news from ekklesia

By staff writers
March 23, 2004

Images of crucifixion mark boom in religious art

-23/3/04

The controversial Scottish artist and Christian Peter Howson, who complained last year that Scottish galleries had no interest in his religious paintings, has produced two arresting images of the crucifixion for a Glasgow cathedral reports the Scotsman.

The newly-commissioned paintings are billed as fresh evidence of a boom in religious imagery in art.

Christos Aneste - Christ Risen - shows Jesus coming forward from the cross, with outstretched bleeding hands, leaving a crucified Satan behind him. The second painting, Crucifixion, is a modern depiction of Christ on the cross.

The Very Rev Griff Dines, provost of St Maryís Episcopal Cathedral, called Christos Aneste "a very powerful image of one of the central tenets of the Christian faith that suffering love redeems evil of sin".

"Though it does show it in a very graphic and immediate way," he said, "the image of Christ risen is a terribly simple depiction of Jesus coming off the cross, leaving the devil crucified. It is a really powerful image of Christ triumphing over evil."

The exhibition also includes Howsonís graphically modern pencil drawings of the 14 stations of the cross, shown for the first time in a church setting.

They feature violent images of Christís suffering at the hands of men in military helmets. In one of them, Jesus is shown being brought down naked from the cross. Typical images show Him wearing a loincloth or some sort of robe, but the full-frontal naked Christ is seen as typical of Howsonís strong, bold images and shapes. "Itís quite a disturbing interpretation if you are very familiar with the traditional stations of the cross," a spokesman for the cathedral conceded yesterday.

Mr Howson shot to prominence in the 1980s, when the Tate Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery in London vied with celebrity clients to buy his work, which can reach up to £150,000 a painting.

But after a long battle with drink and drugs he later claimed cost him £1 million in five years, he became a "born-again" Christian, relying on "the strength that comes through God" to fight his addictions.

In 2002, Howson unveiled his controversial nude portraits of Madonna - herself a fan of his work - at the Maclaurin Art Gallery in Ayr. One of the paintings was reported to have sold for £100,000. But last year he complained bitterly that his work on religious themes had proved a "kiss of death" even with his regular clients.

One of the few Scottish galleries to deal in Mr Howsonís works - along with those of big-selling artists, such as Jack Vettriano - was rejected from this yearís Glasgow Art Fair.

Presence, however, has helped spur talk of a revival in religious imagery in art. At St Paulís in London, Tracey Emin, whose Turner Prize entry, My Bed, featured condoms and soiled sheets, contributed a monoprint showing Jesusí body being taken down from the cross.

Mr Dines said the cathedral was proud of serving as a "spiritual home for the arts".

"We are unique in that we are prepared to allow young artists to do new art as well as traditional stuff. This particular exhibition is perhaps one of our most ambitious. It symbolises the combination of art and religion where religion inspires art but where art inspires religious faith and belief."

There had been gripes about gallery space for religious paintings, he said, but "itís meat and drink to us, so we are delighted to show his religious paintings".

Organisers yesterday said they hoped the exhibitions of modern works in religious settings would spark debate.

Cyril Young, president of Biblelands, which funded the exhibitions with the Scottish Arts Council, added: "The paintings by Peter Howson are remarkable in the way they draw you in. We had to see how artists were looking at the Christian image now in the third millennium. Weíre trying to widen the audience, and Christian audience. Peter has been very supportive of that.

"It wasnít so much the controversial as the contemporary that was important, although there is something to be said for having an artist who has already drawn some attention."

The exhibition in St Maryís, Presence - Images of Christ for the Third Millennium, is one of six being held in churches and cathedrals across Britain.

Images of crucifixion mark boom in religious art

-23/3/04

The controversial Scottish artist and Christian Peter Howson, who complained last year that Scottish galleries had no interest in his religious paintings, has produced two arresting images of the crucifixion for a Glasgow cathedral reports the Scotsman.

The newly-commissioned paintings are billed as fresh evidence of a boom in religious imagery in art.

Christos Aneste - Christ Risen - shows Jesus coming forward from the cross, with outstretched bleeding hands, leaving a crucified Satan behind him. The second painting, Crucifixion, is a modern depiction of Christ on the cross.

The Very Rev Griff Dines, provost of St Maryís Episcopal Cathedral, called Christos Aneste "a very powerful image of one of the central tenets of the Christian faith that suffering love redeems evil of sin".

"Though it does show it in a very graphic and immediate way," he said, "the image of Christ risen is a terribly simple depiction of Jesus coming off the cross, leaving the devil crucified. It is a really powerful image of Christ triumphing over evil."

The exhibition also includes Howsonís graphically modern pencil drawings of the 14 stations of the cross, shown for the first time in a church setting.

They feature violent images of Christís suffering at the hands of men in military helmets. In one of them, Jesus is shown being brought down naked from the cross. Typical images show Him wearing a loincloth or some sort of robe, but the full-frontal naked Christ is seen as typical of Howsonís strong, bold images and shapes. "Itís quite a disturbing interpretation if you are very familiar with the traditional stations of the cross," a spokesman for the cathedral conceded yesterday.

Mr Howson shot to prominence in the 1980s, when the Tate Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery in London vied with celebrity clients to buy his work, which can reach up to £150,000 a painting.

But after a long battle with drink and drugs he later claimed cost him £1 million in five years, he became a "born-again" Christian, relying on "the strength that comes through God" to fight his addictions.

In 2002, Howson unveiled his controversial nude portraits of Madonna - herself a fan of his work - at the Maclaurin Art Gallery in Ayr. One of the paintings was reported to have sold for £100,000. But last year he complained bitterly that his work on religious themes had proved a "kiss of death" even with his regular clients.

One of the few Scottish galleries to deal in Mr Howsonís works - along with those of big-selling artists, such as Jack Vettriano - was rejected from this yearís Glasgow Art Fair.

Presence, however, has helped spur talk of a revival in religious imagery in art. At St Paulís in London, Tracey Emin, whose Turner Prize entry, My Bed, featured condoms and soiled sheets, contributed a monoprint showing Jesusí body being taken down from the cross.

Mr Dines said the cathedral was proud of serving as a "spiritual home for the arts".

"We are unique in that we are prepared to allow young artists to do new art as well as traditional stuff. This particular exhibition is perhaps one of our most ambitious. It symbolises the combination of art and religion where religion inspires art but where art inspires religious faith and belief."

There had been gripes about gallery space for religious paintings, he said, but "itís meat and drink to us, so we are delighted to show his religious paintings".

Organisers yesterday said they hoped the exhibitions of modern works in religious settings would spark debate.

Cyril Young, president of Biblelands, which funded the exhibitions with the Scottish Arts Council, added: "The paintings by Peter Howson are remarkable in the way they draw you in. We had to see how artists were looking at the Christian image now in the third millennium. Weíre trying to widen the audience, and Christian audience. Peter has been very supportive of that.

"It wasnít so much the controversial as the contemporary that was important, although there is something to be said for having an artist who has already drawn some attention."

The exhibition in St Maryís, Presence - Images of Christ for the Third Millennium, is one of six being held in churches and cathedrals across Britain.

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