Victoria artist Richard Motchman says the most common reaction to his paintings is “I have never seen anything like this before.” Motchman’s innovative new work on the crucifixion of Christ will evoke that same response, there is little doubt, and the artist hopes it will provide the viewer with a very personal, spiritual experience.
Crucifixion Pillars is a large-scale oil-on-wood triptych premiering at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria during Holy Week. The work is made up of three large columns, with Jesus on the cross as the central piece, flanked by smaller panels depicting his mother Mary and John the Apostle.
Click on the poster to view a larger version of it
Each column is then made up of several sections which may be rotated to create more than 240 permutations — traditional, contemporary and abstract. The viewer gets to choose the images. This is interactive art.
“They are all equally valid,” says Motchman. “People of faith will see it one way. Someone else may see something different. We need to keep making choices about God and how we see him.”
Crucifixion Pillars was inspired in part by traditional triptychs in art history, but Motchman does not sanitize Christ’s crucifixion. He wanted an unflinching depiction.
“Deaths from crucifixion come from eventual asphyxiation because you just can’t support your body weight and your lungs get compressed, so I wanted to get the idea of gasping for breath, which is rarely portrayed in the history of art.”
Malcolm Read is with the cathedral’s Visual Arts Committee, the group behind the installation. He says the art causes one to reflect on the agony and pain of a very human Jesus. “The experience of interacting directly and physically with the art challenges our levels of comfort and our customary glossing over the experience of a crucified Jesus — on him and on those closest to him.”
Joan Richardson is also on the Visual Arts Committee and is an artist herself. She calls the work powerful and intense.
Pointing out the tattoo Motchman painted on Jesus with the words “forgive them for they know not what they do,” Richardson observes, “What I’m struck by is how Richard incorporates aspects of, not exactly street art, but contemporary images like the tattoo and merges it with traditional iconography.
Crucifixion Pillars will be on exhibit from April 1 to April 8 in the Chapel of the New Jerusalem, Christ Church Cathedral.