PH: The artist confesses to some hesitation about Mary which is peculiar to him. In this series, he has tried to walk with Mary through the beginning to the end and in doing so, to discover what her place is in the Christian faith.
PH: In some respects, it is from my own Mother that I have tried to find the femininity of Mary, because I have been living in a male world for a long, long time.
TF: So Patrick, why at this stage in your life, at 84 years when you did this work, did you determine to have this journey. What led you to this occasion, to this body of work?
PH: I could have, as I was doing before, made expressionistic, angst-filled agonising work like I used to do, but I believe I’ve changed. There has been a change in my life; a change in me, a conversion maybe where I’ve found peace in my faith and the desire to express it publicly. This work might well be my last scriptural set of drawings I do.
It’s getting close to the end of my life too. Another two or three years might do it.
TF: Patrick, well you are rather incorrigible. No, that’s not the word. What’s the word?
PH: (chuckling loudly) Indefatigable.
TF: That’s the one, that’s absolutely it!
PH: I could have gone back to the safety and seclusion of St Paschal’s, but I felt I had to go back to my commitment to the people of Collingwood*. I don’t get as much care here, but it would be difficult for me to do any artwork at St Paschal’s because there is no real space to do it. There are many rooms, but the rooms are bedrooms.
I don’t know what the next (work) will be. I can take a breath I think.
TF: So do you want to make any observations about what you have achieved with these drawings?
PH: When I started drawing, it wasn’t a spiritual exercise. It was…. drawing, within the confines of simple ink and brush on a white surface and in the confines of modern mannered drawing, a modern manner of drawing. That was my biggest concern, to make the drawing work as a drawing. I didn’t get spiritually high on any of them; there was no elation. Dare I say, a deep desire to draw; only drawing and principally a drawing, but also the mark making which marks my passion and spirituality and my temperament.
Drawing for me is more than the dry academic approach. It is driven by a compulsive need to simply draw; draw.
* On Sunday 31 May after some two weeks’ work,
Patrick Henigan completed, on hands and knees, a 25m long drawing of the
life of Nijinsky. The following Monday while viewing the work with an
artist friend, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalised.