Since the age of about nine when I was taken by my Sunday School to see 'The Greatest Story Ever Told', The Stations of the Cross have been part of my visual vocabulary. I was probably a bit young for the film as I was absolutely horrified by the depiction of the crucifixion and was haunted for years after by the image of Max von Sydow's Christ suffering on the cross. As I grew older I came into contact with other emotionally charged versions of Christ's Passion, such as Mantegna's 'Dead Christ', 'The Entombment of Christ' by Caravaggio and Michelangelo's 'Pieta' and it has always been an ambition to put some of the emotive power of such images into a suite of works corresponding to the Stations of the Cross.
When Rev. Elizabeth Moxley commissioned me to make a series of drawings I thought it would be easy, after all I had all these references mulling around in my head to draw on. However I found it very hard to assimilate them.
So I just had to be patient and sketched and doodled and gradually the face of my Jesus was revealed. I wanted him to look strong, but vulnerable at the same time, and because the drawings are site specific it was important to me that his features and body reflected the fabric of St. Michaels i.e. the newly lit wooden ceiling and the numerous arches. Indeed in some drawings he does look positively chiselled, and I can't help thinking he bears some resemblance to Max von Sydow, and also to the Anglican Vicar of Nazareth, a dark burly man I met when in the Holy Land in 1999.
His body is a combination of two models I draw in a weekly life class, and I drew him with caverns, as though we could walk or crawl into him – a refuge for us in his suffering and pain.
I felt it was important to give Jesus large hands, after all he was a carpenter, and he holds the whole world in them! Indeed in number 4 his hand actually comes over the cross and through his halo.
Simon of Cyrene's hands are huge, coming to the aid of a small , exhausted, beat up Jesus.
With the other characters in the 'Greatest Story' I wanted them to reference the gargoyles in church and for the texture of their skin to reflect the formal quality of the stone.
Mary and the other women of Jerusalem are grief stricken, Pilate is a fat Roman, and the man nailing Jesus to the cross is revolting, clearly enjoying his job.
My drawings, executed in charcoal, are a representation of violence and suffering brought to bear upon a single human figure. This is the Son of God, but also represents the son of man and is a response to human cruelty and the abuse of power that is most evident in the actions of repressive political and governmental regimes today. I feel we should be affected by them, they should make us feel angry, humble, complicit and pained.
All images copyrighted © 2016 Patricia Rozental
Stations of the Cross
11 Charcoal drawings created March 2013 for St Michael and All Angel's Church, Aston Clinton, Aylesbury. Bucks