A Jesuit artist at the Curia

For a few days now, we have been meeting in the corridors of the General Curia or sharing a meal with a Jesuit of Colombian origin who is part of the United States West Province: Arturo Araujo. He is a visual artist and has been invited by Father General himself. Intriguing? We asked him what he’s up to.

Arturo Araujo, what stands out in your conversations with Father General? What project are you working on, what challenges does this project bring to you?

I have had the opportunity to speak with Father General several times about this project. The theme we chose together is the four Universal Apostolic Preferences, which in itself is an artistic challenge: how to translate these preferences into visual terms, without falling into a graphic simplification or a visual jumble that, in the end, does not represent the subject or the theme.

Another challenge is the physical environment: a hallway that is 33 metres long and 3 metres high, interrupted asymmetrically by various doors, windows and ventilation systems.

From conversations with Father General, it is very clear that he wants a work that generates life, that produces consolation and hope. As he told me himself: “Even if you represent the prayer in the Garden of Olives, let this composition produce spiritual consolation.” Finally, I can say that Father Sosa wants a work that leaves room for the imagination and lets the Spirit flow.

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How do the artist and the Jesuit priest meet? In your life, is your priestly ministry linked to your artistic activity?

In the past, the priest was the artist and, in turn, the one who brought healing to the sick. The separation of these roles is a modern problem that is not conducive to the full, harmonious growth of who we are. For me, the greatest artwork happens in the confessional, when people open themselves to the grace of a God who can recreate their lives from scratch, turning sin into abundant life. Being a priest allows me to be a witness to God’s healing power, where he recreates and I acknowledge and bless his work.

My artwork is imbued with this foundational experience of God the Creator. At the altar, God gives himself to us and feeds us with his life; he creates and recreates us from within as living images of his son. We have a very poor understanding of art; we think that art is a beautiful object of decoration or religious propaganda. Authentic art always happens on the community altar, in the home kitchen and in the community canteen.

I cannot understand myself without art, that is, without beauty. I cannot believe in a God who is not beautiful and who does not believe in everything that is beautiful. It is through beauty that we find the traces that lead us to the Creator.

I teach art at Seattle University. Teaching art is no small task. It is to introduce students to the existential drama of humanity, so that new generations of artists can study their own questions using tradition. And of course, in this tradition, there is always this question that never leaves us, the question of this transcendent and marvellous being that we call God. Every self-respecting artist, whether atheist or believer, is always confronted with an experience of transcendence.

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Could we have the feeling that your works show pain, tribulation?

In my case, art has been a deep healing experience for all the losses of loved ones due to violence in my country, Colombia. In my work, I find their wonderful traces that move me because I experience that these people are still alive and they speak to me with rhythms and colours.

I am also inspired by nature, music, the company of friends, a good meal or a moment in my garden.

Coming back to the Universal Apostolic Preferences project, do you already envision how to express them in a way that is appropriate for today’s Society of Jesus?

It is still too early to talk about it, but I can anticipate that the Jesus of the poorwill be present in Father General’s corridor, so that those who come to visit him will be well awarethat our General and the Society of Jesus in the world live for the poor and are focused on them.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles public relations.

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