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Posts tagged ‘Holy Week’

Sunday Supplement: Road Traffic Control (The Semana Santa Code)

Happy Easter everyone! Yes it may be grey, and bleak, and ever so slightly damp here in London, but my flat is nonetheless filled with all the yellows of Spring, a chicken (cooked Spanish style with a grape juice glaze and caramalised apples) is about to go into the oven, and I am still putting up total resistance to the chocolate temptations all around.

In this final post in a week which has been bursting full of Easter-themed homages, mainly to the sensational Semana Santa spectacles of my dear España, I introduce you to my ultimate canvas exploring the theme of Semana Santa. This vast painting, entitled Road Traffic Control (The Semana Santa Code) was painted by yours truly towards the end of last year and is consequently my most recent painted depiction of the Semana Santa parades. But this work, which measures some 150cm across, depicts Semana Santa processions in a slightly unusual way, using road traffic symbols from the highway code to illustrate the main characters in a typical Semana Santa procession. In fact, the symbolism is at times so detailed that I like to think of the painting as being something of a new Da Vinci Code, the likes of which I will decrypt in today’s Sunday Supplement.

Road Traffic Control (The Semana Santa Code) (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

Traffic Cones and the Lily Cathedral

Road Traffic Control - Nazareños detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

The idea behind this interpretation of Semana Santa came to me when I was watching a procession last year and it occurred to me that the Nazareños with their pointed hats look a bit like walking traffic cones. From there the idea was born – their candles were swiftly replaced by zebra crossing lamps, the large lanterns carried at the front of the parade were replaced by traffic lights, and the banner held at the front of the procession was replaced by a “Controlled Zone” sign – after all, isn’t religion an attempt to control or at least orchestrate a way of life? The road is of course no different from the kind of road which a procession in Spain would walk along, except that here it spirals and wafts like a ribbon in full flight, from its point of emergence from a large lily, which represents a great Spanish Catedral, the smaller bell-like cala lily representing the cathedral’s campanile.

Brass Bands

Road Traffic Control - Brass band detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Road Traffic Control - Drums detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

In every procession, there are at least two brass or military bands setting a rhythm and a melodic resonance for the procession. Generally speaking, a band will either lead or follow the Jesus tronos, and a second will either lead or follow Mary. Here the representation of the bands follows the road traffic theme, with old fashioned car hooters and police ribbon making up the first band, while roundabout drums with sides made up from a road’s diagonal warning lines (which warn of an approach to a junction or crossing) make up the second.

The depiction of Jesus

Road Traffic Control - Crucifix detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Road Traffic Control - Jesus detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

For me, the depiction of Jesus came as easily to my mind as the traffic cones – I used the “crossroads” symbol to represent the crucifixion carried on a tronos, while before it, the signs carried by Nazareños represent, in order: the crucifxion (cross roads); pilgrims (elderly crossing); the disciples (pedestrians); Jesus on a donkey; the Holy Trinity (roundabout); the crusades (explosives); no U-Turn i.e. do not turn your back on Christ; and Give Way – to the Catholic faith as the one and only true religion.

The depiction of Mary

Road Traffic Control - Mary detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Road Traffic Control - Mary detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Mary is depicted using the “motorway” symbol which, with the addition of a small bridging line at the top, resembles a figure with a veil over her head. Meanwhile, the parade which precedes her includes signs with the following meaning: Mary, Mother of Christ (M1); the immaculate conception (no through way); Mother and Child; the ascension; pilgrims (disabled – such as those visiting Lourdes to visit the shrine of Mary).

Finally the painting ends with a sign signifying the end of the “controlled zone”. Hence the title of the painting, “Road Traffic Control”.

