Monday, October 8, 2007

Crucifixion in the Grove. Oil and acrylic on cloth pasted on board. Refectory of the Holy Cross Fathers, Katpadi, Near Udipi, Mangalore.)

As an indication of just how important trees are for Jyoti, eleven of the fifteen pictures of this series give prominence to trees - even when the theme is the Song of Redemption. In fact, as the climax of this ‘song’, Jyoti depicts the Cross as a tree, with Jesus as inseparably part of a gnarled, though golden-bronze coloured tree.

Earlier Christian devotion often spoke of the cross as a tree. Charles Wesley (whose 300th birth-anniversary is celebrated in 2007) echoes long-held devotion to the cross as tree:
Endless scenes of wonder rise
From that mysterious tree...
Faith cries out: ‘Tis he, ‘tis he,
My God, that suffers there!
Or: Would Jesus have the sinner die?
Why hangs he then on yonder tree?
...Thou loving, all-atoning Lamb,
Thee - by thy painful agony,
Thy sweat of blood, thy grief and shame,
Thy cross and passion on the tree...

This fascination with tree-imagery goes deeper than the mere fact of the wooden beams of the cross having come from a tree. The tree - as earth-rooted, as sky-reaching, as refuge, as leaf-bearer, as life-enhancer, as giver of fruit, medicine, resin, as the most prominent signifier of the seasons - the tree is potently archetypal for the human race. In ancient cultural life the tree was the centre, the ‘axis’ of the world.

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