For the week running up to Christmas at 35 Chapel Walk we are holding an exhibition which focuses on the stories we hear about Bethlehem, 2000 years ago and in 2014. For most of us the events of Jesus’ birth and the current situation in the city are distant in time and space. All we have are the stories we hear; some are hopeful and some are heart-breaking.
The pieces I have made for the show are based on an icon of Mary and Jesus from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Painting over this foundational image I have begun to dig deeper into how the stories I hear from Bethlehem impact my soul.
Here is the third painting:
Lacrimosa III: We mourn in lonely exile here
Oil, spray paint, gold leaf and candles on found board.
Candles drip and hang like stalactites, upside down and as disconcerting as grief. I had to extinguish them quickly when I began to smell the paint burning and I was worried that the whole thing would go up in smoke and now a dark, charred shadow remains where the flame once burned.
So many candles burned in memory of those we have lost in Bethlehem, Peshawar, Syria, Ferguson, Didsbury and on and on.
The paint as blue as a nativity play Mary: Ultramarine, Phthalo and Cobalt, runs over the surface of the icon. Rivers of colour form islands of granulated pigment as the paint flows out of my control until it forms a curtain of tears.
In this final image mother and child are obscured and seen through a veil, but they are united, no wall separates them and no blood red obliterates the child.
O come, O come Emmanuel…