P a s s i o n

A painting cycle made in response to the Crucifixion especially for Shoreham Church
by invitation of The Reverend Richard Freeman and in collaboration with him
3 March to 17 April 2004

Richard Freeman’s wish for this exhibition was that it would be a journey; that my contribution would be my personal journey, via the paintings, and that through them visitors to the church would be offered the opportunity of making their own personal journey for Lent. Although the journey I have been making has been in response to the Crucifixion it has gone further so that half of the exhibition takes its beginning in the cross. The journey also became a cycle with the end going back to the beginning.

All the paintings in this exhibition are crosses. When I started painting a cross I felt awkward about its anthropomorphic form so turned the paintings upside down and worked with images of flowers (Transcendence). Soon after I turned them upside down again making them back into crosses and began painting the Mysteries and saw the form as the figure, without the cross, writhing in pain. The anthropomorphic element, in all its ambiguity, subsequently became central to the work.
 
1. Transcendence
The seed you sow does not come to life unless it has first died. (I Corinthians 15: 36)
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 21: 6)
 
 
Journey – a cycle
Transcendence – in four ways:
1. Image emerging from the flat surface of the painting
2. A seed breaking out of the ground as a shoot (see quotation from Prof J Macquarrie )
3. Our own transcendence (Simone de Beauvoir ): our own personal growth requiring the challenges of change and transcendence rather than stagnation
4. Jesus' transcendence in ultimate form through his crucifixion

One door closes, another opens: A difficulty/ disappointment/ tragedy can lead to new opportunities, a new dimension to life.
There are some things in life that can only be seen through our tear-filled eyes.
(The Rev Canon Hugh Glaisyer)

2. ‘It is finished’
And he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. (John 19: 30)

Christ’s humanity: dying on the cross, suffering extreme pain, a protracted death, the humiliation of nakedness and being mocked and whipped. A human being, a good man, guilty of nothing, murdered in the most brutal way imaginable. A man dying willingly as a supreme act of love, complete self-giving and self-emptying (kenosis).
3. Duende
Our humanity:
in our need for dignity we are desperate to find ways of covering up our inadequacy and weakness. Through the icons of daydreams certain poses (intimated purely by chance in these three paintings) exemplify a pathetic dignity. The old lady in a nursing home clutches at her dignity by keeping up appearances; putting on her lipstick and having her hair and nails done.
To Lorca the creative struggle is at its extreme in the duende, which he defines as a fight with death. The duende is also a form of kenosis or self-emptying.
The greatest artists of the south of Spain, whether Gypsy or flamenco, whether they sing, dance or play know that no emotion is possible unless the duende comes… With idea, sound or gesture the duende enjoys fighting the creator on the very rim of the well. Angel and muse escape with violin, metre and compass; the duende wounds. In the healing of that wound, which never closes, lie the strange, invented qualities of a man’s work.
From the lecture Play and theory of the duende by Federico García Lorca (1989-1936)
                               
4. Mysteries
This series of paintings of crosses was made while listening to the Mystery Sonatas by Heinrich Ignaz von Biber (1644-1704). These virtuoso sonatas for violin using scordatura – tuning the strings differently for each sonata – encapsulate the anguished contortions of Christ writhing on the cross or of a frenzied dance – a mediaeval Dance of Death. Each of the fifteen Mystery Sonatas has a biblical reference and the Sorrowful Mysteries (the middle five) deal with episodes in the Passion. The most poignant is The Agony in the Garden: ‘Not my will, but thine, be done’ (Luke 22: 42). This is one of the moments when we see Christ’s humanity most clearly, when he is at his most vulnerable.
These paintings could be seen as starting with a static image symbolic of the dead Christ on the cross and as the series progresses the forms take flight and become more and more ghostlike and ethereal, intimating the resurrection and life after death. So rather than a journey from birth to death it is a journey that begins with death.
5. Spirit
  
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
(Luke 42: 42, 43)
   
6. Passing beyond
   
A return to transcendence:
Passing beyond – outrepasser – was a key idea with French philosophers after the Second World War and they were preoccupied with the term. It is by pursuing transcendent goals that man is able to exist; man, being this passing beyond, seizes upon things only as they bear upon this passing beyond. All is in process at all times and a part of such a process is to transcend the immediate givens of a situation.
       
Dore Ashton
The cycle of birth/life/death/birth continues.