Interfaith conversation through art

Emma Clark Gratton

A contemporary interpretation of corporeality, flesh, and spirituality inform the Stations of the Cross exhibition.
Interfaith conversation through art

Station 5: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry his Cross. Detail from They Rest in the Garden of Stone by Harrison See. Oil on aluminium, 80cm x 185cm (triptych). Photograph by Aliesha Mafrici.

For the eighth year, Wesley Uniting Church in the City is presenting Stations of the Cross, a curated exhibition featuring newly commissioned works by fifteen West Australian contemporary artists, from a range of cultural and religious backgrounds. 


Before approaching the exhibited artists, Curator Claire Bushby said she had a loose theme in mind.

‘The story of Jesus is one of God entering the realm of flesh and blood, becoming human and the physical/material experiences that entails. So I chose artists who are already working with themes that border between the corporeal or tangible world and spiritual or emotional states of being,’ said Bushby.

Encouraging diverse interfaith conversation was an important part of the curation process, said Bushby.  ‘I was quite conscious of embracing the 15 stations as platforms that can begin multi-faith, cross-cultural and contemporary dialogue. This is something I believe is very important, particularly in religious spaces today since there is so much conflict and misinterpretation across the globe.

‘I have invited artists with Christian backgrounds both past and presently practicing, but I have also wanted representation of other belief systems from Muslim and Buddhist to atheist and Indigenous beliefs.’

The exhibition takes its name from a 14-step Catholic devotion that commemorates Jesus Christ's last day on Earth. There has been the addition of a 15th station ‘the resurrection’ celebrating the hope, call, and ethic of the risen Christ. These 15 devotions, or stations, focus on the events of the Easter story and are commonly used as a mini pilgrimage as the viewer moves from station to station. At each station, the individual meditates on a specific event from Christ's last day and recites a prayer.

These works bridge sacred devotional stories with the issues and events that are present in our contemporary world through a variety of art forms including painting, sculpture, and textiles.

The broader message behind the exhibition is how one embodies humanity, and what it means to be human. ‘The Stations deal with some pretty heavy, sometimes quite difficult subjects,’ said Bushby. ‘But they are broadly relatable and rooted in human experience – such experiences as loss, grief, discrimination, humiliation, the moments when we are called to empathy and compassion, and ultimately our capability for transformation and hope.’

By opening the interpretation up for this interfaith conversation the exhibition aims to be relevant to all visitors, not just regular church goers. The commissioned artists have put their own personal and contemporary interpretations of the Stations of the Cross into their works.

View exhibition here

Reverend Craig Collas, minister at Wesley Church, hopes that visitors of all spiritual persuasions can relate to the imagery and themes of the exhibition. ‘As visitors to Wesley see the artworks, my hope is that they will be able to find their own entry point and engage with the life and journey of Jesus in a way that connects to their own personal journey.

‘I also hope that they will be able to share their journey through conversation with others, and in that context, come closer to the love and life that this experience offers.’

Inviting West Australian artists with diverse cultural backgrounds and beliefs to spend time contemplating and creating artworks that respond to the 15 Stations is a courageous, much needed engagement by Wesley Uniting Church, said Bushby. ‘It demonstrates commitment to opening a varied and inclusive dialogue about current issues everyday people are experiencing personally, politically and spiritually in 2017.’

The commissioned artists include Marziya Mohammedali, Mel Dare, Jina Lee, Nathan Beard, Harrison See, Kristi Chua Pinjes, Lia McKnight, Emily Ten Raa, Fiona Gavino, Marek Szyler, Jana Wallace Braddock, Celene Bridge, Eva Fernandez, Gregory Pryor, and Moira de la Hunty.

Stations of the Cross will be opened at Wesley Uniting Church on Friday April 7 by Professor Ted Snell, Director of the Cultural Precinct at the University of Western Australia. It will run until April 17.  All the artworks are for sale.

The exhibition will travel to Geraldton Regional Art Gallery later this year.

About the author

Emma Clark Gratton is an ArtsHub staff writer.