Road Traffic Control - Zone end detail (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

I hope you’ve enjoyed the painting and have a great Easter Day, wherever you are.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Daily Sketch – Viernes Santo

It’s Good Friday, arguably the most important day in the Christian calendar, and, if you’re not into that kind of thing, an excuse for a day off to do some DIY! I always remember Good Friday with a degree of childlike fascination at an overwhelming morbidity and yet a profound sense of excitement at the scale and importance of the day. In the church where I used to be a chorister, they would hold a three hour service. Towards the end of that service they would strip the contents of the church bare leaving the place utterly bleak. This would mark a huge contrast to Easter Sunday morning, whereupon the church would be bursting at the seams with flowers and a sunny sense of celebration. For many, the role of the church on Good Friday has disappeared, and along with it, much of what made the day special for me in the past has filtered away. I couldn’t even find Ben Hur on the television, which could always previously be relied upon to instal a little Romanic pomp into the day!

Once again I find my thoughts floating towards Spain where, on this “Viernes Santo” they hold the most solemn procession of them all – a wax effigy of a startlingly lifelike dead Christ, and a weeping Mary, while the participants in the parade are dressed in an eery black and, at least in Marbella, there is no band – only silence and a recurring, foreboding drum beat. It’s chilling.

Marbella's startlingly realistic wax effigy of the dead Christ, paraded on Viernes Santo

Since Spain has very much been the concentration of my approach to Holy Week on the Daily Norm, I thought I’d mark Good Friday/ Viernes Santo with the most substantial Norm Sketch I have yet completed – far bigger than the rest and packed full of detail, this is a full on Semana Santa parade, complete with crowds, a tronos, the nazareños, the women wearing mantillas, and the altar boys wafting incense through the air. And below, just so you don’t miss a thing, some detail shots.

Semana Santa (Miercoles Santo) (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Enjoy Good Friday, however you choose to spend it, and see you back here over the weekend.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Daily Sketch – Norms do Semana Santa

It’s Holy week around the world, and very much Semana Santa week here on The Daily Norm as myself and the Norms celebrate the lavish spectacle that are the Spanish Easter festivities. From photos and paintings, to sketches, today the Norms put in their two pennies worth indulging in their very own Semana Santa celebration. Thus a great body of costaleros share the burden of the vast tronos upon which a canopy contains a statue of a weeping Mary, surrounded by candles, lanterns and flowers. Here too, a group of Norms dress in the capriotes of the nazareños, carrying the typically opulent accessories of the procession – ornamental lamps, candles sticks and a magnificent crucifix. In the meantime, a group of female Norms adopt the black laced mantilla and accompanying black laced outfit worn by female participants of the parades.

Tronos Norms (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Nazareños Norms (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Norms wearing the mantilla (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

See you tomorrow for yet more Easter-themed ramblings and artwork.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Semana Santa – inspiration for my art

Yesterday, I introduced you to the endlessly fascinating and enduringly captivating Spanish processions which run through the streets of countless Spanish towns during this special week, Semana Santa, approaching Easter Sunday. From the moment I first saw one of these processions, I was overwhelmed by the spectacle. On the one hand, the hooded figures, marching by candlelight besides a wax figure of a dead or dying Christ make for a disturbing, slightly sinister sight. But look beyond the costume, to the breadth of participants involved, and to the widespread interaction of all of Spanish society which comes out to see the processions, and one is filled with an overwhelming sense of warmth and emotion. All of this combined makes for a substantial source of inspiration, and it is for this reason that Semana Santa has cropped up in my art work so often. I’ve now featured the parades in four of my major works and several smaller works. Nonetheless, I still don’t feel like I have truly captured the sheer scale and wonder of the spectacle, but hope that one day I will create a piece with which I can be truly satisfied.

Catholicism, Catholicism (España Volver II) (2009 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown) Oil on canvas

In this, the second canvas from my España Volver collection, Catholicism, Catholicism,  the Semana Santa processions forms the centrepiece of what is a generalised depiction of the continuing importance of Catholicism in Spain’s current culture, as well as its historical significance. Here the nazareños are shown metamorphosing from the Sierra mountains behind the city of Granada, the site of one of Catholicism’s most significant defeats over Muslim rule during the reconquista. To the right of the nazareños is a typical statue of Mary as paraded through the streets on tronos. This is not to be confused with the Mary sent out to sea by fishermen as depicted on the left on the canvas, this detail depicting the festival of Maria del Carmen, whereupon fishermen across the Costa del Sol give thanks to Mary for keeping them safe every July.

