When you’re a guy who just waved goodbye to your cushy corporate job, you may find yourself lying in bed one night as the unsuspecting victim of a Jerry Macguire moment. That’s how ‘Sideways’ happened.
And boy did it change things. I received comments from all over the world about the work, got featured in an arts journal associated to the British Arts council, and was invited to exhibit in two festivals globally. Within months I was a practicing artist selling my oil paintings.
Somehow the ideas I conceived on the toilet seemed to have gained a life of their own and I was thrilled. I also took some flack for these pictures from those who reckoned I was being blasphemous. That too was a surprise considering that it came from people I marveled at having the ability to sock an entire bottle of tequila and still stand up straight.
Nevertheless, early on in my artistic journey was I schooled about what it meant to carry your vision out into the world. Don’t let opinions discourage you creativity. You’re the only one who can carry your vision. After all it’s you who conceives them.
And in that spirit, you can read the original artistic statement I made to accompany this body of work…the Jerry Macguire moment from way back when I was a religious man. In it you’ll find the concept I was communicating through these pictures, that God doesn’t readily jump out at you but is still always there, always was. So each of these pictures have the Arabic word ‘Allah’ worked into the composition, and easy to see if you look, well, ‘sideways’.
Comment below if you’ve seen him elsewhere!
A journey into outer faith...
God may be good for us but why do we have so serious a perception of Him? Mercy, forgiveness and compassion are all quite serious. The need for respect in place, God as the venerable and merciful captivates our attention mostly as the one who is not to be toyed with. By Gods design we seek happiness, we are drawn to the positive, yet God is rarely something we associate with joy. I mean, have you ever found yourself smiling in prayer?
Philosophical questions aside, I prefer to look at this as a human being because that’s what I am. From my understanding religion is supposed to be this code of values that when lived-up to, gains us a quintessential human love and dignity. Our achievement of this in turn earns salvation from the Hell and delivers us unto Heaven, the prize for obedience. Lets suppose there’s nothing to lose and both Heaven and Hell are removed from the equation. Is there still a need for a God besides the religion He’s lent us to achieve our own greatness? Even if it weren’t so, the usual paradigm in place, it’s quite selfish of us don’t you think; we’re not really returning the favour of his Word, are we now? Instead we’re using it as a means to an end, we’re using obedience to secure a comfy place in Heaven. Its like having a contact and everyone wants powerful friends right?
Virgins and all, Heaven really is aiming low when compared to the company of God Himself. Our own greatness too is futile, admittedly, because Heaven does sound a lot better than Earth! If its joy and happiness that we seek then I think our perception is both selfish and foolish. Not only are we settling for second prize but all the manufactured fear in our faithful lives is for nothing. We might as well just live unaccountable, guilt-free and happy now!
Put very bluntly, faith then may just be a big trick that we play on ourselves; to pretend, for whatever reason, that there is a Deity, a Heaven and a Hell, angels, demons and the lot. Paying this perception its dues makes sense because if they do happen to exist then, well, we’re safe. This is nothing new, we’ve invented insurance right? The only time insurance smiles at you is when his 10 grand suit is selling it to you. The balance of the time there’s that grave look on your face when a large chunk from the ‘ol bank account is missing. Now as a human being, I think about all of this and I wonder: Could it be that we’re just don’t know what we’re getting for the price of our efforts? Have we invented a God simply to compensate for our fears? It gets worse; along with doubt there is also the precarious situation of deciding whether to continue the efforts or not? The guilt from a supposed conviction doesn’t make the situation any easier, hence an obsession with mercy and forgiveness. In all seriousness, what it boils down to is the question of whether we don’t associate God with joy because we somehow feel duped?
Now whether you believe in a God or not, the idea of a God is certainly hopeful and positive. It brings a smile to my face. I just couldn’t fit this perception neatly into an understanding of God, life, the universe and beyond. I couldn’t accept that so great a being would be taken advantage of so easily and if He is indeed so accommodating, what then is there to fear? Great personalities are always attractive in some way, rarely if ever timid, because attraction and beauty are positive. We use it to find friends and lovers. I used it as the basis for questioning whether God was attractive and indeed joyful, if He was worth the effort? Imam Al-Ghazali once remarked that “you have not truly believed until you have questioned”; I’m glad I did!
I’d like to think that God has a good many more attractions than simply compassion and mercy. Clever and considerate, I imagine Him to have a wonderful sense of humour and a profound wisdom. I think He is not just powerful and magnificent but He is also a charming and breathtaking personality. I’ve begun to admire, rather than fear the idea of God; these days I prefer to address Him by His name, Allah!