Maz Jackson SGFA has lived and painted in Norfolk all her life, winning national and international awards for her distinctive surreal, spiritually inspired art. An egg tempera painter, sculptor and printmaker, Maz exhibits at galleries and museums around the world and has art in public and private collections in the UK, China, Italy and the USA. Her art has been described as “a post-modern medievalism that is fragmented and mixed with modernity”. In Image of the Month Maz describes how she came to create the first egg tempera painting in St Peter and Paul’s Church since the 15th century. Her painting inspired a new anthem which was given its premiere during the painting’s service of dedication.
“The Harling Christ was commissioned in 2007 by Reverend Nigel Kinsella of St. Peter and Paul’s Church in East Harling, Norfolk and Sue Dolling of the Friends of the church.
The brief was to create an image to include the Resurrection Cross, the Harling Lamb (emblem of East Harling) and a squirrel (heraldic badge of Lady Anne Harling, who rebuilt the church in the 15th century). I also included a frail basket — a workman’s tool basket — as many are depicted in the stonework and stained glass of the church. I also wanted to represent craftsmen, as Christ was a carpenter, too.
Originally the image was for an altar cloth, but after much discussion the project evolved into the tempera painting. It was dedicated to the church by The Right Rev Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich on 14th April 2013.
In his sermon the Bishop said that ever since he had received a copy of the painting he had been using it as an aid to prayer. “The stigmata are gilded,” he said, “reminding us of Christ’s pain on the cross, yet now He is resurrected the gilded palms shine out to the rest of the world.”
Drawing played a major part in the creation of the painting.
After receiving the commission I visited the church many times, making sketches, researching, and remembering the symbology of colour and emblems of the Saints, aided by David O’Neale, a local historian. I was a “cradle Catholic” and had learnt much from my father while visiting churches and cathedrals.
He would carry a Latin dictionary to translate the inscriptions, telling me about the methods of artists and craftsmen of those times. It gives me a warm feeling to be part of that tradition, to be one of those people.
During the Middle Ages many of our craftsmen came from Flanders, Germany and France, and would have boarded with the Master Mason and his wife.
Their knowledge was influenced by the Middle East, and as a result in St Peter and Paul’s Church we have the crescent moon of the Muslim faith, carved owls representing the Jewish Faith, and a carving of John the Baptist holding a scimitar and wearing a Turkish-style turban.
The exchange of both knowledge and materials in the Middle Ages was extensive. Oak was imported from Scandinavia through the Hanseatic port of King’s Lynne, as there was not enough timber in England, and the stone for both Norwich and Ely Cathedrals came by ship from northern France. In my painting I wished to honour all these artists and craftsmen.
I also wanted to honour all those people who had worshipped and visited the church over the centuries, gradually wearing down the step and putting a patina on the woodwork, as well as all the people who take care of the church today.
I would like another father or mother to bring a child and look at the painting and learn some of the things I did with mine.”
Editor’s note: “Painting can be a spiritual journey, whatever your faith,” Maz says. She was talking to Paul Dickson, blogger, Director of The Tagman Press in Norwich and Director of Chamber Orchestra Anglia, about the ancient medium of egg tempera, which “goes back as far as cave paintings and was championed by early Christian icon painters.” Maz says she respects the materials she uses, “pure pigments mined worldwide, 23 1/3 carat gold leaf, as well as seasoned oak that is the ‘canvas’ for my work.”
It’s Dickson who quotes Prof Giampaolo Trotta on the occasion of Maz’s 2011 exhibition at Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence. Maz’s art, the professor said, was “a post-modern medievalism that is fragmented and mixed with modernity. The use of the past for critical reflection is clear in all the artist’s works.” To read the entire article and find out more about Paul Dickson, visit his blog here.