Shock and Contemplation in Images of the Crucifixion at Ben Uri Gallery

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LONDON.- The cross – two perpendicular lines – is a simple geometric design yet an arrangement which for many is a symbol with enormous power. Although the moment of resurrection is more important spiritually, it is the cross as a representation of the crucifixion that has become the symbol for the Christian church. As Sister Wendy Beckett explains, “Death, even as horrible a death as crucifixion, is something we can understand, whereas resurrection is not. We know that Christ rose, but we cannot imagine how.” Sometimes the image appears in an unexpected place and werealise its enormous symbolism as when the photographs that emerged from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The image of a prisoner hooded and forced to stand in the shape of the crucifixion added a further dynamic. What is it that leads artists to use this symbol in their work? Jennifer Swan, a Jungian analyst, suggests the “image functions as a visual metaphor to establish or support the nature of an individ