God, It Is All Dark
I have a strange relationship with religion. I grew up in Christchurch, a city in New Zealand in the 1960’s. A place that was still very much English in its outlook in many ways. The default religion was the Church of England. It permeated everything, schools, social life, sport, even employment. The “Christchurch Cathedral” was C of E and dominated the city's main square.
I had some of my first exposure to art via my local church’s Sunday School. There were prints on the wall, and books that we read with reproductions of what I now know as iconic works from the Western canon. Alongside modern cartoon style work aimed at us “youngsters”.
But pushed off to the side (or so it seemed to me), were the Roman Catholic’s. Their cathedral was out near the railway station, in a semi industrial area. This marginalisation interested me, and as I got older I realised that my paternal grandmother was a Catholic. Her house had a range of interesting iconography. A Sacred Heart mirror, a small Madonna and child, a picture of the pope. There was an intensity to the Sacred Heart I hadn’t seen before. And the more I looked around the more I saw.
Later I became aware of the work of New Zealand artist Colin McCahon. A man who struggled with his faith during his life, and made great work that was, to my reading, cathartic. It was his work that made me want to be an artist. And it continues to influence and inspire me today.
When this work was made I was often looking at McCahon’s The Fourteen Stations of the Cross, 1966 and spending time walking along the waterfront in Wellington on my way to Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, (and kind of, as an after thought, art gallery) to see his Walk (Series C).On these repeated pilgrimages I began to notice the recurring cross motif that occurred on the ground. A pattern of recycled wharf timbers and concrete that almost seemed meditative. One of the things that interests me is the beauty that we can find in the mundane and overlooked. And then it started to come together, things we pass over, and things we find. God in the landscape, God in the details.