I have historically given Easter a hard time. Twelve years of Catholic education that coincided with the slow realisation I was gay, quite a bit of travelling through third world countries full of religious propaganda, parents who were vocal in their distain for religion, a distinct distaste for the moral stance of many issues affecting women, a trip to the Vatican and quick mental calculations of the wealth that represented, sex abuse by priests etcetera, etcetera…it all lead to me chucking in the towel when I was about fifteen and abandoning organised religion all together.
But then one day, standing in a friend’s exhibition full of work that heavily referenced The Divine, I realised that I had done myself a real disservice by being so militantly atheist. By arrogantly deriding everything with even the slightest Catholic overtones, I had missed out on learning about a huge chunk of our culture and the influences behind so many of the writers, artists and creators I have loved over the years.
So I decided to look at it differently – remove the overbearing, preaching aspect of it all that caused me so much distress growing up, and revisit the stories as though they were like other folk stories and fairy tales from my childhood, albeit folk stories that resonate strongly in many people. And bugger me if a whole world of understanding didn’t open up for me. Without wanting to sound too much like a chapter from the Bible, I was experiencing revelations everywhere. So much of what I consume culturally heavily references, or is heavily influenced by, the traditions and rituals of Christianity and I didn’t know it. I hate not knowing things, and it made me feel like an idiot. I may not be a believer, but nor am I now as ignorant as I was.
With this in mind, instead of taking the piss out of Easter with yet another Jesus joke (which, if you have any good ones I’m still totally up for hearing!), I’ve put together a gallery of the crucifixion, arguably one of the world’s most iconic images, as seen through the eyes of a selection of artists. Through them, the crucifixion becomes a symbol of adulation, acclaim, and attention; it is appropriated to cause offense, to initiate dialogue, to represent both love and hate; as a symbol of repression, aggression, fear, piety, humour, as historical reference…the list of ways it has been used is as endless as opinions on the appropriateness of its use in the first place and it sums up everything I love about art. These are a few of my favourites.
Dare I say it, the pleasure I’ve derived from researching this one has been almost heavenly 😉