My God My God Why

My God My God Why: Homage to the History of Painting
John Badcock

 

Premonition of a Crucifixion
Margaret Hudson-Ware

 

Locus
Sue Spigel

 

Sister Sandra, Christchurch Cathedral I

Sister Sandra, Christchurch Cathedral II
Bridgit Anderson

 

Wood and light, fragments of a cross 2009
Stefan Roberts

 

Behold the Man
Sam Harrison

 

Sincerely L. Cohen
Dick Frizzell

 

Bye Bill You can't take them with you
Earl Tutty

 

Cowshed Christmas
Gavin Bishop

 

image gallery

The Cross 

A group exhibition of 23 artists: John Badcock, Shaun Waugh, Dick Frizzell, Llew Summers, Don Binney, Gavin Bishop, Galina Kim, Sue Spiegel, Dorothy Helyer, Margaret Hudson-Ware, Michael Ebel, Sam Harrison, Tony de Lautour, Philip Trusttum, Bridgit Anderson, Stefan Roberts, Laura Griffiths, Joanna Osborne, Earl Tutty, Sam Mahon, Ben Reid, Hamish Wright, Ian Scott.

ChristChurch Cathedral 29 September – 8 October 2009
CoCA Gallery, Christchurch 14 - 30 October 2009

 

Across the Pacific, Californian authorities literally boxed a long-time veterans’ memorial cross atop
a hill in the Mojave National Preserve least it cause ‘offence’. In stark contrast, two members of the Christchurch cultural precinct curated an exhibition
of two dozen artists showcasing the very emblem hidden in American plywood.

Director of the Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) Dr Warren Feeney is correct in The Cross catalogue, 'As a symbol ... traced through history and cultures over the past 4000 years with associations that are both sacred and secular, it remains a powerful and complex religious emblem’.

This creative collaboration between ChristChurch Cathedral and CoCA follows their successful collaborative slate tile exhibition in 2007 in which artists created works on de-commissioned cathedral slate roof tiles. The Cross initiative of viewer commentaries added a literary and interactive component, very welcome with such an engaging and polarising subject. The cathedral’s resident theologian Rev Lynda Patterson warned, ‘the artworks...will stir your imagination, and poke your intuition with a stick’.

Through sculpture, painting, photography and mixed media, 23 well-known and emerging artists engaged with the wide-sweeping heritage of the cross, one of the most iconic images of history and art.

Overall the exhibition was a powerful unification clustered around a timeless thematic. On closer inspection, however, the artistic responses were quite diverse and in some cases engaged simply around shape or clich? (Trusttum, Scott). Compared with more engaging works like Osborne, Binney and Hudson-Ware, this made for a weak/strong hit-and-miss assemblage to the centrality of the exhibition’s essential conversation. This was perhaps caused by some artists actively engaging with the exhibition while others contributed from libraries of work using relevant pieces.

The exhibition was well hung in CoCA, the works playing expertly off one another. The larger works had the space and magnitude necessary to allow for an artistic ‘reading’ alongside the closer inspection enjoyed by smaller works.

Llew Summers, known for his controversial sculptural Stations of the Cross artworks in the nearby Catholic basilica, juxtaposed two granite crosses atop rocks in red and white ‘Red Granite Cross’ and black on red ‘White Cross’. Alongside Summers, photographer Stefan Roberts successfully juxtaposed the historicity of the cross with lean contemporary components capturing the ageless potency of the emblem. Roberts’ work was a symmetrical segue into Spiegel’s textile ‘Locus’. The connections and contrasts between the artists added to the visual dynamism and unity of the exhibition’s structure if not its balanced emphases.

A most successful work was Joanna Osborne’s diptych ‘Scientia crucis’. Together with John Badcock’s charcoal on paper My God My God Why’ and impasto oil on board ‘My God My God Why: Homage to the History of Painting’, Osborne’s powerful photography captured the passion of crucifixion with a human head thrown back against a cross lateral while subtle compositional layering evoked: a crown of thorns, the gnarled wood of a crucifix, blood, and pulsating light. This simplicity evoked several of the nuances of this deep spiritual subject and captured the exhibition’s brief most powerfully through subtlety.

Other high lights were Galina Kim’s iconographic reworking of Byzantine iconography ‘The Cross with Archangel Michael’ and Don Binney’s revisiting of the Aztec temple of Calixtlahuala ‘Wayside, Calixtlahuala’ which he visited in 1967/8.

Frizzell, Trusttum and Tutty ‘Sincerely L. Cohen’; ‘Criss Cross’; ‘Bye Bill “You Can’t take Them With You”’ contributed light-hearted takes on the thematic not altogether appreciated by me in this context; Bridgit Anderson a touching cluster of portraits of a nun ‘Sister Sandra, Christchurch cathedral I, II’ cleaning a crucifix and mopping a church, which drew us to the living humanity still so strongly associated with the cross; and Sam Harrison ‘Behold the Man’, a riveting woodcut of striking literalism. The artists that connected the cross with the human element (Anderson, Kim – can you not be affected by that iconographic stare? - Hudson-Ware, Osborne, Badcock, Mahon – his cross composed of a ‘holy family’ of three perceptively relevant - and Waugh) I thought penetrated to the stronger story of the exhibition as a whole.

Overall this was a powerful survey show that differed markedly – in the view of some artists - in the two venues - and in my view - in the level of engagement by individual artists. CoCA was the more powerful venue, not having to compete with the visually busy walls of the cathedral, the latter making no pretence at being a gallery. Some works reacted simply to the shape or form of the cross (Trusttum, Scott). The wide range of artistic responses was together powerful, deep but also superficial and cliched, perhaps reflecting humanity’s divergent polarisation with The Cross.

 

Reviewed and written by John Stringer

 

Red Granite Cross
Llew Summers

 

The Cross with
Archangel Michael
Galina Kim

White Cross
Llew Summers

 

Christ's College
Shaun Waugh

 

Time in the Sun, Chatham Islands Shag
Ben Reid

 

Wayside Calixtlahuala
Don Binney

The Cross
Sam Mahon

 

Crosswords
Laura Griffiths

Meditation
Dorothy Helyer

Criss Cross
Philip Trusttum

Cross
Tony de Lautour

 

Lattice Series No. 143
Ian Scott

 

Scientia Crucis - diptych
Joanna Osborne

 

 

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