I have produced some art work for the Methodist Church’s annual conference. I was asked to illustrate the story of Jesus meeting two of his followers on the road to Emmaus following his death and resurrection. It’s an intriguing tale and you can read it here if you’re not familiar with it, it seems to me that Jesus acts very strangely throughout. I wouldn’t normally produce work that is quite so illustrative but have found it a very helpful process to explore my reactions to the story through making art.
I am inspired by what happens when we bring the Jesus story alongside the stories of the places where we live in the 21st century. In much of my work I try to explore what it means for the life of Christ to be embodied in ordinary places.
For these three images that explore the story of the walk to Emmaus in the context of my home city of Sheffield I have used wooden boards salvaged from an old cutlery factory in the industrial quarter of the city. There is a beauty in the roughness and brokenness of the materials and I had to wrestle physically with the heavy and dirty boards. Gold edging the cracks suggests beauty shining through in unexpected places and are also reminiscent of the gold used in icons.
I love the process of transforming something that is fragmented and discarded into an object full of story and meaning. Or perhaps transforming is the wrong word here; maybe the process is really a revealing of meaning and beauty that is already latent. However you view the process, I find it compelling to make a piece of work that has its roots in the dirt and grime of this industrial city.
Here are the three images (along with details of each piece), each one is 1.0mx1.5m, acrylic on found wooden boards.
To Emmaus/Sheffield 1: meeting
This is Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. The street light seems to echo the cross and the disciples stand in its shadow as a stranger watches from the side of the road.
To Emmaus/Sheffield 2: dialogue
On Division Street in Sheffield City Centre. The three walk and talk together. As I painted this I was reminded of Rublev’s icon of the Trinity. There seems to me to be an invitation to community, an openness to include us in the conversation too.
To Emmaus/Sheffield 3: revelation
The stranger blesses the food he is offered and the universe breaks open. His pose echoes the figure in Caravaggio’s ‘The Supper at Emmaus’.
This whole story for me is about the revelation and the discovery of the amazing and sacred in the midst of the ordinary. The brokeness is not papered over and covered up but is transformed to become intrinsic to the beauty of the piece.