Tag Archives: The Passion of Christ

The Lebowski Cycle – The Supper at Emmaus

Supper at Emmaus (After Caravaggio) • Joe Forkan 2006-2009 oil on linen 96"x 38"

This painting is based on Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus from 1601, which illustrates a dramatic moment from the story of Jesus’ resurrection. I was interested in Caravaggio’s take on the story because of his depiction of the moment of discovery, when the disciple’s “eyes were opened”, and for his symbolic use of the still life to reinforce the central idea of his painting.

Supper at Emmaus Caravaggio 1601 Oil on canvas 141 cm × 196.2 cm (55.5 in x 77.25 in) National Gallery, London

The symbolic references used in the paintings of this time period are somewhat obscure to us now, it is still clear from looking at the work that each figure, element, and gesture was an important consideration in the presentation of the story, all subsumed into the final image. One of the qualities that I most enjoy about narrative painting is that there is a clear story to be presented, but the specific events of the narrative give you great latitude for formal, conceptual or expressive shifts and digressions that can set a different tone or shift the story’s implications.

In my painting, I was looking to create a kind of visual and narrative tension between the figures, the dramatic space, and the still life, one that is suggestive of a larger narrative, and that hopefully moves beyond the specifics of the Jesus story, the Lebowski story, or the Caravaggio story, but retains a shifting, if uneasy relationship between all three, in addition to where I am trying to go with the content and the formal elements.

Detail from the Supper at Emmaus • Joe Forkan 2009

I hesitate to be any more forthcoming about my intentions for these paintings, in that I don’t want to set a specific read for anyone else. Painting is, after all, a language of its own and in this regard, I will let the paintings speak for themselves.

This painting was one of the most complex of The Lebowski Cycle. Its scale was daunting (96″ x 38″ / 243.84 cm x 96.52 cm), with 3 main figures that are slightly over life-size, and a deep space that I wanted to paint in a specific way. I wanted the background to be largely empty, but not in the way that Caravaggio’s paintings are empty, through the use of chiaroscuro (the contrasting effects of intense light and deep shadow). I was looking to represent space and to convey a sense of light and shadow through the relationships of large color shapes, rather than using a more dramatic recession into shadow.

This painting will be included in the Laguna Art Museums exhibition The OsCene 2010 –  Contemporary Art and Culture in Orange County from February 21st – May 16, 2010.

The Lebowski Cycle – Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo (After Guercino) • Joe Forkan 2009, oil on linen, 72" x 40"

Ecce Homo Il Guercino 1647 Oil on canvas 42.25 in x 58.66 in Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Ecce Homo Il Guercino 1647 Oil on canvas 42.25 in x 58.66 in Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Ecce Homo are the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate when he presented Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd shortly before his crucifixion. The Ecce Homo is a standard component of paintings illustrating the Passion of Christ.

For this painting, I was really looking for a strong narrative with energy, physical conflict and resignation, that could shift from seriousness to the absurd and back.  This painting references a scene from the Big Lebowski, in which the Dude is arrested by the Malibu police.

Whether it’s Pontius Pilate or the Chief of Police of Malibu, narrative conflict is narrative conflict, and provides a moment of tension and drama on which to build.

Six of the twelve original paintings in The Lebowski Cycle deal with the Passion of Christ: The Agony in the Garden, The Taking of Christ, Ecce Homo, The Deposition, The Lamentation, and The Supper at Emmaus. All are near completion.

The Lebowski Cycle – The Taking of Christ

The Taking of Christ (After Caravaggio) • Joe Forkan 2009, oil on linen, 72" x 40"

This painting is based on Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ painted in 1602. I wanted to combine the gravity of the original painting, (with its dynamic composition and the drama of the moment depicted) with the humor of the movie, and really push the way the figures read with the marks and the use of color.

The Taking of Christ Caravaggio 1602 Oil on canvas 52.6 in × 66.7 in National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

The Taking of Christ Caravaggio 1602 Oil on canvas 52.6 in × 66.7 in National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

The images in these paintings are derived from scenes in the film, but are built from many frames in a single scene as well as from additional photography and manipulation, reconfiguring the compositions to try to capture the movement and drama of baroque era painting, while thinking of film language and contemporary ideas of painting. The history of painting and state of painting are also subjects of The Lebowski Cycle.