Walk through the Stations of the Cross
Opening on Monday, 30 March, the Stations of the cross art exhibition seeks to bring the Easter narrative to the public sphere every year so that people can live it out.
Rev. Dr Doug Purnell is a Uniting Church minister and an artist in his own right, with works featured in galleries across the state. Since 2007, he has been responsible for curating the Stations of the Cross. He told Insights that the event, “is not about getting bums on seats in one particular congregation.”
“It is about keeping the Christian narrative alive in a culture that has become increasingly negative to the church and its story,” Rev. Dr Purnell said.
“It is about offering a resource to the wider church and community whereby people might ‘walk the way of the cross’ in a reflective manner that enriches their life and being. For me, when congregations come and walk together and talk together, their being communities of faith people or Jesus followers is strengthened.”
According to Rev. Purnell, he chose the artists he is working with, “not because they are ‘religious or Christian people’, but because they are good artists who through their art form reflect significantly on ‘life’ issues evoked in the brief for the particular station given them, recognise the importance of acknowledging the Jesus narrative as being important to keep alive.”
“There is a deep truth about the human journey in the story. St Francis in 1200 helped us by naming 15 stations… Each a significant element of the journey of life. When I give these stations to artists in our present age they make significant connections between their lived experience and the received tradition, and they hold the two together in imaginative ways that affirms the life truths in the story.”
The artists featured in the exhibition represent a wide range of artistic and faith backgrounds, and include some very prominent names, such as Reg Mombassa and Toni Hassan.
Wonnarua woman Lesley Salem is an Aboriginal artist and Nurse Practitioner. She contributed Station Three, ‘Jesus falls the first time.’
“Aboriginal people may have conflicting views on the details of religious belief but as my grandmother would say to us…Baiame (our Creator), God, Baiame whatever his name he was the instrument of creation. Aboriginal people understand how it was created was through, The Dreaming,” she said.
“Being asked to interpret Station three through Aboriginal eyes is a privilege. I talked to many Aboriginal people who hold Christianity and The Dreaming close to their soul. I have used the Aboriginal language of symbolism and colour to interpret Jesus’ first fall. He is decorated as an elder with the cross on his back after he falls. The cross is full of people—we believe the cross represents the weight of all the sins of people; making it a very heavy burden that only he can take on.”
Journalist Toni Hassan contributes another work to the exhibition for Station four, ‘Jesus meets his mother on the road.’
“My sense is that Toni is a mother with a critical social conscience,” Rev. Dr Purnell said.
“She is the linchpin in her family holding everything together. She wants to find a different way to work. She is a journalist, but words are being chewed up and misused and people lie…”
“She is helping her children into independent adulthood.”
“And in this image the mother is ‘going under’ and needs to be held, carried by her son.”
“I think she bleeds and weeps with Mary on her journey.”
Northmead Uniting Church congregation will host a special Good Friday service in the presence of the works, which Rev. Purcell says, “has become a very significant way of engaging the story.”
“It is also significant that we hold the exhibition in the local high school and share the story in a more public space.”
“When people walk the journey of the stations there is a structured way of thinking/praying reflecting on the story, that reinforces and enlivens our own engagement with the story and enriches us for living.” The Stations of the Cross exhibition takes place from Monday 30 March to Sunday 12 April at Northmead Creative and Performing Arts High School.
Thanks to Rev. Doug Purcell for carrying out additional interviews for this story
Image: ‘Jesus is Raised’, Euan Macleod