Incredible journeys inspire art auction at Farm Street

Eight artists have come together to raise money for refugees fleeing conflict and those making life-changing pilgrimages. Book your place at the auction at Farm Street Church on 30th Jan! 

John Woodhouse has organised the exhibition ‘Journeys in hope’ at Farm Street Church Hall (entrance at 114 Mount Street) where the paintings will be shown for the next month and be sold at a special auction event at the hall at 6pm on January 30th 2020. All proceeds will go to supporting three charities: Westminster Lourdes Pilgrimage, Aid to the Church in Need and Safe Passage.

As well as John Woodhouse, the artists taking part are Nelson Ferreira, Alex Roch, Teresa Newham, Pauline Barley, Mike Quirke, Norah McKeogh and the Farm Street Church artist in residence, Andrew White. 

The exhibition is open daily except Sundays and anyone interested in coming to the auction needs to register now as the event is limited to 70 places and is already filling up. Tickets can be booked hereFarm Street Church is situated a few minutes’ walk from Bond Street and Green park tube stations.

Many of the paintings explore the themes of Syrian migration and pilgrimage.

John Woodhouse – a retired librarian, organist and choirmaster – now organises the Westminster interfaith group and has become a keen painter. He explained why he felt moved to organise this ambitious event: “I really felt I should use my art to try and change the world and convey what I actually believe in. After hearing Lord Alf Dubbs speaking about safe passage for child refugees, I was absolutely appalled when I heard about babies being taken across the sea in open boats which could possibly sink – and I felt I had to do something about that. So that’s why I started to paint totally different subjects and moved away from portraits and landscapes that I had been doing. So that’s where the painting 'Safe Passage' comes from and the others followed on.

“I then had a wonderful encounter with Elizabeth Uwalaka at Lourdes. Elizabeth is the Pilgrimage Administrator for the Westminster diocese who suggested the idea of an art auction and asked me to paint a picture about Lourdes for her – which I did and that lead to us being here today.”

Nelson Ferreira will be offering a commissioned portrait at the auction. Nelson explained that his own travels had led him to take part in this event: “Before the conflict I visited Syria myself and couldn’t believe the hospitality I received from people. I was so touched by my connection with them that I felt I had to take part in this auction to help those who have fled for their lives.”

Alex Roch is a regular visitor to Lourdes and sees a parallel in the spirituality of art and in the experiences of those visiting the holy shrine: “Every year the people we take to Lourdes will say thank you to us for being there with them, but I say, “Thank you!”, because the pilgrimage is a ‘spiritual holiday’ for me - the truth is, I wouldn't be there with them if it wasn't for the fact that I volunteer to help every year. I was very keen to be part of this auction, not least because I do think art has the power to touch people in the deepest way. I try to capture the atmosphere and intensity of the moment fully through my own relationship with what I am painting – I have a number of works in the exhibition from a recent trip I made to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Being up there looking down on the world was a very special experience.”

Teresa Newham's work also draws inspiration from nature, travel and the quirkiness of everyday life. One of her favourite pictures in the exhibition captures the eerie beauty of the Skellig Islands off the coast of Ireland – whose towering rock outcroppings are famous to many as Luke Skywalker’s monastic retreat in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi: “I am interested in using art to capture our Common Home. This painting of the Skelligs shows a peaceful morning with the Atlantic beyond and both captures its spiritual beauty but also for me shows a place with strong community where people have learned to help each other due to its isolation.”  Teresa also helps with the Lourdes pilgrimage every year and feels the strong call back since she first went in 2014.

Pauline Barley’s work, Worship, shows Hindu women standing in a river during a religious festival: “This painting was a challenge to myself – the strong women dressed in vibrant colours standing in the tranquillity of the water with its reflections. I am so happy that it’s part of the exhibition – I couldn’t say no because I am so touched by the desperation people must feel when they are forced to flee from peril and danger. As a mother I am always asking myself what would I do in that situation.”