Sunday 20 January 2019

What Lies Beneath: Hands by Bogdan Constantin

Hands by Bogdan Constantin, Oil on canvas, Courtesy The Open Window Gallery

Hands by Bogdan Constantin
Hands by Bogdan Constantin

Niall MacMonagle

On December 24, 1968 when Apollo 8, travelling at 24,207mph, pointed away from Earth and headed towards the Moon, the three astronauts on board saw something no human had ever seen before: planet Earth, 200,000 miles away, as a single globe.


And Frank Frederick Borman II, James Arthur Lovell Jr and William Alison Anders read a special message for the 500m earthlings who had tuned in.

They read, in turn, from Genesis: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth... And God called the dry ground land, and the waters that were gathered together he called seas. And God saw that it was good."

It's a thrilling narrative. It's poetry. It's a beautiful and calm beginning.

Much, much later that same God's son died a brutal death here on Earth. He was crucified. No surprise that it gives us the word excruciating.

That was Good Friday, today is Easter Sunday... Christ has died, Christ has risen - but he has the scars to remind us of his brutal death.

In Hands, by Romanian artist Bogdan Constantin, a muscular Christ is viewed from above. Both viewer and Christ focus on two pale wounded, stigmatised palms. Beneath the thorns, more cap than crown, the handsome face is partly hidden but the outstretched, pleading hands suggest a perplexed and innocent sufferer.

Constantin, self-taught, always passionate about drawing, excelled at figurative work and having finished school worked for a chemical company as a designer, later with a theatre company where he worked on sets and advertising posters.

Eventually he opened his own gallery/studio in Ramnicu Valcea but the Romanian Union of Artists refused him membership because he hadn't been formally trained. And now he and his family live in Cavan.

Some years ago his teenage daughter attended a summer school in Dublin, stayed with an Irish family and fell in love with Ireland. Mother and daughter moved. For a while, Dad commuted and has just joined them. Painting is a moveable feast.

Though Bogdan Constantin was brought up an Orthodox Christian, "this did not define my views. I am spiritual. I see religion as a man-made institution and behind every authority figure is a man with doubts".

Constantin's risen Christ is a doubting one.

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