Stations of the Cross

Recently I was invited to take part in an exhibition based on the Stations of the Cross.
Surprisingly perhaps I said yes. I was brought up a Catholic but am no longer a Christian.

The exhibition will be on at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Shortland Street in Auckland.

Fourteen artists have been invited to take part in this show. I was given station number 12, the Death of Christ. I know that in this photo, Trinity, I have interpreted it rather liberally.

This image will soon be printed up in an edition of 15. Any enquiries about this can be addressed to Paul McNamara.

Meanwhile, this image, Whitebait, which I posted a couple of weeks ago, is now about 2 weeks from being available, again in an edition of 15. 4 prints have now gone.

Wrestlers 2003

This photo is a close-up of a marble copy of a Greek statue. I don’t know where the original is, but this copy is one of two that are in NZ. One is in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and this one is in the Sarjeant Gallery in Wanganui.
I was pleased with this image, and printed it up an edition which I released onto the market. Some viewers were a little puzzled by the figures in the photo, being unsure whether they were real or not. One person even asked me which one was me! Unfortunately I think that he was joking.

A few weeks ago I was looking at the interior of the main Catholic Church here in New Plymouth, and was impressed by the concrete bas-relief Stations of the Cross that Michael Smither made some years ago. Again I was interested to see some sculpture based on the human figure.

The 14 Stations of the Cross are a compulsory part of every Catholic Church in this country and having had a strict Catholic upbringing (although now I’m an atheist) I was exposed to many sets of them. Coming from a family and a culture which was not strong on the visual arts to put it mildly, they made a big impression on me. Almost all the art that I saw was religious. Although I was fortunate enough to have regular exposure to Life magazine, which at that time regularly published photographic essays by top photographers such as Edward Steichen, Lee Miller, Dorothea Lange, and Margaret Bourke-White.

Generally the Stations of the Cross were, in art terms, just plain awful, even kitsch. Hence it was a relief to walk into St Joseph’s here in New Plymouth and see Stations that had some force and sincerity to them.

Christianity is, in global terms, an unusual religion in that it worships a mutilated god. I remember, in a television series made by English historian Bamber Gascoigne, and called The Christians, him saying that it is the only religion in the world to do so. I often wonder what psychological effect all the Christian art that I was exposed to had on me as a child, and ask myself if it still does affect me in some ways. I was brought up on the lives of the saints. I particularly remember one who had her hat nailed to her head. Flagellation was normal, we even drank blood and ate flesh during Mass. Keep in mind that many Roman Catholics believe that via transubstantiation, the Mass literally transforms bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Christ. The Mass is a cannibalistic ceremony.

I fervently believed and practised these ideas, even in my early 20’s I wanted to be a priest. My middle name is Chanel, hence I am Peter Chanel, named after the only Catholic saint to have ever lived in this country. He died in 1841, on Futuna, in the Fiji group of islands, clubbed to death by some of the indigenous people who did not like his ideas. I used to adhere to the orthodox Catholic belief that matyrdom such as this was a shortcut to ‘heaven’.