Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jesus Encirled

Title: Jesus Encirled
Artist: Rachel Monteagudo
Medium: Linoleum print and acrylic paint
Size: tbd
Date: 2007
Location: Private collection.

While in 11th grade at Norcross High School in Norcross, Georgia, artist Rachel Monteagudo created this arresting image of Jesus, which went on to be featured in various student art shows. Her stark, almost wistful, Man of Sorrows is made triumphant by the encircling of this image with a radiant red and gold ovoid. There are allusions to the fourth chapter of the Revelation, notably chapter 4:2-3, and the vision of the throne room of God: “At once I came under the Holy Spirit's power, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with One seated on the throne! And He who sat there appeared like the crystalline brightness of jasper and the fiery carnelian, and encircling the throne there was a halo that looked like a rainbow of emerald.”

This image continues to follow a movement that seems to have evolved away from the realistic humanization of Jesus, championed by those the like the Russian Peredvizhniki, instead having focused on transcendent, redemptive imagery of the Messiah. Jesus is shown not as a human being like us, but rather as one who resonates the power and glory of the Son of Man. As foretold in the Book of Daniel 7:13-14 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, on the clouds of the heavens came One like a Son of man, and He came to the Ancient One and was presented before Him. And there was He given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is one which shall not be destroyed.”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jesus Comes to You

Title: Jesus Comes to You
Artist: Angelo Cruciani
Medium: Spray paint on cement
Size: tbd.
Date: 2006
Location: Spazio Oberdan, Milan.

From the 2006 Gesustreet project ‘Jesus Comes to You’, graffiti artist Angelo Cruciani depicted the visage of Jesus in a variety of urban locations, unabashedly in the open, for everyone to see. He displayed Jesus as brother, an example for everybody, and as a symbol of salvation. The Gesustreet project was realized in fifty different locations throughout Europe and Italy. This rendition was done in Milan’s Spazio Oberdan, revitalizing an otherwise neglected bus shelter.

Angelo Cruciani is a contemporary Italian artist. His intent was to interact with the world around him, in order to understand the human uneasiness and get inspiration from it. Starting from faith and, above all, from the figure of Jesus Christ, he summed up the uncomprehended issues of life that gave birth to all of our unanswered questions, and going deep inside the dark and mysterious sides of existence he seeks the light of reason.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph

Title: Christ in Glory in the Tetramorph (First Cartoon)
Artist: Graham Sutherland
Medium: Oil on Gouache on board
Size: 201.9 x 110.5 cm
Date: 1953
Location: Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry.

This cartoon was in response to a specific commission from reconstruction committee of Coventry Cathedral in England. The requirement was to combine the victory, serenity and compassion of Christ in Glory as depicted in Revelation 4:2-7 “...there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby...” Sutherland sought to find a means of expression that drew partly on convention, yet in places could might break entirely free from it to speak directly to the contemporary viewer. His Christ would ‘look vital, non-sentimental, non-ecclesiastical, of the moment, yet for all time.’

Graham Vivien Sutherland (August, 1903 – February, 1980) was an English artist. In his early years he produced prints of pastoral subjects, and did not begin to paint in earnest until he was in his mid-30s, following the collapse of the print market in 1930. Sutherland focused on the inherent strangeness of natural forms, and abstracting them, sometimes giving his work a surrealist appearance. Having converted to Catholicism in 1926, from around 1950, until his death he was deeply involved in religion. Following the war he produced several religious pieces, including The Crucifixion (1946) for St Matthew's Church, Northampton and the tapestry Christ in Glory for Coventry Cathedral. This cartoon was the first study for the Coventry tapestry.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Christ With Shopping Bags

Title: Christ With Shopping Bags
Artist: Banksy
Medium: Screenprint on wove paper
Size: 50 x 70 cm
Date: 2004
Location: Various; published by Pictures On Walls, London, edition of 82.

With this print Banksy makes us think about what art is, the nature of symbols, and how it connects with the reality of our lives. With stark juxtaposition the artist challenges values and popular culture. Jesus does much the same thing in relation to God; he seemed to be out of place in the synagogue and temple, always making shock waves and causing controversy. He also connected through humor, irony, vivid imagery. Originally released in 2004, and ranks as one of the lowest edition Banksy prints. Just 82 prints of this edition exist, all of which were signed.

Apparently born in Bristol in 1975, Banksy's location as well as real name is not publicly known. Graffiti artist, political activist, painter and decorator - the work of Banksy is unmistakable. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine irreverent dark humor with graffiti done in a distinctive stenciling technique, and have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world. Though his identity remains unknown, his work is prolific, and his art is included in some of the most important private collections in the World. On June 13, 2009, the Banksy UK Summer show, titled 'Banksy versus Bristol Museum’ opened at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, featuring more than 100 works of art, including ‘Christ With Shopping Bags’.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Revolutionary

Title: The Revolutionary
Artist: Churches Advertising Network
Medium: Printed poster
Size: Various
Date: 1999
Location: Various

