“SALVATION” a solo exhibition by Paul Magisa
Life, Death, Resurrection, Salvation, Christ.
These themes are not new when it comes to painting: in fact artists such as Caravaggio, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Raphael had tackled such themes for an eon of time in their lives.
In Paul Magisa’s solo exhibition “SALVATION,” he relives and revitalizes such motifs that adhere so much to our humanity. He presents it in a contemporary manner but not discounting its essence. He takes us through a plethora of monochromatic paintings, evoking the mysterious yet simple and plainspoken message of salvation: that which will ultimately influence the way we live and the way we die.
As a follower of Christ, I’ve often observed how the subject matter of Christianity becomes a political object in paintings-something to evoke debate, discussion and rationalization. Gone in the mist of human intellect is the essence of the Bible, Christ, and the salvation that we so easily take for granted or, at worst, ignore. In the world of art where human creative expressions seem free and boundless, artists who directly express their faith through their works are often subject to animosities and hushed clamors. It seems to be an unspoken taboo in the contemporary art scene to talk about one’s faith and dependence on GOD. Hence the paradox: if art is a free expression, why is there such a sharp sting to our humanistic ideals and artistic pursuits whenever faced with such faith-driven artworks? Did art atrophy so naturally as just a commodity or a status symbol in these contemporary times-rather than as a noble pursuit to affect and awaken the mind?
Magisa opens with the image of a skull: such a popular iconography-an image in demand among art consumers. But what goes on underneath such skeletal figure? Often paralleled with death, this skull unveils rather, a specter of hope: that Christ, a real person who lived 2000 years ago, was risen from his bodily death. But what if there is no resurrection? Such is the artist’s query. Where do we, those who believe, place our hope? Who would not want to be revived from death-even the small deaths that we encounter in life everyday without the reality of resurrection?
“Lazarus” is one of the people in the Bible whom Christ brought back from the dead. Lazarus is like each one of us- in our own fragile and vulnerable bodies, death will eventually come knocking at our door. Fear usually encapsulates such reality, but again, Magisa poses the question: how can we live again? Moreover, the artist makes us ponder on the life we spend on earth through his work “Out of the Body”. He believes our choices here, especially on where we place our faith, determine the destination of our souls.
On the other hand, industrialization, modernization, and technology have numbed our affinity towards what really count more: things that are not seen, those we cannot readily grasp. In his work “Life as You Know It”, he interprets how each one of us has a natural tendency to independently manufacture the way we thrive and build our own sense of salvation. Sometimes our self-efforts seem satisfying, but the intensity of the image here with the girl dragging her own head inside the tightly pulled cloth elicits a feeling of struggle inside an empty pursuit.
It is inevitable at some point in our lives that we question God’s existence when faced with unimaginable trials and pains. Some even dismiss the idea of God at all. “In the Eye of the Storm” challenges us to find the peace that we need the most even in the midst of life’s unexpected “storms”. The artist, having gone through multiple storms in his life is not just being idealistic about this, but I believe he has learned to put his faith somewhere higher than him-Someone bigger than the storms that could even come simultaneously.
“Life’s Necessities” focuses on the temporary things wherein we place our sense of security and significance. Indeed, people vie for power, popularity, market value, possessions, money, and other earthly necessities. How nice they absolutely feel to have power because of possessions and positions. However, the artist challenges us that even such “important” things cannot bargain with the cost of our salvation.
His last few works talk about each and every one’s BROKENNESS. We are all broken in a different way. We’ve lost something, we’ve failed at times, we feel insecure, our relationships are in shambles, we’ve been abused, maltreated, deceived, battered, and other related human injustices. Nonetheless, in such a state of brokenness, the artist used the concept of “kintsukuroi”, a Japanese philosophy about ceramics which is also parallel to his idea of “wholeness” and being saved. In Kintsukuroi, the broken parts are bound up with gold, something more precious than the ceramic vessel itself. It is like us, empty, broken, depraved, and hopeless—yet when we place ourselves into the hands of the Person who made us, He promises something that we cannot ever repay: life through the death and resurrection of a sinless man named Jesus.
Through his works, Paul Magisa invites us. The invitation is free, and it is up to us to choose by faith.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 (ESV)
by Chloe Dellosa