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Journey to the empty tomb

01 March 2013

Nicholas Cranfield sees a London and Herefordshire group show 

Behold, I stand at the door: Greg Tricker's I am the Resurrection and the Life, in the current exhibition at Piano Nobile, reviewed below

Behold, I stand at the door: Greg Tricker's I am the Resurrection and the Life, in the current exhibition at Piano Nobile, reviewed below

DR ROBERT TRAVERS and Rupert Otten have had the intriguing idea of setting well-known works (Graham Sutherland, Patrick Heron, Ceri Richards - that haunting sketch for his Oxford Supper at Emmaus - and the 1922 William Roberts Crucifixion) from the growing Methodist Art Collection alongside contemporary reflections on the theme of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.

The Londoner Greg Tricker needs little introduction. He was taken up by Sister Wendy Beckett a couple of years back when The Christ Journey, a touring exhibition, marked his 60th birthday. His figurative painting is broadly narrative. Last year, he showed a series of holy men and women at Salisbury Cathedral. In April, he and Joan of Arc go to Rheims Cathedral.

His bold images are hedged about by black lines, much as favoured by Georges Rouault, but have about them an almost febrile quality. In Magdalene - The Grieving (2009), the brokenness of the subject might itself break afresh as the woman gazes abstractedly into the distance, her eyes brimming.

The more recent Magdalene is composed of etched and fired antique glass; here, Mary is so relaxed in her contemplation that at first I mistook her for a St Clare or Catherine. But her eyes are beseeching and glazed in wonderment. The truth of resurrection is to encounter abandonment; we are always left grieving.

His most recent piece, I am the Resurrection and the Life, is painted on the back of a large wooden door, with its rusting iron bolt and hinge still much in place. It subtly invokes Revelation 3.20, and introduces the Johannine accounts of the Feeding. Behind the large gold-haired and gilded face of Christ, a cerulean boat nudges its way across the sea of Tiberias, while beside Jesus there is a basket of loaves. Both details owe much to Cézanne as Picasso understood him.

The Australian Roy de Maistre (1894-1968) came to London in 1938. His Noli me tangere (1951/52) again reminded me how the war-time bombing scarred painters, drenching their canvases in burning reds and orange. In contrast, the intersecting lozenges and triangles of his icon-like Crucifixion (for sale) blaze in gold, much as Helen McIldowie-Jenkins introduces in her icon of Christ on a Y-shaped cross in Love Hanging on a Tree.

In 2010, Canon Robert Wright took early retirement from Westminster Abbey, in part to spend more time painting. If the two abstract works (with allusive titles, from John 20.31 and Professor Elizabeth Johnson) are anything to go by, he should have turned to painting much earlier. On the other side of the fence, Mark Cazalet is not ordained, but, in view of his three pictures of a Suffolk spinney painted at the 2010 Triduum, he needs to be reminded only that Easter Saturday falls a week after the resurrection.

The Herefordshire artist Richard Bavin, who has often painted trees, works watercolour upon watercolour to establish a deep and inviting emptiness in The Empty Tomb, a piece that I understand will now be publicly owned. Deo gratias.

"Risen! Art of the Crucifixion and Eastertide" is at Piano Nobile, 129 Portland Road, London W11, Tuesday to Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., extended to 12 March. Phone 0207 229 1099.

The exhibition transfers from 23 March to Monnow Valley Arts, Middle Hunt House, Walterstone, Herefordshire HR2 0DY, and will be open there until 21 April, daily, except Mondays and Tuesdays. Phone 01873 860529.

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