This arresting picture of Jesus as a revolutionary, imitating the style of the famous image of 1960s revolutionary Che Guevara, was produced as an advertising poster encouraging people to go to church during Easter 1999. This poster image was produced by the Churches Advertising Network – an ecumenical charity, whose executive team comprises senior communications officers from the Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and URC churches; from the Catholic newspaper The Universe, and from the Church Army and Evangelical Alliance an independent group of UK Christian communicators. More of their work can be found on their website

One of the group, Peter Owen Jones, describes seeing the design for the poster, “We have a picture of Christ cast in the same pose as Che Guevara... as a piece of communication which is trying to say this man was a revolutionary – a spiritual revolutionary – it is simple and memorable”. Another member of the group which produced this version of Jesus said “Jesus was not crucified for being meek and mild. He challenged authority. He was given a crown of thorns in a cruel parody of his claims about proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Our poster has the most arresting picture our advertisers could find to convey all this – the image deliberately imitates the style of the well-known poster of Che Guevara.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Title: The Sacred Heart of Jesus
Artist: Salvador Dali
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 86.5 x 61 cm
Date: 1962
Location: Private Collection.

Dali's Sacred Heart portrays so clearly and frankly the beauty, strength, intensity and raw humanity of Christ's divine heart. This is not the passive Christ of so much religious art but rather the strong Christ of self-emptying love whose heart was crucified for us. Here is a Christ strong enough to carry any burdens we might lay at his feet; a heart tender enough to welcome any who seek refuge within it; a heart unafraid to expose itself that all might know its love and mercy.

Salvador Dali (May 1904 – January 1989) was a Spanish Catalan surrealist painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and designer. Although he is best known for his Surrealist works, Salvador Dali incorporated countless styles and themes into his work throughout his long and illustrious career. In 1940, as World War II started in Europe, Dali moved to the United States and eventually returned to the practice of Catholicism, and many of the images he utilized in his mid and late career were religious in nature.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Face of Christ

Title: Face of Christ
Artist: Georges Rouault
Medium: Color aquatint on paper
Size: 44.3 x 34 cm
Date: 1938
Location: Plate XX from Les Fleurs du Mal, edition of 250.

“Georges Rouault was one of the few modern artists whose work was clearly religious,” notes Bill Dyrness, Professor of Theology and Culture in Los Angeles. But though Rouault was a life-long Roman Catholic, his work was anything but Christian in the traditional sense. Too much of it seemed overly gloomy and depressing. Indeed for most of his life the Church resisted the darkness of his work—not until the end of his life did he receive a church commission. But this print, done at the height of the artist’s powers as printmaker, shows how deeply the artist identified with peoples’ sufferings and, indeed, saw within this darkness the salvation that Christ brought. It was especially in his graphic work that his religious vision took shape.

Georges Henri Rouault (May 1871 – February 1958) was a French painter, and printmaker. Rouault was born in Paris into a poor family. His mother encouraged his love for the arts, and in 1885 the fourteen-year-old Rouault embarked on an apprenticeship as a glass painter and restorer, which lasted until 1890. This early experience as a glass painter has been suggested as a likely source of the heavy black contouring and glowing colors, likened to leaded glass, which characterize Rouault's mature painting and printmaking style. The Christian faith informed his work in his search for inspiration and marks him out as perhaps the most passionate Christian artist of the 20th century.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Early Christians not only used the same artistic media as the surrounding pagan culture, but Roman forms and styles as well. These media included fresco, mosaics, sculpture, and manuscript illumination, and, not surprisingly, depictions of Christ were first modeled on those of a typical Roman youth.

However, in medieval Europe, everyone would have been confident that they knew what Christ looked like. Images of his face were everywhere, many of them claiming to be copies or versions of the miraculous ‘true likeness’ of Christ housed in St. Peter’s in Rome. This was the Veronica, also known as the Vernicle or the Sudarium (meaning cloth for wiping sweat). This bearded gentleman became the norm for portraits of Christ.

The Protestant Reformation during the 16th century in Europe ushered in a new artistic tradition that diverged from the southern European and humanist art produced during the high Renaissance. Protestant religious art both embraced Protestant values and assisted in the proliferation of Protestantism, but the amount of religious art produced in Protestant countries was hugely reduced. Artists in Protestant countries diversified into secular forms of art like history painting, landscape painting, portrait painting and still life.

This stylistic evolution was noted when nineteenth century Russian critic Alexei Suvorin extolled the traditional features of Christ represented in the art of the Old Masters: "Christ was young, strong and beautiful… That is why the Old Masters, who were devout, sought ideally beautiful and brave features for the God-man.” He lamented that contemporary artists had become interested in the formulation of new images of Christ, different from both the traditional Byzantine icons and Renaissance and baroque conceptions of the Redeemer. The representations of Christ they created were profoundly influenced by individual artists' individual attitudes toward religion, history, and society, and began to democratize both the figure and the face of Christ.

Such philosophy became widespread during the twentieth century, and depictions of Christ became as varied as the art movements that sprung up like flowers after a refreshing spring rain. Fauvism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Symbolism, Impressionism – they all had their exponents. And although biblical scenes and portraits of Christ became less common subjects for the artist, their interpretations became more varied and individualistic as time passed.

In the coming week I will spotlight images that were created within the last several decades, images that demonstrate the continued relevance of the depiction of Christ in modern times.

‘... blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.’ Matthew 13:16-17