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Divine commission

Artist Paul Forsey's three-year project to create 15 Stations of Cross for Basingstoke church

Newbury artist Paul Forsey has always sought projects that stretch his artistic development and help him to reach new audiences. He also has a longstanding interest in using the power of narrative so that his work tells a story.

The Open Studios artist has been involved with several important commissions in the last few years. One key project was the Newbury Mosaic, now sited outside the library, where he combined the latest computer-controlled milling technology with traditional hand-made Venetian glass to create a new piece of art 12 metres in length. It also involved 4,000 local people in its construction.

Another was a series of 24 gouache paintings depicting the life of Jesus for the Bishop of Oxford, which became the basis for the book The Life of Jesus: Through the Eyes of an Artist.

For his latest project he has taken an awe-inspiring series of the 15 Stations of the Cross, depicting Christ's final hours, which will take pride of place in the large new Catholic Church of St Bede, just outside Basingstoke.

Paul is aware of what he has taken on. “This is a massive task and I realise that there is still a great deal of hard work to be done. I have learned many things along the way such as understanding the complex, sensitive and expressive nature of gilded egg tempera,” he said.

“I'm very much looking forward to seeing the whole completed series in the beautiful and fitting surroundings of St Bede's. ”

After consultation with the parishioners, he decided to use the ancient and now little-used technique of gilded egg tempera on panel, referring back to the paintings of the Early Renaissance, Byzantium and before, which are also inspirations for his work.

Typical of Paul Forsey's work are the clean lines and bold use of colour in a direct contemporary style. Each panel is gilded in pure gold and highly decorated with punchwork.

Traditional Stations of the Cross feature the recurring image of the cross. Historical texts and artefacts show that a condemned man would carry the crossbeam, his instrument of death, but the upright would be used for many crucifixions. Paul has adopted this, along with other ideas that challenge some of the conventions of how Stations are depicted, but still respects the divine nature of these images.

Each work will be 1.4m high and 0.45m wide, taking many months to complete. So far Paul has completed three Stations, which were very well received by Fr Dominic Golding and members of the church who said: “Paul's work will bring an added dimension to the imposing space within St Bede's.

“The attention to technical and biblical detail is a testament to the emotive nature of the subject matter, and we are looking forward to seeing how this work unfolds.”

Paul expects the paintings to take about three years to complete.

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