Advent to Christmas
An exhibition by artists of
Brookfield Centre for Spirituality
Old Friary, 139 Brookfield Road, Kenmore Hills
The Adoration of the Shepherds David Binns
December 6 to December 23, 2017
Opening night Friday December 8, 6 pm
Artists: David Binns, Gwenda Branjerdporn, Jennii Gould,Karen Hales, Virginia Hasker, Kerry Holland, Jennifer Long, Jenny Phillips, Rita Ringma, Bernice Ross, Gabriella Veidt-Wiedmer, Geraldine Wheeler
Catalogue Essay by Geraldine Wheeler
Through many centuries artists have regularly pictured the biblical stories as happening in their own settings, with the people in the stories, including Jesus, visualised as belonging to the artist’s own ethnic group. This was something that David Binns often did, particularly in his “Saints from the Suburbs” series, three of which are on display here. This approach is also seen in some of the gouache stencils by Geraldine Wheeler, including “Mother and Child with Australian Native Flowers”, and Jennii Gould, writer and illustrator of children’s books, has chosen to show the delight of Australian native animals as they encounter the Christ child.
Some of the other work in this exhibition draws upon the local setting in other ways, relating to family Christmas celebrations or expressing more personal experiences of the time of Advent moving towards Christmas. The works of Gwenda Branjerdporn depict the ways that her grandchildren celebrate, Bernice Ross reflects on the world beyond the window and we see the themes of death and new life/birth in the work of Virginia Hasker, “New Life from Old”, and Jennifer Long’s “Advent Journey (Day and Night)”. This latter work explores the spiritual depths of facing both death and birth as an Advent experience, reflecting this also by using the purple jacaranda colour which we see around us at this time in the branches above and the fallen flowers below the trees. In Geraldine Wheeler’s “O come, O come, Emmanuel” depicting the choir singing Christmas carols in the Queen Street Mall (a bit out dated since the latest building changes), we see another local setting for Advent and the prayer which many Christians sing at this time.
The mother and child theme is viewed in parallel ways as we look at David Binns’ “Madonna and Child” in a Brisbane setting and Gabriella Veidt-Wiedmer’s “Safe” which reflects the enormous dilemma for refugees across the world today. We often see the sign “Jesus was a refugee” outside churches and David Binns’ “Flight into Egypt” suggests the Holy Family about to catch a Queensland Rail train to escape.
Four of the works use both words/letters and images to express the artists’ thinking. Two of David Binns’ works, “The Word Became Flesh” and “Mary’s Song”, do this as does also “Peace Angel” by Karen Hales. Geraldine Wheeler’s “Magnificat” places the Greek text from Luke 1:46-47 behind the figure of Mary. Her “Chi-Rho: Jacaranda and Poinciana” also uses the Greek letters which are transliterated as Chr and are regularly used to summarise the title, Christ, as in the abbreviation of Christmas as Xmas. This reflects back to the large pages in the mediaeval manuscripts, the Lindisfarne Gospel and the Book of Kells, where the highly decorated, so-called “chi-rho pages” introduce the verse in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 1:18, which begins the section telling of the birth of Jesus, the Christ.
Other works in the exhibition point to the mystery of the work of God in Christ in more abstract ways, as do those of Kerry Holland, for whom the crochet doily carries much symbolism. Jenny Phillips’ explorations in colour express a wide range of feeling associated with colour for many people, some highly celebratory, others more sombre. In the entry vestibule we can also find ourselves in the midst of the roadside grasses and flowers as seen by Gabriella Veidt-Wiedmer as she walked a camino in Switzerland, her home country. The Advent journey is to be one of prayer as well as a time of hectic preparation and shopping.
Finally we have the ceramic works of Rita Ringma which, in their three dimensional form, show us another way we are able to express the deeper meaning of Christmas in the way that we use decorations in the home and the other places where we celebrate.
This exhibition by artists from the ecumenical group known as Visionaries at the Brookfield Centre for Spirituality, the Old Friary, enables not only an Advent celebration towards Christmas, but also, a celebration of the work of one of our founding artist/advisors, Rev. David Binns, long associated with this centre, and also an artist who had the passion for visualising the biblical story in his local setting. Our thanks to all at the Brookfield Centre who have made this exhibition possible.
Geraldine Wheeler, 2017