Adam Boulter

In the Wilderness


This set of paintings have been painted for St Margarets Westminster for their Lent Season 2015 and are a collaboration with the Poet Malcolm Guite.

The Biblical wilderness with its rocky mountainous desert has been a place of sanctuary and transformation for prophets and holy men since the dawn of history.  Here Abraham and Jacob  encountered the divine, Jesus confronted the diabolical, St Paul and the early monks  learnt to speak the truth to those who would listen, and contemporary Christians seek refuge from the wars that are ripping apart this region. Here many stories and cultures that have shaped civilisations are layered onto the land. These paintings by Adam Boulter and poems by Malcolm Guite uncover some of these stories and tie them into our lives and times.

‘Abraham Entertaining the Angels’ 22” x 32”, Oil on Canvas
‘Jacob Wrestling the Angel’
22” x 32”, Oil on Canvas
‘The Flight to Egypt’
22” x 32”, Oil on Canvas
‘The Temptation of Christ’
22” x 32”, Oil on Canvas
‘Paul Being led Blind into Damascus’
22” x 32”, Oil on Canvas
‘Abba Moses the Black’
22” x 32”, Oil on Canvas
‘Christian Refugees on the Syrian Boarder’
22” x 32”, Oil on Canvas

1 Abraham and Sarah at Mamre

They practice hospitality; their hearts

Have opened like a secret source, free flowing

Only as they take another's part.

Stopped in themselves, and in their own unknowing,

But unlocked by these strangers in their need,

They breathe again, and courtesy, set free,

Begets the unexpected; generosity

Begetting generation, as the seed

Of promise springs and laughs in Sarah's womb.

Made whole by their own hospitality,

And like the rooted oak whose shade makes room

For this refreshing genesis at Mamre,

One couple, bringing comfort to their guests,

Becomes our wellspring in the wilderness

2 Jacob Wrestles with the Angel

I dare not face my brother in the morning,

I dare not look upon the things I've done,

Dare not ignore a nightmare's dreadful warning,

Dare not endure the rising of the sun.

My family, my goods, are sent before me,

I cannot sleep on this strange river shore,

I have betrayed the son of one who bore me,

And my own soul rejects me to the core.

But in the desert darkness one has found me,

Embracing me, He will not let me go,

Nor will I let Him go, whose arms surround me,

Until he tells me all I need to know,

And blesses me where daybreak stakes it's claim,

With love that wounds and heals; and with His name.

3 The Flight into Egypt

We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,

Or cosy in a crib beside the font,

But he is with a million displaced people

On the long road of weariness and want.

For even as we sing our final carol

His family is up and on that road,

Fleeing the wrath of someone else's quarrel,

Glancing behind and shouldering their load.

Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower

Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,

The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,

And death squads spread their curse across the world.

But every Herod dies, and comes alone

To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.

4) Temptation in the wilderness

‘A sacred place is good for looking down from;

You stand above the world on holy heights,

Here on the pinnacle, above the maelstrom,

Among the few, the true, unearthly lights.

Here you can breathe the thin air of perfection

And feel your kinship with the lonely star,

Above the shadow and the pale reflection,

Here you can know for certain who you are.

The world is stalled below, but you could move it

If they could know you as you are up here,

Of course they'll doubt, but here's your chance to prove it

Angels will bear you up, so have no fear....’

‘I was not sent to look down from above

It's fear that sets these tests and proofs, not Love.’

5) Paul blinded being led into Damascus

He cannot see the crescent moon, but feels

This night’s wide wilderness. He is afraid,

And holds the hand of one he used to lead,

Through folds and shadows where the moonlight falls

He holds his counsel and still holds the road,

As it winds northward. Rounding a last bend,

Paul senses each slight change in scent and sound;

A gradual Damascus just ahead,

Whose pre-dawn hush is filling him with dread,

For what awaits him there is his true end.

Slowly from Ananias he will learn

To touch the body and to break the bread

And, as the scales fall from his eyes, discern

How Love himself has risen from the dead.

6) Abba Moses the Black

You were yourself what everybody fears:

Sickening terror in the wilderness,

Roadblocks and robbery, as hatred stares

From the eyes of a cold killer, practiced, pitiless.

And then you met your match: outdone, undone

By One whose wounds pierced deeper yet than yours,

One victim's agony met you alone

To touch and pars a gospel in your scars,

And turn you to what everybody needs:

All-understanding, all-forgiving grace,

A radical humility that bears and feeds

The needy, lets them blossom in the place

Where love has planted them. Your martyr's blood

Still seeds and feeds and nurtures us for good.

7) Christ amongst the refugees

That fearful road of weariness and want,

Through unforgiving heat and hate, ends here;

We narrow sand-blown eyes to scan this scant

And tented city outside Syria.

He fled with us when everything was wrecked

As Nazarene was blazoned on our door,

Walked with the damaged and the derelict

To where these tents are ranked and massed, foursquare

Against the desert, with a different blazon;

We trace the letters: UNHCR,

As dark smoke looms behind a cruel horizon.

Christ stands with us and withstands, where we are,

His high commission, as a refugee;

To pitch his tent in our humanity.