Solemnity, Men of Faith – “Rename Us as Strangers” – 2018, mixed media on canvas, 200 x 540 x3.5 cm, Polyptych by Angel Correa
Technique and materials used
Mixed media on canvas (colour printed cotton and polycotton fabrics): Acrylics, vinyl paints, medium, gesso, charcoal powder, pigments, water-based inks, permanent ink-markers, craquelure varnish and matte varnish
Detailed description of the work
I found it necessary to be brave whilst working on this polyptych, adding to the enormous ‘rainbow flag’ backdrop six silhouettes representing six men of faith in big blocks of black and white colour. All the while during this arduous journey, many of my childhood memories were coming back to me; going to church with my mother, looking at the statues of the Catholic saints, and exploring on my own the town’s beautiful altars and buildings.
I used both brushes and painting-rollers to flood the canvas with acrylic and vinyl paints, whilst respecting the wonderful colours and patterns of the chosen fabrics. I’ve tinted the black in six distinct and complementary colourways: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. It was my intent to depict an almost unconscious contrast to the composition, creating different moods in these figures, but rescuing only the faintest representation printed flowers; to me, this was a touch of jewellery; pomp and ceremony; a symbol of the power and domination of organised religion.
It was quite a surprise to see the degree to which the joy of the original fabrics, which I had stretched onto the frames so lovingly, seemed to all but disappear from the canvases. Because I had seen my starting-point and had it fixed in my mind, the resultant composition suggested to me a certain emptiness; perhaps this was an unconscious harking-back to my days as a child – meeting the gaze of a priest, where I saw what seemed like a disembodied head atop a sea of foreboding darkness.
As I got older and questioned certain aspects of my staunchly-held faith, it was sometimes shocking to learn of the many cold-hearted actions and decisions taken by people in power – all in the name of faith. I’ve since learned that this seems to be true in countries and cultures other than my own – in fact, all around the world, it seems. Having finished these six pieces of work, it was nonetheless gratifying to be able to sense and feel the manner in which the blackness might well represent a number of things to a number of people. Fear, mystery, and intimidation have all been sensed by others whose experiences of faith run the spectrum. Only the little boy still living inside me could create ‘Solemnity’, my giant depiction of men of faith, incongruously set against the backdrop of the ‘rainbow flag’.
This artwork is special to me because it was whilst painting this work that I understood clearly why I was drawn toward exploring how the celebration of ancient traditions excludes and, in many cases, condemns to exile – and even to death – some members of faith-based communities. I’ve just remembered John’s Corvino words: “How do you explain to someone who thinks you’re the devil incarnate, that you’re not?”
The realisation came to me that I was trying in vain to unravel centuries of condemnation and punishment which has been imposed on various minority-groups because of who they love, because of the way they are – because of the nature of their love. I wanted to create a big bright colourful painting which depicted not only the broader issues of what organised religion means to some minority groups, and I hoped to somehow depict the notion of ‘death’ of values and feelings that many hold dear, but too often in secret. I think this is definitely a big piece of audacious art for a human-rights organisation, human-rights advocacy charity or for a cultural museum.