These three sculptures explore some stories and statements made by Jesus Christ, and one that is written about him. I have often been struck by the poetic power of the Scriptures as well as by their meaning and truth, and so, as a Christian myself, I have set out to make objects that will inspire the viewer to consider these texts for themselves.
Paul Hobbs studied Social & Political Science at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and Fine Art at The Byam Shaw School of Art in London. He now lives and works in Gloucester. He has exhibited widely in the UK in galleries, art centres, schools, churches and cathedrals. He frequently leads talks and discussions about his artwork, its themes and his methods of working.
The Darkness Has Not Understood It takes its title from St John’s Gospel Ch 1 v.5, which reads, ‘The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.’ In the context of the opening of St John’s Gospel, the light refers to Jesus Christ, who later in the gospel calls himself ‘the light of the world’ (John 8 v.12). The sculpture, made from flat pieces of plywood that slot together, comprises one central yellow form that dominates six small dark shapes that seem to wriggle and squirm around it.
The yellow shape covered in layered swirls has some of the resonance of the pulsating stars and moon in Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’. Torch-like and fiery, it pushes back the darkness. The dark shapes, variously black, blue, muddy brown and green, are lizard-, snake- or slug-like, slithering around the yellow form. If you follow their forms you will see that each has turned and tried to move towards the ‘light’ but has been forced back and has turned away. They are covered with numerical calculations and writing. Look carefully and you will see that the numbers do not add up – they are miscalculations. The scribbled words have no coherent meaning, except for one on each of the six pieces. Together these six words, though deliberately disordered, will form the sentence ‘The darkness has not understood it’. The darkness is continually seeking to comprehend the light (symbol of Christ) but cannot. It cannot understand what God is doing by sending his Son into the world, ultimately to die on the cross, to save sinners.
A footnote in my Bible offers an alternative translation to the text of the title. It says, ‘the darkness has not overcome it’. The association of the words ‘understanding’ and ‘overcoming’ resonates deeply for me. It is hard, if not impossible, to overcome something if you cannot first understand it. So, for me, it is wonderful to know that the darkness that opposes Christ in this world will never overcome him, because it cannot understand what he is doing.
The Sower quite obviously refers to the Parable of the Sower spoken by Jesus as recorded in St Matthew’s Gospel Ch 13 v 3-9. The figure of the man striding out has more than a nod to the Van Gogh’s images of ‘The Sower’ 1888, with the sun behind his head, and another of ‘The Sower (Sower with setting sun)’ also from his 1888 series.
In my sculpture, the sower strides out across the field, with the sun above his hat, throwing out the corn with his right hand. The billowing, baggy robes of the figure are coloured in a rich heavenly blue, patterned with reds, yellows, whites and blacks. (The lines and blocked areas of colour take much of their energy and fluency from paintings of Joan Miro, such as ‘Morning Star’ 1940 and ‘Figures On A Red Ground’ 1938.) The coloured shapes cascade, as would the seeds from the hand of the sower. His left arm is raised either in blessing or in warning, depending on the choices taken by the listener upon hearing the word of God.
Here is the parable:
‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.’ (Matthew Ch 13 v.3-9)
Gate explores several quotations of Jesus’ regarding gates and entrances. These are wonderful literary analogies, but would they work in 3D? What you see here is a brightly coloured gate, painted in a similar style to The Sower, and set into plain wooden posts. I wanted the gate to be lively - when I showed it once in Kunming, China, people repeatedly told me it had the colours of paradise. The colours here are also reminiscent of the gold, blue, purple and scarlet colours used to decorate the Old Testament tabernacle.
The gate is narrower than the conventional garden gate. The decoration uses a lot of primary colours, which associate it with children. The sculpture relates to four things that Jesus said:
‘I am the Gate; whoever enters through me will saved.’ John Ch 10 v.9
‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’ Matthew Ch 7 v.13-14
‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’ John Ch 10 v.10.
‘Whoever will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Luke Ch 18 v.17
You are welcome to go through the Gate, which stands as a visible metaphor of whether we are really wanting to choose God’s way or our own.
The exhibition is currently on display in the Ante-chapel of St John’s College. Everyone is welcome to see it during chapel opening hours.
For further information see: www.arthobbs.com