COMMENTARY: My vision of Christ Triumphant


The painting of Christ’s face, which made up one segment of the window

In the past, it was the church that provided regular employment for artists and craftsmen. Although requests for work on a religious theme are now rare, they do occasionally crop up. One such commission came my way at the time of the millennium. For a church in the North of England, I was asked to create a window on the theme of Christ Triumphant. The sixteen-foot-high window looked down on the town and at night it would be illuminated from within so that the image was dramatically visible from the streets below.

The difficulty was in finding mutual ground between my vision of Christ Triumphant and that of the commissioners. My idea of Christ was not the meek and mild figure shown in storybooks. Furthermore, he was of a race that was nearer black than white. My preliminary sketches were of an animated dark-skinned Christ screaming to God from the mountaintop: “Father, I’ve Saved Them”.

My initial vision for the design

However, the Church Trustee’s view of Christ in his moment of triumph was altogether different. Their vision was of a placid figure with arms relaxed and palms open. To me, the gesture implied: “Father give up”.

But for the time being, we put our differences aside while I went in search of a model for Christ. The press had always found my work as a painter and sculptor to be good copy, whether it be a national award for public sculpture or my controversial nudes for the National Health Service. My search for a model for Christ was right up their street. Within a few days, I had scores of applications from prospective Christs, but not one came close to the image I had in my mind.

After a week I almost gave up. But then, on opening the studio door in response to a hesitant knock, my breath was taken away. In astonishment, I gasped the words, “Jesus Christ!”. The Rastafarian who stood apologetically before me, explained that it was his girlfriend’s idea, “She’s always telling me that I look like Christ”. And by God he did!

My model

By compromising the pose to a standing figure with arms outstretched, the Church Trustees cast aside racial differences and I was told to proceed with the commission. At the unveiling ceremony, my Rasta friend was accompanied by his proud girlfriend.

Curiously, I have found that a black depiction of biblical figures is likely to be frowned upon by churchgoers in the Caribbean. I doubt that the life-size fresco of a partially draped black Madonna, that I painted for a church in England, would find acceptance in Dominica.

Nevertheless, the fundamental role of art is to open our eyes to a different way of seeing. For that reason, all aspects of the creative arts should be high on our agenda. The videos in my series “Notes for Art Students” have been made with that in mind. The title of the most recent being appropriately titled, “Let There Be Life”.


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  1. Columbus did not discover
    April 3, 2024

    It is Christ, in ‘your’ image and likeness. Poor that pastor acting in the video.

  2. BCG
    April 2, 2024

    Very gifted hands. Many talented Dominicans could benefit from videos such as this one.

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