The darkest shades of life

Review on St Peter on the Cross (Louis Smith), shortlisted for the The Threadneedle Prize

St Peter on the Cross - Louis Smith
St Peter on the Cross – Louis Smith

It’s dark, powerful and deep almost to the edge of brutality.

The painting is intense and consuming, swallowing the viewer and bringing him to his knees to the point of obsolescence.  It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the state of a human being in an absolute desperation and loneliness, who has just reached the very impasse of his life. This is the absolute fall of the man with his feelings and emotions snowballed into the grounds of his own desolation, the darkest hours of a soul who has completely lost purpose and direction. The fact that the cross is painted upside down plunge the composition and the imagination of the viewer into the darkest depths of hell on earth.

The size of the image (250 cm x 200cm) imposes and enforces itself on the viewer bringing back from the pits of his own existence the memories of dark and turbulent times. The viewer becomes St Peter, who at that very moment is not a Saint nor Peter, it is the broken form of a human creature, totally desperate, naked and exposed. The helplessness is further emphasized by the accent on the hands and feet which have been nailed to the cross, giving a sense of surrender and helpless submission.

Louis Smith has sought inspiration from Caravaggio’s ‘The Crucifixion of St Peter’  and has taken the subject to the next level, bringing context into the life’s of the ordinary people, associating with their own trials and tribulations they go through on a daily basis. And although the painting is very dark and provocative, it has a sense of salvation and rebirth. There is fine trace of light, coming from above, a fragile leap of faith and salvation. This could be God, or it could be the last stem of conscience, which brings us back to life, gives us strength, hope and meaningfulness.

Art review by Elena Todorova-Stanev, Cerise Art Agency, September 2009

Elena is curating ‘Elixir of Life’ exhibition at The Smithfield Gallery in London from 22nd until 28th November 2009.


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