Cathedral Blog

Search all blog posts

Stopping Places

Written by Emily Essex, posted on Monday, April 1, 2019

During the season of Lent in the Cathedral we are hosting an exhibition by Mary Flitcroft entitled 'Stopping Places', fourteen abstract Stations of the Cross worked in porcelain and paper .

The Stations of the Cross are an imaginative retelling of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s final days. They have formed part of Christian devotion for many centuries, enabling us to engage actively with the path of suffering walked by Jesus. They originated when early Christians visited Jerusalem and wanted to follow literally in the footsteps of Jesus, tracing the path from Pilate’s house to Calvary. Pilgrims would pause for prayer and devotion at various points. Eventually those pilgrims brought the practice back to their home countries and ever since then Christians of differing traditions have used this form of devotion.

Mary Flitcroft’s work is contemplative and abstract. She works in clay and porcelain, having studied ceramics at Harrow College of Art, London, and Loughborough College of Art (BA). 

You can view images of the Stations in the gallery below. Come and see them live in the Cathedral until 22 April. You are warmly invited to use them as aids to your own meditation or as a Lenten devotion. A reflective walk is available in the Cathedral with passages from scripture and the artist's reflections on her work; you can also read these below. There are also opportunities to walk the stations as a corporate act of worship on Tuesday 2 April, Tuesday 9 April, and Tuesday 16 April at 1pm; or on Wednesday 3 April and Wednesday 10 April at 9pm.

 

The First Station — Jesus PraysThe First Station — Jesus Prays

‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ Mark 14:34

Dark lines which leap upward almost overwhelm a pale blue cross pressed out from the clay. In the background the harsh charcoal marks lean in oppressively and, just above the clay, there’s an area bright with light.

 

 

 

The Second Station — Jesus is BetrayedThe Second Station — Jesus is Betrayed

There was a crowd with swords and clubs.  Judas said, ‘The one I will kiss is the man.’ They laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Mark 14:43-46

Crosses, (kisses, negations, ‘x’ marks the spot?) are cut through the clay, they are blackened, stained, jagged. The clay has been torn. The brown against the white clay is intentionally unsettling: reminiscent of soiling or muddiness. The ladder-like lines stretch upwards. The background again suggests oppression, a ‘closing in’. The three large crosses are cuts in the paper, highlighted in charcoal, they perhaps suggest the wounds of betrayal.

 

 

The Third Station — Jesus is CondemnedThe Third Station — Jesus is Condemned

‘You have heard his blasphemy!’ 
All of them condemned him as deserving death. Mark 14:64

At the centre there is a ragged-edged area of light surrounded by lead-like grey.This section of clay is wrinkled, creased: flesh-like, vulnerable. It contrasts keenly with the jarring black and white lines on the vertical sides, the outside edges of which are sharp.  In the background the short black and white lines form a horizontal band, roughly coinciding with the area of white in the middle of the clay. Does this look like a path or way? The darkening shadows encroach from below.

 

 

 The Fourth Station — Jesus is DisownedThe Fourth Station — Jesus is Disowned

Jesus said, ‘You will deny me three times.’ 
And Peter broke down and wept. Mark 14:72

Three clay panels this time, on each: three crosses/kisses/denials. Each set is sealed within its own darkness by a white line and the leaden quality of the surrounding grey. And yet each cross is softened by light. The background is stormy, a confusion of lines and marks. Again there is a path-like banding but this time at an angle to the panels. 
 

 

 

The Fifth Station — Jesus is JudgedThe Fifth Station — Jesus is Judged

‘Crucify him!’ cried the crowd.
After flogging Jesus Pilate handed him over to be crucified. Mark 15:14,15

The clay is stretched; raised into jagged ridges, it is taut and torn. The brownish glaze is shiny and hard, its colour reminiscent of dried blood. This central section has a rounded, oval form which is echoed in the ovoid shape which appears in the background. The lines along the bottom edge are again sharp, piercing intrusions on the central space. An area of light still persists above and around the clay.

 

 

The Sixth Station — Jesus is TorturedThe Sixth Station — Jesus is Tortured

And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. Mark 15:17,19

The colour of the panel is raw and it has been slashed and pierced, gouged and scratched. The holes on the lower right hand side are ranged in rows which makes the wounding feel intentional. There are three deep slashes and three strange, grey scab-like marks. The vertical lines on the lower edge of the background are reddened and crosses/deletions appear alongside them in ordered ranks.



