This painting is part of a Stations of the Cross series by French street artist 3TTman. He said he’s intrigued by religious symbology, the art of expression by symbols, which is why he chose to tell the story of Christ’s crucifixion wholly through them.
Although I can’t say definitively what the artist meant to represent with each of these symbols, the painting as a whole obviously represents the sorrow that was experienced, by Son and Father, in Gethsemane—but also the glory that accompanied it. (And lest you think I’m a clever interpreter of abstract art—no, not really, the title just tipped me off.)
This is what I see: The cup that Jesus wanted removed from him is being held by God in the upper left-hand corner. But it almost seems as if the suffering that fills it, instead of being poured out, is being held back. We see only little sprinklings slipping through God’s fingers, so maybe he’s trying to prevent the torrent of his wrath from hitting until the last possible moment on the cross, when he must necessarily release it. Mount Calvary (or Golgotha, if you prefer the Greek) is in God’s right hand—but is it being brought down for Jesus to experience, or lifted up? I think both, because even as Jesus’ execution on that hilltop lay ahead as the darkest day in the history of the world, it also signifies the most glorious, because it is through that event that salvation from sin and death is made possible for all mankind. In the painting, God’s hand elevates this historical symbol of grace, love, mercy, and justice so that all the world might look to it and celebrate it and recognize its supreme beauty.
As for the three-headed figure at the bottom, I think it’s safe to say that that’s Peter, John, and James, the three disciples Jesus took with him to Gethsemane and told to keep watch (they fell asleep instead). The central, diamond-shaped figure, at first glance, seems to be Jesus—I mean, he’s crying, and the context is Gethsemane, so that would make the most sense, right? But why does he have two sets of eyes, and why does he appear to be stabbing his disciples? As my husband so insightfully pointed out, perhaps the figure also represents God the Father, crying as he pierces his Son.
And then there’s the tomb, burst open by something big and powerful. A pathway leads from the tomb’s open mouth up to heaven, but not before passing once more through Golgotha. This directionality, which leads our eyes to the upturned palm, perhaps hints at the path that men must follow if they wish to be resurrected in a like manner as Jesus. They must endure hardships on Earth, they must take up their own crosses, if they are to be true followers of Jesus and citizens of his kingdom. The banner at the top reads “Glory,” reminding us that it was through Jesus’ suffering that God’s glory was made known in the greatest way, for it is by that suffering that men can now be brought to glory.
There’s a lot of overlap and interplay in the painting, and maybe each symbol, each shape, is meant to represent more than just one idea. The artist did say that he had multi-layeredness in mind when he painted the work.
So what’s your interpretation? Who’s who in this colorful, religious admixture? Is there a significance to all the patterns and shapes?
Here are some symbols I don’t know how to account for: The diamond in his head? Those pointed black things on the left? The spaghetti-like mass that’s drooping over the brick wall? The “59” on the bottom figure’s leg?
Check out the other paintings in this series if you wish to move forward (and I hope you do) in 3TTman’s modern retelling, via nontraditional symbols, of Christ’s last week on Earth.