My depiction of Semana Santa in Catholicism, Catholicism was in turn based upon this study I made a few months before of a group of nazareños during Marbella’s Domingo de Ramos (palm sunday) procession.

Grupo de Nazareños (2009 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown) Oil on canvas

A Semana Santa procession also features rather prominently in the third canvas of my Seville Tryptic, appropriately so since the Semana Santa processions in Seville are by far the most famous.

Seville Triptych - Canvas III (Oil on canvas, 2010 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

It surprises me that so few people outside of Spain actually know what these processions are. When most English people see my paintings, they think I’ve portrayed the Ku Klux Klan – as if. This observation causes me relentless frustration, and I hope that through my art, photography and now my blog, I can help to share Spain’s Easter spectacles around the world.

That’s all for now. But check The Daily Norm this Easter Sunday, where a special Sunday Supplement will feature my most substantial (and recent) depiction of Semana Santa.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Semana Santa – Easter Spanish Style

Here in the UK, you know when Easter is coming because, from around January time, they start stocking mini eggs, cream eggs and progressively greater and greater stocks of foil covered novelty eggs, bunnies and other such creatures until the day itself, after which time the egg prices are cut savagely before picnic and gardening gear replaces its space on the shelves. This is all very well, but when celebrated through an egg count alone, Easter becomes merely an excuse to take a few days off work, and an attempted resistance to the chocolate influx all around. By contrast, in Spain, and in particular in the region of Andalucia, the festival of Easter, and in particular this week – Holy Week (“Semana Santa”) – brings with it a uniquely special feeling of celebration, family and spirituality.  I am not trying to say that every household around the world should celebrate the Christian story when the Easter festival comes along. Nonetheless, there is something deeply emotional, integral and raw about the outward manifestation of the Catholic celebrations of the Easter story in Spain, and I can’t help but wish that these celebrations were mirrored elsewhere.

After a decade of attending Spain’s lavish Easter celebrations, the Spanish Semana Santa festivities have become emblematic, to my mind, of Easter time. The celebrations largely comprise long processions of brotherhoods (“hermandades”) from a town’s local churches, each of whom carry “pasos” or “tronos” –  lifelike wood or plaster sculptures of individual scenes of the events that happened between Jesus’ arrest and his burial – throughout the town. The tronos, which are usually huge, golden, elaborately carved constructions topped with candles aplenty, are then physically carried on the necks of costaleros. The tronos are accompanied by nazareños – penitents who, most strikingly of all, are usually to be found wearing conical hats with covered faces called “capirotes”, and by brass and military bands.  What with the moving emotional accompaniment of the bands, and the vast numbers of nazareños and costaleros making up the parade, carrying candles, often walking on bare feet to demonstrate penitence and faith, and the pasos, glowing in candlelight, swaying from side to side to the rhythm of the marching costaleros, these parades make for stunning viewing. And what is perhaps even more stunning, is the way in which these parades bring communities together – hundreds of families, couples, tourists and visitors old and young alike crowd the streets of Spain to see these parades – and involved in the parades themselves are people of all ages. How beautiful to see these processions taken so seriously, especially by teenagers – in the UK they’d most likely be looting the shops for Easter Eggs.

I leave you, without further ado, with a selection of my photos from the parades I have seen over the years, largely in Marbella. For the most spectacular parades of all, Seville is the place to go, but I have not yet had that fortune. Nevertheless, the processions of Semana Santa have remained a constant inspiration to me, and this week, I will feature a number of my art works which have taken their inspiration directly from these stunning parades. Hasta lugeo.

 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2005-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork/ photographs, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.