Reception and Artist Talk: Thursday, September 15 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm
Some years ago, Stephane Ruault began a search for a way to “live a real life infused with the Spirit.” He studied theology, prayer practices and the history of stained glass; in this art form, he found a metaphor for his quest for Light. He began to work with molten glass, learning the traditional craft and exploring innovations in materials and structure. The resulting art reflects his religious preoccupations with time, eternity, contemplation and seeking the presence of God. This exhibition presents his two and three-dimensional work from the past decade.
Granum Sinapis is a series of works on paper inspired by Meister Eckhart’s medieval poem The Grain of Mustard Seed of the Most Beautiful Deity: Small in Contents, Yet Great in Power. The ten diptychs might be small in size–20 x 41 inches– but they teem with imagery. Portraits of Christ in ink and acrylic paint are paired with text and abstract compositions that convey the artist’s theological reflections on the poem’s apophatic theology. Ruault describes it as “a way of singing the Meister Eckhart poem in space.”
Austere black and white images made of numberless marks evoke angular, craggy mountains in the Psalm # 1-10 series. These large-scale pen and ink works on paper are meditative collections of lines offered as a path to contemplative experience. The artist began these drawings “as a prayer in doing and observing.” Viewers are invited to meditate in front of the image as a way to open to the presence of God.
Two of Ruault’s figurative stained glass windows hang in the gallery: Virgin and Quest. His contemporary piece Inversion is also on view. Unlike traditional stained glass, where windows are illuminated by light entering a building, these modern panels are shaped like windows with the back blocked. The glass provides the structure with lead as a design element surrounded by the black wood frame. When light grazes the front of the glass in a contemporary work, it illuminates the texture and folds of irregular material, flowing like water or rippling like wind on a pond.
Ruault’s work combines his appreciation for the ancient art of glass with innovative structures and his own vision drawn from his religious practice. Through this, he offers a contemporary view of sacred art.
Artist’s Statement and Bio
The more I work, the more I realize how attracted I feel to the domain of sacred art. This does not exclude any tradition, but as a Christian, I am deeply touched by the mystery of incarnation that invites every believer to hold together two contradictory elements along the way to sanctity: the certainty of the Presence of the Divine in the world and inside every human being and, at the same time, its inability to be felt.
“Grace is everywhere” said the 19th century French mystic, Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus. I try to reach that point of presence where silence is inhabited by the Verb that expresses itself in its own mystery.
The Glass work: Inversion
For this exhibition at the Dadian Gallery, I am happy to show a series of “unstained” glass panels called Inversion. It was created for an exhibit in Paris whose theme was Time and Eternity. Save one piece, which is now part of a private collection in France, the series is shown in its entirety. In order to address the theme, I had felt the need to invert traditional elements; to speak of time and eternity felt impossible without what could be seen as a mental trick.
The title Inversion comes from an unusual use of glass and lead for the structure of the piece. It is no longer glass, surrounded by lead, that is the subject, but the lead itself. Johannes Schreiter, whom I admire very much, had opened the way in the 60’s, using long lines of lead that extended over the glass they held, thus no longer serving a structural function but becoming a pure element of composition. Further, in my series, I have inverted the habitual lighting pattern of stained glass. Instead of gaining transparency from a backward source of light, light comes from the front, causing the glass to project the shadow of its texture and the shape that has been imprinted into the glass onto a white backboard.
The glass conducts its shadow in its transparency like a parable evoking an echo of the Presence in eternity. The lead becomes the event held by the Presence in time.
The drawings: Psalms and Granum Sinapis
Through my drawings and paintings, I pursue this quest of the Presence by delineating space with strict black lines. I nourish a passion for lines. The traditional arts of the icon and illumination are my main sources of inspiration. I aspire to create work in which contemplation takes the viewer to a space beyond representation. Contemplation leads to adoration. The image is never adored, but the truth that is revealed through it is.
The pen and ink Psalms series depicts mountains as the place of theophany (divine manifestation). “Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place?” asks the voice of Psalm 24. The mountain is the place of meeting with God. In the first Book of Kings (19-11), Elijah is called to go and stand on the mountain: “The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’” In this series, I hope to offer a possible place of meeting with the Presence where all who wish may spend some time and experience something of the Divine.
The second series is an illustration of Meister Eckhart’s Granum Sinapis, a medieval poem, and in fact the only poem the spiritual Dominican master ever wrote. I have chosen to present diptychs, showing on the one hand, the text and a geometrical composition in black and white, and on the other, a color portrait of Christ. In recent years, Meister Eckhart’s writings have grown in visibility and success in Western countries and have been quoted in books whose authors would reject Christian tradition. Underlying this trend, Meister Eckhart, as a master of apophatic theology, may be seen to have kept the figure of Christ in a remote place. But it cannot be disputed that he could not have written a single word without Jesus-Christ in the centre of his theology as well as of his spiritual experience. For this reason I have decided to show faces of Christ to represent the other side of the apophatic coin, the incarnate nature of God, that gives it its coherence for contemporary perception and understanding.
Stéphane had been working for several years as a graphic designer in his own studio when he came to the point where he had to make a profound change in his life. This turning point took place in the context of deep personal and spiritual evolution. He was in search of light, so he would go and look for it as much in his professional life as in his personal one.
He started by studying the art of glass in Paris, France – the city where he was born and raised. After training for one year full-time in a Parisian glass studio, he continued to learn, improve technical skills, and gather inspiration during an eleven-month travel study with his wife through India, the Middle East, and Europe. He practiced traditional and modern glass techniques as a guest artist in studios and university settings. Once back home in Paris, he started his own glass studio with his wife where they produced work for exhibit and commission. During this period, he won a competition for the creation of all the stained glass windows of a modern church located in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a suburban town of Paris. At the end of 2014, he moved to the USA.
Since settling in Massachusetts, he has dedicated his time to prayer and his art.
The Dadian Gallery is at the Wesley Theological Seminary located at 4500 Massachusetts Ave. NW. For more information visit luceartsandreligion.org/wondrous-desert.