FR. PETIT. Photo by Jilson Seckler C. TiuFOR FRENCH-CANADIAN Dominican priest Fr. Gaston Petit, O.P., in the beginning was the Word—along with scribbles and crayola.

“I learned to create art even before I learned to walk,” Petit said. “I always scribbled and did things at a very early age, but the point is, I kept on scribbling. Usually every child scribbles, but they stop. I did not stop.”

He recalled that during his childhood, there were only a few means of entertainment so he would often amuse himself by drawing the cartoons he would see on the newspaper.

However, as he grew older, he felt that he had a religious calling and he eventually entered the Dominican order. He said that priesthood is a vocation and it came first before he thought of becoming an artist.

“[Being a] priest is the vocation, it is a call,” Petit said. “When you get the call, you either answer or you don’t answer. At that time, I was not thinking of becoming an artist at all. I wanted to be a priest.”

Nevertheless, Petit’s priestly duties led him right back to his passion. On one of his pilgrim missions in Japan, he immersed himself in the country’s diverse culture, specifically the arts. There, he became an adviser for a new church, where he painted its murals and even taught art lessons.

It was in Japan that Petit was able to study the art of Japanese calligraphy and his expertise on the subject encouraged him to produce various works inspired by the calligraphic art.

He eventually mounted an exhibit that integrated calligraphy with Japan’s four seasons. The works, although abstract, gave off the exact vibe that Petit wanted to exude, bringing to life the season in focus through each piece.

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During a lecture last November 15 organized by the Varsitarian and UST Archives, titled “Japanese Aesthetics and How it has Influenced My Art,” he discussed the diversity of Japan’s art. He explained that not only do Japanese art forms result in products of utmost beauty, they are also made with the most exquisite methods of crafting.

“The Japanese perception of beauty stresses balance and intertwines the senses,” he said.

Petit does not confine himself to a certain genre or medium. Although he is known for his Japanese prints, stained glass pieces and paintings, he also does sculptures and even works with architects in designing chapels. He experiments with different styles and incorporates Christian, Shintoist, and Buddhist beliefs in his works.

In his sculpture Jésus en Croix, he depicts Jesus on the cross using a single piece of what appears to be driftwood. The piece borders between abstract and Christian symbolism

Despite his busy schedule and all the travelling it requires, Petit does not see his love for the arts as a hindrance to his responsibilities as a priest. In fact, he even considers art as his own way of glorifying God.

“My art is a song of glory,” Petit said, “It is my prayer.” with reports from Ma. Joanna Angela D. Cruz

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