’t even have supposed essentials like speakers, not to mention the kneeling pillows without which no self-respecting Christian today can pray.”
So this is how my days are, full of waiting and frustration. I anxiously count the hours as they flow by, because hours become days, while days become months and years.
How much time do I have left for waiting?
I go to doctors, specialists, clinics. My test results seem to be fine. Still fine. I certainly still have angina pectoris, but my condition has considerably improved in the last few years.
If only I had more time ahead of me, I could still do so much more.
I’m getting impatient.
I’m painting, but I’m painting impatiently.