Encounters with Jesus

When Jesus ascended to Heaven and became invisible, he promised to send his Holy Spirit so that, though we cannot see him, we can remain in touch with him, feel his presence and know his mind. A visible, physical relationship was transformed into a spiritual one, until Jesus returns.




These abstract paintings by Alison Thistlethwaite try to capture something of this spiritual relationship with Jesus. Any contact with God, as we know, changes us, and these paintings embody change. Most of them have been painted over a period of time, sometimes years, and often they travel the distance between pain and joy, perplexity and resolution. Within the same canvas, emotions expressed in colour to do with difficulty will be transformed into visions of hope. Alison aims to paint 'in the Spirit', that it, in touch with God, and sung worship is the normal beginning for her painting times. She also takes particular Bible themes as subjects for meditation on canvas.

Not all abstract art is spiritual in this sense, though it usually conveys in symbolic form something of the artist's beliefs. But abstraction is a also way of doing art in which the rules of colour and form apply, that is to say, colours and shapes make harmonies and dissonances which are satisfying in themselves. It is important to Alison to make paintings that stand on their own, and 'work' in contexts such as home and office, as well as church. It is hoped that the paintings can be enjoyed without the necessity of words. Nonetheless we have provided explanatory labels, which are not so much interpretations, as a way to help visitors pause in front of the paintings and find authentic ways into them.

Alison Thistlethwaite biography

Alison grew up in St Albans, where her great uncle was a noted flower painter, and her grandfather a much-loved illustrator. She went to St Albans school of art for a foundation year. But another talent, that of singing, drew her off into beginning a music career, with singing training in London and Cambridge, and a Music Therapy qualification in London. However while practising Music Therapy in London's East End, a chance question at a doctor's, as to whether the wrong job might cause depression (!) led her in a new direction. The doctor referred her to a well-known Scripture verse, Philippians 4: 8, 'Whatsoever things are beautiful...think on these things', and she went home and painted a flower. As she did so, she was enveloped in God's peace. Painting resumed, and back in Cambridge with a part time Music Therapy job at a hospital for special needs children and adults, she met her future husband David who was also interested in art. While in Cambridge she had two exhibitions of watercolours (and another with her father). Abstract painting began after a move to Leicester. In 1999 the family moved to the Cotswolds and built a spacious studio where Alison has been able to paint large paintings. Her first Cathedral exhibition was at York Minster (2011) and her first at Bradford was in 2013.


Even though Bradford Cathedral is currently closed, you can still explore this exhibtion online.


These photos are part of Ali Thistlethwaite's 'Encounters with Jesus' exhibition. The words that accompany them are by David Thistlethwaite.


Click here to start exploring.