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Art review: Stations of the Cross at St Martin’s, Kensal Rise

28 March 2024

Nicholas Cranfield sees an unusual series of Stations of the Cross

Mark Cazalet

The complete collection of Stations of the Cross created for St Martin’s, Kensal Rise, this year, in north-west London

The complete collection of Stations of the Cross created for St Martin’s, Kensal Rise, this year, in north-west London

YEARS ago, looking at Velázquez’s Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (NG 1375) of 1618, I wondered what the utensils might say if given a voice — about having been the spoon that served our Lord, the raffia-wrapped earthenware bottle for his wine, or the metal pestle and mortar of bitter herbs. The animated world of Maurice Ravel and of Paul Gallico, perhaps.

In the same way, confronted with Mark Cazalet’s recent installation of Stations of the Cross for the Dean Vaughan church of St Martin, Kensal Green, I found myself drawn to the kitchens supplying the Upper Room.

The artist has used ordinary and everyday wooden utensils, a chopping board, a ladle, a spatula, a butter pat, bread boards and washboards. Cazalet uses the natural rhythm and scoop of the wood, absorbing them to frame his devotions. So much jetsam from NW10, Below Stairs.

The stations, 18 in all, are accompanied by short poems by another parishioner, Richard Leaf. These serve as meditations in their own right, deceptive in their simplicity as they draw us into the world where, with George Herbert, we find that God’s Law “makes drudgery divine”.

As Pilate washes his hands in a latticed bowl, we see his wife, restless in her dream-world beneath a coverlet. The Governor had married a local Levantine or African woman. Simon of Cyrene, doubled over beneath a weighty green cross, is unaware of the balloon-seller, radiant, Van Gogh-like, beside him. Passover time is party time in Jerusalem (Station no. 7).

A face appears behind, or on, the mesh of a painted J-Cloth that is pinned to a breadboard. “Veronica’s veil/shroud” hangs next to the church’s kitchenette area.

I am less certain that the women of Jerusalem would have been paid weepers (“the custom, in days gone by”) at the execution of three criminals, which seems to contradict Veronica, who refuses to keep back behind the lines, “flying over the arms of muscled soldiers, to wipe the face of Jesus with her own sad veil of tears”.

Cazalet and Leaf have Jesus laid in the tomb “while another was hanging from a tree. A noose he’d made himself, because he’d failed to see, he was not beyond forgiveness.” That comes after the heart-wrenching meeting of Mary and Judas’s mother, “united in a grief that could swallow entire oceans”.

The Stations of the Cross are at St Martin’s, Kensal Rise, which is in Mortimer Road, London NW10. They will remain on display until 19 May (Pentecost).

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