Easter Road Toll

1982. Acrylic on canvas

We were coming up to Easter.
Back in the 80’s there was always a road safety campaign at Easter time. The campaign reminded us about how many people were killed on our roads, particularly over the Easter break, when many people were on the move, holidaying or visiting family. We were urged to drive safely. But Easter also presented the opportunity to explore its age-old themes and we were not going anywhere this Easter.

I had been wanting to repeat the success I had had with yellow underpainting and bleeding the opposite colour on the colour-wheel, purple, into it while wet – the sky effect I had achieved in my final painting at art school, Quiet Morn.

So with these two themes in mind – the road toll and the easter story, I started with the ‘sky’. It didn’t really work for me, so I put another layer of the pale yellow on top.

Then the ‘blood’, dripping down. I wanted a hard edge on it, so I pressed a ruler into it while wet. That gave an interesting effect when I pulled the ruler off. I was happy with the road-toll side of things, so how about Easter?

Easter is supposed to be about redemption. So a kind of valley of the dark side of life, a ‘valley of death’ but a living death – little figures struggling, suffering, in dark situations – in need of redemption. But all this active free-for-all of the rough-and-tumble of humanity. All the while, un-noticed, on the side of the human hill, a suffering on a cross – the very worst that humans may inflict on each other.

But according to the Biblical tradition, something happened when Jesus was crucified, something that would change the course of human history – enough to date our calendar from it. It was three in the afternoon and the sky turned black. But in this painting, the sun turns ‘black’. The curtain in the Jewish Temple, meant to separate everyday people from a holy God, is ripped in two. Now the sun can get in!

How does light comes from a black sun. That’s something to ponder!

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