(This article was published in The Catholic Times, Manchester, England, June 19th 2005. Reproduced by kind permission, copyright © The Catholic Times, 2005.)
Elizabeth Wang’s art is Catholic but evangelical. Simple, striking and colourful, her paintings contain profound truths about the faith. For example, Christ is our Bridge to Heaven depicts Jesus with his arms outstretched bridging the huge chasm separating heaven from earth. On his shoulders, pinprick-high, are dozens and dozens of people crossing from one side of the divide to the other. Like many of Wang’s paintings, this is accompanied by a meditation, a spiritual pointer to steer the viewer towards its message, encapsulated in a verse of scripture: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”(Jn 14:6) This image is just one of the more than 1,000 paintings on spiritual subjects Wang has produced over the past decade. Using oils and watercolour, she has created a lexicon of spiritual art, depicting prayer, the sacrifice of the Mass, the True Presence, the Virgin Mary, Christ’s suffering, the souls of purgatory rising to heaven, the soul opening to divine grace, and the guidance of Our Lady.
These and many more are now assembled on Wang’s online gallery: www.radiantlight.org.uk. This features 200 paintings used in 15 exhibitions. Every day, Wang adds a new ‘prayer picture’, which you can access by clicking on a button marked ‘prayer corner’. The gallery’s name, Radiant Light, is inspired by Hebrews 1:3, describing Christ as “the radiant light of God’s glory”. Light is the common factor in all Wang’s paintings: lighter colours swathe and swirl darker shapes, enveloping disciples in a tissue of light, encircling Mary with the infant Jesus or shooting out like glorious rays. This motif derives from Wang’s spiritual inspiration – the “teachings” she has personally experienced in prayer over the past 20 or so years. All have been a kind of “enlightenment” of traditional Catholic teachings. At the urging of Christ, Wang felt impelled to share these “teachings”, through her art and catechetical writings. She explains this “teaching in prayers” as follows: “Something momentous was implanted by God in my soul: nothing new; but something already known in outline about the Holy Trinity, or about glory, or grace, or souls, or prayer – or Our Lady, or the Incarnation – was suddenly made vividly plain,” she writes. A large number of Wang’s catechetical writings can also be found on the website.
Radiant Light is also the name of a movement that Mrs Wang, a convert, has founded which aims to “encourage people to grow in holiness by believing and living the Catholic faith to its fullness”. Mrs Wang’s work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy, and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. She has also had solo exhibitions of religious work at Westminster Cathedral, the Bar Convent Museum, and at Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square. Her artwork has been used recently by CASE, the National Office for Vocation, Youth 2000 and the Apostleship of the Sea, the Archdiocese of Birmingham Vocations Centre, the Catholic Truth Society and The Pastoral Review.
The Apostleship of the Sea is using Wang’s painting Surrounded by Christ’s Love, on its posters and prayer cards for sailors. This shows Christ standing above the world, on which he gazes with love. His light shines onto the globe below, silhouetting the ships on the horizon. “As a ship on high seas is surrounded and held up by water, so are we entirely ‘surrounded’ and held up by God’s love,” says the meditation accompanying the picture. It is used in the 2005 AOS calendar along with 11 other of Wang’s pictures about the Mass. The AOS plans to translate the prayer card into Russian, Chinese and other languages and the organisation’s national director, Commodore Chris York, said they chose Wang’s paintings because “seafarers are an international community and art can speak, across communities”. “The prayer cards are well-liked at sea” he said. “Elizabeth’s work is so meaningful – it takes a spiritual link to scripture and turns it into art. There is a lot of catechesis in it. It is very meaningful. It is a very simple catechesis appropriate to prayer cards.” He added: “Seafarers’ working days are extremely long and exhausting and the prayer card with a short reassuring reflection and the prayer that addresses their displaced situation in the world will no doubt refresh their spirits.”
Next Thursday, a new exhibition of Wang’s work opens at Notre Dame de France, the French Church in Leicester Square, London. Open until September 5, the exhibition is on the theme of prayer and features 18 large scale prints of original oil paintings accompanied by written meditations. On July 9, at 2pm, Fr Anthony Doe will give a talk entitledChristian Prayer in Daily Life, after which Mrs Wang will give a guided meditation on the exhibition pictures. This event is free and will also be in sign-language. Recently, Mrs Wang has written a book The Purpose of the Priesthood – A Message from Christ. This contains ten paintings in colour and is based on a talk Wang was asked to give priests last October, urging them to share all the truths of the faith alongside modern pre-occupations with peace, arms trading and justice.