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The ascension

The ascension
Peter Rogers (1933- )



Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, No.29

Commentary by Francis Hoyland

'Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking at the sky? Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there'.

This translation emphasises the difference between 'sky' and 'heaven' but Jesus was 'lifted up while they looked on', and 'a cloud' did take him from their sight. How on earth can we paint this subject?

Rogers ' theology is unorthodox but I can only see this as a thoroughly orthodox interpretation. What one sees is what one sees, and I see Christ rising up what seems like the neck of an hourglass into the cloud.

Was this not the same cloud that covered the tabernacle in the wilderness; that visited the newly consecrated people; that overshadowed Mary and that hung over Our Lord and His disciples at the Transfiguration?

Rogers has a marvellous ability to realise three dimensional forms in painting: the 'hour glass' I have mentioned, could also be a vase with a fiery ball placed on top of it.

I am using these mundane images in order to emphasise the fact that this picture is made up of three, as well as of two, dimensional areas. The compact clump of disciples is another such mass as is that formed by the two angels: their fiery trail and flowing receptacle are also deployed in three dimensions.

Realised forms imply a realised space, and I think that the great advance made by Rogers over the last picture I discussed lies in his treatment of space. Here the space is as real and as palpable as the forms.

The atmosphere is dense with meaning and it surrounds and penetrates the groups of figures. I find this painting beautiful.


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