Lenten Reflections 2019
An exhibition by artists of Visionaries
4 MARCH – 26 APRIL, 2019
Vera Wade Gallery
St. Andrew’s Uniting Church
Corner Ann & Creek Streets, Brisbane City
Artists: Gwenda Branjerdporn, Sue Mansill, Marion McConaghy, Graham Moss, Sue Oliver, Rita Ringma, Sharon Roberts, Bernice Ross, Cees Sliedrecht, Frank Wesley, Geraldine Wheeler.
View the Flickr Album of the Opening HERE
Lenten Reflections by Geraldine Wheeler
The artists who have placed work in this “Lenten Reflections” exhibition have considered a range of scripture readings used at this time of the year, most reflecting on the passages read during Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Day. Some reflect upon the layers of human experience in these stories and their own life experiences.
The period of Lent is traditionally linked with the period of forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, tempted by the devil, after his baptism by John (Matt 4: 1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4: 1-13). For the English artist, Stanley Spencer in the 20th century, it offered the inspiration to do one picture of Jesus in the wilderness for each day of Lent. He only managed nine however, the series on permanent display in the Art Gallery in Perth, WA. In this Visionaries’ exhibition there are two works alluding to this Gospel story.
Gwenda Branjerdporn’s Christ in the Wilderness, is a small work with the central, lone figure. Geraldine Wheeler’s Temptation in the Wilderness, is a large, gouache stencil painting presenting each stage of the story in the order as told in Matthew’s Gospel, reading the panels from bottom left clockwise. The temptations are suggested in images while the words of scripture which guided Jesus’ answers are in text. The wilderness is pictured as the central Australian desert and Jesus as a small, seated figure. This is the second version of the work, painted after the 9/11 aeroplane attacks in New York, with the picturing of the kingdoms of this world including city towers and aeroplanes.
The gospel reading for the last Sunday in March is Luke 15:11-32, often referred to as the parable of the prodigal son. The large woodblock print, The Forgiving Father, by the late Indian Christian artist, Frank Wesley, depicts the forgiving welcome home given by the father to his younger son who had run away and wasted all his money, returning destitute and disgraced. Wesley’s oil painting of this hangs in the Hiroshima Girls’ School, Japan and a small number of prints were made from the woodblock in Brisbane in 1999 by Geraldine Wheeler. (Wesley lived about the last third of his life in Nambour, Queensland.) The woodblock is now housed for safe-keeping in the art department of the Australian Catholic University at Banyo. Some people have noted that the way the father is shown as catching his son to prevent him falling to the ground is almost cruciform.
The theme of forgiveness is also in the title of Sue Mansill’s work, Forgive, which is a semi-abstract depiction of the head of Christ wearing the crown of thorns. Two other artists have chosen to draw the Christ figure with the crown of thorns, Sharon Roberts in her charcoal drawing, Turn the other cheek, and Marion McConaghy in Grace –my gift to you, where the Christ figure is behind the praying man in the foreground. Beside these works is the untypically dark painting of Cees Sliedrecht, Peter’s denial of Jesus, Peter in agony perhaps already expressing deep remorse and knowing the need of forgiveness.
Three of the works make symbolic reference to trees and, of course, the cross of Christ was made of wood. The tree can carry layers of symbolism. In Geraldine Wheeler’s Gethsemane, the agony of Christ’s praying is set before the twisted, gnarled branches of old olive trees, such as those seen today in the garden in eastern Jerusalem which is thought to be that of Gethsemane. The trees can also express the agony of the prayer while the disciples sleep. Sue Oliver, in her parallel paintings, the first tree and the second tree, presents to us the tree of death and the tree which begins to sprout new life, with underlying reference also to the cross of Christ.
Bernice Ross in Layers of Dirt suggests the varying layers of human experience in all their diversity, using the colours of purples. Her second work, As the dawn begins, is done in glowing reds, browns and oranges, in contrast, to offer expressions of hope.
The two works which point more specifically towards resurrection are Geraldine Wheeler’s They went out and fled from the tomb (Mark 16: 8) and Graham Moss’s Victory. The former tells of the confused women leaving the empty tomb after hearing the angel’s message but before meeting the risen Christ and the latter looks further into the future as the gospel of Christ has spread into many cultures and the worship of many peoples. The reflective journey through Lent moves towards the cross and then the victory of the resurrection and beyond.
The exhibition contains two installations, Marion McConaghy’s Three Crosses and Rita Ringma’s water-filled ceramic bowls, with the title I thirst. The timber used for the crosses is recycled carpenter’s sawing horse timber and the crown of thorns encircles the top. The layers of meaning in Rita Ringma’s installation ask us to find the layers of reference to and meaning in water. Jesus on the cross said, “I thirst”, but he is the one who offers the gift of living water. We see the bowls of water and are called to reflect upon the mystery of God’s ways of relating to wayward humanity, evil in the world and offering gifts of grace, forgiveness and love.
The artists of Visionaries again thank St. Andrew’s Uniting Church and those particularly connected with the Vera Wade Gallery for the invitation to offer this Lenten Reflections exhibition as an opportunity for those who visit to spend time in reflection and prayer, and an opportunity for the artists to seek their own expressions of faith through the making of these works. Geraldine Wheeler, co-ordinator.