Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty of Creative Arts
Milgate, Rod, Fourteen stations of the Cross, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, 1988. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/1752
(A) Statement of the Problem and An Explanation of Methods and Procedures. The problem undertaken is a binary one, although both aspects deal with the common theme 'Fourteen Stations of the Cross', which is the subject of this total submission.
The first half of the task has been to research the topic, and to attempt to provide an historical and religious context for the events of the Passion, in addition of course to a detailed description of the various episodes as traditionally defined (these at the same time relating to both historical and contemporary locations in Jerusalem).
Because the thesis is complementary to the paintings, and therefore is to be regarded as exposition, to that end it analyses as many aspects of the fourteen stations as possible, but where possible and appropriate, stresses historical and biblical sources. To maintain relevance, the thesis limits itself to an examination of the single discipline of painting.
It is felt that although both history and the bible are unreliable as far as many facts are concerned, they are more relevant to the paintings than for example a detailed study of issues arising out of archaeological and scientific analysis of alleged and dubious fragments and relics, or the conflicting dogma of various concerned churches. Space does not permit the inclusion of such information.
As well, it must be reiterated that nothing set down concerning the history or significance of the events of the bible (and therefore of the substance of some of the themes of the stations) is irrefutable, so time spent citing the many contradictions which arise out of opposing viewpoints would be time wasted and an impediment to the end in sight, the making of paintings.
The content of this paper then, focuses on both fact and fiction, legend and dogma, propaganda, and even high and sweet sentimentality, for these are among some of the elements which are woven together into inseparable composite forms, which have come down to us over a vast period of time.
The focus of this thesis must be concerned with all these elements, because they are all present and indivisible they are not dealt with separately because they do not exist separately.
Because of the complementary nature of the thesis, it is believed that consideration of all these previously mentioned components is the stuff from which human imagination and therefore creative paintings can most effectively derive, not from the sterility of unresolvable academic, religious and scientific argument. In regard to the thesis component of the submission it was resolved not to include visual illustrative material (excepting the two maps which are included under Appendix C). This decision to exclude illustrations was taken because it was felt that since the written thesis is only fifty percent of the total submission and is complementary to the studio works, and because the one cannot be considered without consideration of the other, inclusion of additional illustrative material would impinge on the discrete nature of each of the two aspects of the submission. To particularise - making use of reproductions of other artists' works based on these same themes would inhibit and perhaps confuse the form and content of the eighteen works which comprise the studio component.
The second half of the problem has been to take the results of the academic research of the first part, and using visual images, interpret (not illustrate) the information contained there. The proposal then, is contained within the eighteen studio works, supported and complemented by the context and exposition of the thesis component.
The studio segment has culminated in a sequential series of paintings, each of which is designed to evoke feelings relative to what has become known (following a period of almost two thousand years of change) as the 'Fourteen Stations of the Cross'. (The number of incidents depicted in the series has varied enormously - it was not until the eighteenth century that the figure became widely and firmly accepted as fourteen.)
It must be admitted that notwithstanding the foregoing description of the sequence in which studio work progressed, there were occasions when a painting was commenced before the final details of the research were complete, or in some cases even begun. This reversal of usual academic procedure became necessary when it appeared that illustrative elements were becoming threatening (always a danger when making paintings which derive from, and align carefully with, written text), and when these same objective considerations began to impose negatively on the subjective and unknowable (though fully recognised) criteria which must uninhibitedly operate for the creation of any successful work of art.
Some mention too must be made concerning the physical appearance of Christ in the paintings. Excluding those works where he is abstractly symbolised, (two of the four large paintings) and of course where he doesn't appear at all (two of the fourteen smaller paintings) it was decided, after much deliberation, that the appearance of the Christ should be different in each representation. The reason for this is twofold. First, it was felt that this method would avoid inhibited rendering of the same body and face, where illustration and a commensurate slavish copying of Christ's imagined physical features, (especially in a sequential series of fourteen paintings) would be a dominating and unfortunate influence. From the beginning, while it was known that the paintings would be figurative, it was also known that they would not, could not, must not be realistic, and any attempt to portray these events in such fashion would be dishonest because it would be foreign to the usual way this artist works, and would include coloured versions of the same central figure in various arbitrary poses. It is well known that this method would result in expressing little of the individual moments of passion (and one's response to the disparateness of the fourteen events) both aspects of which, given free reign, might be expected more correctly to appropriately alter the content and the form of the figure and face. Second, though of less critical importance, it was decided that given the fact that eighteen separate paintings would ultimately exist, each work should be selfcontained, and neither be dependent on, nor serially and stylistically interrelated with, the remainder of the series, in order to preserve each painting's own creative integrity and life.
There are eighteen paintings exhibited. It was decided to maintain absolute conformity in the sizes of the fourteen smaller (91.44mm x 76.20mm) paintings, in order to avoid the tendency to creatively overrate such events as The Resurrection and Descent From the Cross (Deposition). In the four largest works, all fourteen episodes are depicted, all the same scale in each painting. The process of maintaining strict uniformity in size for the fourteen smaller paintings derives from this last fact. It will be noted that both symbolic and figurative conclusions exist separately in the larger works. These four paintings were completed first, to provide a direction for the smaller works. It was resolved, following completion of the four large scale paintings and before commencement of the fourteen, that conclusions in the smaller paintings would be composites of abstract and figurative elements, but with a strong figurative bias.
Each of the eighteen paintings was begun with a freely painted Greek cross, each of a different colour, as part of the structure of the grid on which each composition would be based, and as an apposite, even if illogical beginning for paintings based on the theme of the 'Way of the Cross'.
The medium used in three of the four larger works is oil paint on hardboard - the remaining fifteen paintings have been executed in oil paint on stretched fabric.
(B)Difficulties Encountered Without question, the single most challenging problem has existed implicitly in the choice of topic. What emerged as a difficulty quite early in the written research, and compounded almost through the entire length of this submission, was the lack of factual information concerning the history of the development of the worship of the Stations of the Cross, and in some cases, of the biblical events from which they originated. Even a most valuable study trip to Israel and Jerusalem could neither make more precise, the ambiguities which still exist concerning both the biblical information (even where appropriate - events of the fourteen stations are not all described in the gospels), nor absolutely particularise locations where the events took place. For instance, to satisfy contrasting opinion over a contentious issue, there is an alternative site outside the old wall in Jerusalem which also purports to be the site of the fourteenth station.
Suitable available research material too has been difficult to acquire. Of approximately sixty works which comprise a book list supplied by the Mitchell Library of New South Wales very few suitable were available. Of these, some were in foreign languages and several were propagandist, grossly sentimental or emotionally hysterical. What was more often the case, many of the books were a combination of all four of these characteristics.
Less critically, but a fact which must be cited, has been the difficulty of describing objectively and verbally, that which would normally not be verbalised, and would grow from the manipulation of paint on a surface, and resultant decisions m a d e by an accompanying internal response. (One resists the temptation to say 'and resultant decisions made in the blood'.)