Praying The Stations of the Cross

by Joseph Capelle

The paintings of the Stations of the Cross do not seek to reproduce the natural world but rather to interpret the events detailed in the scriptures of two thousand years ago and to make them relevant for us today. Although the artist’s notes give an explanation of his intentions, the individual viewers are left to discover meaning for themselves through their reflection and prayer on the paintings.

In his technique Capelle has utilised the two-dimensionality of paintings and has made no attempt to show perspective. To create interest he has used other techniques on the surface area: for example, visible brushstrokes hand painting, hard-edge and smudging.

The paintings are universal in their depiction of humanity, but are influenced by the African context which is subtly suggested in a number of ways, most especially in the patterns on the cloth of the garments. This influence can also be detected in the African type head gear and the suggestions made, for example, in the beaded collar worn by Pilate in the First Station. Veronica, with her beautifully coloured head scarf and beaded bodice, is another example of the African influence. However, the paintings aim at inclusivity – implicitly in Jesus’ teachings – and the whole word’s face can be detected, including that of the Jewish women of Jesus’ own culture. The message of the Stations is not constrained by colour, race or culture.

Some faces are coloured unnaturally as an indication of the mood of the Station. Colour and hands are used to express emotions and feelings in many of the Stations.

The space in the paintings is divided into positive and negative elements and the treatment of both areas is given equal significance. The figures exist in a non-figurative framework often based on the shape of the cross. The artist likes to think of his paintings as being modern equivalents of icons which are in praise of God and are two-dimensional.

The Stations are intended to give a timeless look at the events of the Passion and help us ask ourselves “How do they relate to me today?” They attempt to bring us face-to-face with the Passion of Jesus by drawing us into the events they depict and which we experience in our own lives. They are ‘springboards’ into prayer which evoke feelings in us and draw on our own experience so that, in our own lives, we see how Jesus suffers, dies and rises again.

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A Biography of the Artist

Joseph Capelle, a South African artist, painted the Stations of the Cross at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Capelle is retired by retains his passion for painting of religious subjects. In his painting he tries to reach out to others and by using his own symbolism he tries to enable others to have a religious experience.

Capelle studied art at the Johannesburg Technical College where he was awarded a silver medal for excellence. Thereafter he worked for advertising agencies for a number of years before going into display art as part of the creative team which won several gold, silver and bronze medals awarded by an international display magazine.

Capelle moved between advertising and display art. He also ventured into photography, both commercially and artistically. He has exhibited at a number of galleries.

In September 1997 Capelle participated in a group exhibition at the Visual Arts Gallery where his work was kept. He sold a number of paintings, through this gallery, to public undertakings and private collectors.

In 2000 he had a one-man exhibition at the Karen McKerron Fine Art Gallery. The Financial Mail amongst others gave him very good reviews, and many of his paintings were sold.

The Maryvale Catholic Church holds a set of his multimedia Stations of the Cross. The Resurrection and the Stations of the Cross at Rivonia Catholic Church are amongst his works. He also painted the Stations of the Cross for the recently constructed Chapel at St. David’s Marist College in Inanda. Outside of South Africa, Capelle has also done Stations of the Cross for Our Lady Woman of Valor Pastoral Center in south Tel Aviv for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.