Meet Alf, the main instrument behind the Via Dolorosa mural. I doubt any parishioner hasn’t noticed the row of colourful characters located along the wall linking Emmaus House and the 3 Sea building. See the full post for more pictures and discover things you never knew about it!
God’s Spirit at Work
Throughout the entire interview and in consequent email correspondence, Alf kept reinforcing the fact that the Holy Spirit was the mastermind and the “genius behind the artwork”, the artist being merely the tool. (“Of course everything is Spirit-inspired, it just comes to me, it’s never me, it’s from God, because I am nothing.”) So here we have an inspirational story of God working through us, His hands and feet on earth!
How the Holy Spirit Moves
“When I saw those three windows that have been there from the longest time and that door, it just reminded me of a scene in Jerusalem…it looks like someone’s house…what if I had the opportunity to do a whole scene?”
After getting the blessings and approval of the Parish Priest, Fr Patrick Goh, the next thing Alf had to do was to find a style. Initially thinking he would be working on the big project alone, he decided to go with a stylized form, rather than photo-realistic like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, which would take years.
“When I began drawing there were many people asking what it was, mostly youth and they were excited about it so they decided ‘eh, do you need help?’ I pondered and discerned and I thought since so many people are interested, we’ll turn this into a youth project just for the base, so I found myself managing the project”
Many hands made light work and the mural is now pretty much done. There are still some details to be worked into the wall though, for example, a few more angry hands, and the faces drawn in, but he will do these alone.
“The weather this year has been erratic – it’s supposed to be kind of sunny already, even during the later part of Lent – but it was raining. It was a message – don’t rush. With every week of rain it delayed the deadline and I was ready to camp out here but it just went on…”
Sometimes we don’t understand God’s plan but we have to simply obey. The idea in the beginning was to get it done by the last week of Lent, but everytime they were ready to paint the rain came. There were also other difficulties, such as the paints only available in huge 5-litre portions, which cost more, and meant that only a few colours were bought (five, to be exact). Fortunately, Alf was able to mix the paints into even more vibrant colours!
A Thousand Words
You know how the old cliche goes, a picture’s worth a thousand words. Similarly, this mural has a few stories to tell too.
“‘Via’ means ‘way’ and ‘dolorosa’ means ‘suffering’. The Way of Suffering, Way of the Cross – it’s the actual street name in Jerusalem where Christ walked to Golgotha, so it’s a real thing”
The mural depicts the Stations of the Cross, or the Passion of Christ. So I was wondering where Jesus is in all this…
CARRYING ON JESUS’ WORK
“Christ is not present because as the viewer when you look at it, you’re supposed to be reminded that you’re ‘the Christ’ now. So whenever you look at them, you’re reminded of the situation back then…it’s like an interactive wall, you reflect on it. It’s not just a painting.”
Cool eh? Alf shared how he wanted to use art, his gift from God, to let people reflect God. Talking to him, you can really feel his passion. He tells us how to appreciate the wall (you follow it right to left), and the identifiable characters:
“So everything just kinda follows the scene. The stations of the cross starting from the first fall here, Mary [mother of Jesus], Simon of Cyrene, and then the second fall, Veronica, the third fall, the weeping women… when we were painting I wanted to add the praetorium, the scourging at the pillar over on this side of the wall and over there, I wanted to add a hilly area for Golgotha and the three crosses over in the distance which would then lead to the resurrection and the acts of the apostles…so it just keeps growing!”
If you didn’t manage to guess, this rooster (my personal favourite) is supposed to be the one who crowed three times when Peter denied Jesus.
“I decided to throw that fella in the whole scene because I thought it’d be quite interesting. Famous character! Not from the Passion but yeah.”
“This lady too, at Bethany, who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil – she’s not in the Passion scene but she’s important. The whole idea of her breaking the jar of ointment which was costly…foreshadows Christ’s action that he would break His body and pour it out for the world. He also told his apostles…everyone will remember what she does. This is echoed in our Mass “do this in remembrance of me” and it was all from this lady, he did the actual thing. Always felt that it was quite important to have her there.”
Not everyone is a biblical character, like the crippled guy in green there next to Mother Mary.
“He just represents someone who is lame. All these people represent us in a way, when we look at them – we’re Christ but we’re also them. That’s also part of the whole reflection. We all come in different shapes and sizes, different colours, abled, not so abled.”
I’m very excited about seeing and interacting with the soon-to-be-finished wall. Just yesterday I saw the angry hands throwing stones added, and the street sign coloured in. What else did you guys notice? 🙂