This is Brentwood Cathedral, a Quinlan Terry building, where the Brentwood Stations of the Cross will go on display from Ash Wednesday, 15 new paintings by 15 contemporary painters. The accompanying book is available on Amazon.
This is my short introductory essay from the book:
Faith in Paint
Simon Carter January 2015
Being a believer within a protestant non-conformist tradition does not make it easy to be a painter. Non-conformists have traditionally had a marked mistrust of imagery and a firm attachment to words.
We like the idea of Jesus as the Word of God (John 1:1) but are less keen on him as the Image of God (Colossians 1:15). For a painter a mistrust of images is anathema.
In the early 1980’s Ruth and I visited the Nolde Foundation in North Germany and saw Nolde’s Life of Christ polyptych. I thought that to express my faith I would need to do something similar. There are moments and events in life that in retrospect assume unreasonable significance and it was the actual experience of visiting the Foundation that had a long after-life for me. We had cycled out of Denmark across flatlands of burnt stubble and drifting smoke. We were allowed to cross the border on a quiet back road as long as we promised to return the same day; the Foundation an isolated farmstead set among drainage dykes and a late summer flower garden.
In the studio I still have a large watercolour copy I made of the Nolde painting but it is the memory of being in that northern border landscape that survives and it is the landscape that has continued to sublimate what I took to be expressions of faith. In recent years however, it has been pointed out that what I thought I had failed to express is still there, deeply embedded in the paintings. It appears that we cannot avoid who we are or what we think. Ideas in painting are not those of reasoned argument and explanation or of direct instruction. The painted surface is meaning in itself and leaves us dangerously free to think our own thoughts.
The passion of Jesus is not just a religious narrative; I would suggest that it is not even a religious narrative. It is a deeply human story, resonant and meaningful to all. Fifteen contemporary painters, some of faith and some of no faith, have taken on the challenge of considering anew the Stations of the Cross. I hope the resulting paintings ask questions of us, maybe give a few answers and, whether they lead us to contemplate divine salvation or questions of human suffering, they might provide a quiet space to consider again the story of Easter.