Ascension,
by Eric Gill (1882-1940),
Woodblock print on paper,
Printed in 1918
© Tate Gallery, London

Ascension,
by Eric Gill (1882-1940),
Woodblock print on paper,
Printed in 1918
© Tate Gallery, London

Gospel of 29 May 2019

I still have many things to say to you

John 16: 12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:

I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now.

But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come. He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.

Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells you will be taken from what is mine.’

Reflection on the Woodblock Print

We are on the eve of the Ascension of Our Lord. Christ says ‘I still have many things to say to you’… He already told and taught us so much, and yet He feels He still hasn’t said everything he wants to say. The beauty of the Ascension lies in that Christ is no longer in a specific time and place in the world 2000 years ago, as he was before the Ascension; but now, after He ascended to His Father, He is present in every space and time, close to each one of us, where He continues to talk to us.

Today we are looking at a woodblock print on paper. The technique of woodblock printing consists of taking a piece of wood and carving a relief pattern in it, meaning that the areas to show 'white' are cut away with a knife, chisel, or sandpaper leaving the image to show in 'black' what still sits on the original surface level. The content would of course print a ‘mirror-image’ of what was carved, a further complication when text was involved. Woodblock prints are usually not as detailed than other engravings  (where highly detailed compositions could be achieved through the use of metal plates). This makes for a particular beauty of simple lines that these prints bring with them; a simplicity, which can make the images all the more poignant. We see Christ depicted ascending to heaven, with the 11 apostles watching (the 12th apostle, Judas, hung himself after he betrayed Jesus).

Eric Gill was part of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England. This movement (1880-1920) celebrated traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration. Woodblock printing therefore was a preferred technique for creating works of art. Arts & Crafts advocated economic and social reform and was essentially anti-industrial.

This print was made in 1918, the end of World War I. The apostles are lined up almost as an army… ready to battle to bring the world’s souls closer to God…

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