 

The Seventh Station — Jesus Carries the CrossThe Seventh Station — Jesus Carries the Cross

After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. Mark 15:20

On the panel the vertical white lines fold like cloth and seem to constrict three, grey organic forms. In places the clay has the texture of creased skin. From the middle of the left edge of the background a straight black line meets the central image and above the clay a more uncertain line disappears into the shadows. 


 

 

The Eighth Station — Jesus is HelpedThe Eighth Station — Jesus is Helped

They compelled a passer-by to carry his cross. Mark 15:21

For the first time a more recognisable cross motif is central to the image. It is a ghostlike, raised shape which leans out and away from the harsh area of striations and scratches which seems to follow it. The banding in the background here is horizontal – does that make it seem a more insistent path? The long diagonal lines are seen as it were in close-up, they run beneath the panel. The edges of the paper are raised in folds and are also cut and torn in places.

 


 

The Fourteenth Station — Jesus is Laid in the TombThe Ninth Station — Jesus Meets the Women

‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me,
but weep for yourselves and for your children. Luke 23:28

The clay panel is orientated in ‘landscape’ and the lines of the background are also arranged horizontally. On the clay are a multitude of crosses, clearly ‘cruciform’, they seem to move across a landscape. Most of these crosses are white and ghostlike, formed by raised clay marks, but to the right of the panel a line of darker crosses, cut into the paper, continue the procession. The light which pervades the scene is not oppressive or harsh rather it is more like the twilight of evening. There is a softness in the white bands above and below the clay panel and even the vertical black and white lines at top and bottom are less strident than before. 

 

The Ninth Station — Jesus Meets the WomenThe Tenth Station — Jesus is Crucified

They crucified him. Mark 15:25

Now three crosses are raised from the surrounding surface of the clay, light falls like rain around them; their lines are not rigid they almost feel animated. They seem to relate to one another as a community. To the left another raised line arcs above them. In the lower left corner there is an area of ordered, gouged holes reminiscent of those found on the sixth station. There is a ladder-like motif to the left and all the lines in the background emphasise the vertical.


 

 

The Tenth Station — Jesus is CrucifiedThe Eleventh Station — Jesus Invites

‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Luke 23:42

On the clay, three organic forms appear as indentations which make them seem integral to the whole. Above, three faint crosses have been pushed out from behind.The clay appears soft and the colour is gentle. On the background the towering ladder motif remains, containing light, and the clay panel is held within an arch of light. 


 


 

The Eleventh Station — Jesus InvitesThe Twelfth Station — Jesus Commissions

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’
Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ John 19:26, 27

Here the clay hovers within an almost complete circle of light. The ladder-like motif leans closer and is less sharply defined, to its left a patch of shadow grows. Two narrow bands of horizontal lines descend from the lower edge of the clay one also continues above it as well. On the clay the cross is central and beneath it two forms seem to ‘kneel’ together.

 

The Twelfth Station — Jesus CommissionsThe Thirteenth Station — Jesus Dies

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. Mark 15:34, 37

The light over the whole piece is greatly diminished. The ladder-like motif has within it earthy tones of red and brown and red appears among the blocks of lines on the right of the panel. Below the clay there is an area of dense hatching, like a mesh or a cage? On the clay the central cross has almost disappeared, it remains as very thin lines cut into the clay – fragile – attenuated.

 

 

The Thirteenth Station — Jesus DiesThe Fourteenth Station — Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb. Mark 15:46

The clay is leaden, a dull shininess seems to seal the surface. An organic form presses out from beneath. The ladder motif seems to contain light; it curves away through the dark area which spreads around the clay, curves up and beyond the top edge of the paper. The horizontal bands of sharp black and white vertical lines have reappeared.
 

 

Acknowledgements

All Rights Reserved © Mary Flitcroft 2018

Material from the Introduction is adapted from Common Worship:  Times and Seasons and Nicholas King SJ, Stations of the Cross (Kevin Mayhew, 2007) 
This book is available via www.kevinmayhew.com

The suggested Bible readings are taken from Common Worship – Times and Seasons ‘The Way of the Cross’ published by Church House Publishing, 2006.