Thursday, November 17, 2016

Faroe Islands 2016 - Jesus of Nazareth

ISSUE DATE: 26 September 2016
STAMP SIZE: 27.5 x 32 mm (93 x 152 mm)
STAMP DESIGN: Edward Fuglø 

The Message of the Wood
On Edward Fuglø's Decoration in The Christian's Church

In the spring of 2013, Edward Fuglø created ten, mixed-media wood and acrylic ornamental reliefs for Christianskirkjan, Christian’s Church, in Klaksvík, Faroe Islands. The reliefs depict scenes from the life of Jesus. The medium wood is quite appropriate when we think of the Saviour as the foster son of Joseph, the carpenter. 

Another reason for the use of wood as the medium is its frequent use in the Church, where the mighty wooden structure of the nave is reminiscent of the great halls of the Viking Era. The round shields mounted alongside Viking ships have also influenced Edward Fuglø's choice of a circular shape for his reliefs.

Unlike painted pictures, the reliefs surge forward in space, creating deep shadows. They serve as decoration of a wide meeting room with a low ceiling situated below the sanctuary of the Church. Thus, the powerful effect of the reliefs as a collective whole can also be seen as a response to this demanding environment.

The circular form is an old symbol of the eternal, which makes it particularly appropriate in a religious narrative. However, it also poses an artistic challenge: The images must adapt to the circular form, while resisting it at the same time. Edward Fuglø has resolved this dilemma in a masterly fashion. Some of his figures bow humbly beneath the curved frame, whereas others rise against it, as if it did not exist.

The storytelling is brief and dramatic, revolving around the calm and dignified persona of Christ Jesus. Like the eye of a hurricane, He is surrounded by a violent cascade of movement and the expectant and lively faces of His disciples and the crowds of His followers, which are a masterwork of expressionism.

In the spirit of Pop Art, Edward Fuglø does not shy away from banalities. The style is "biblical": simple, clear and direct. This particular Biblical treatment has had a long and checkered history, but at one time it was revolutionary and powerful, especially in the Italian Renaissance art of Giotto and his followers. Their art also inspired Joakim Frederik Skovgaard's altarpiece in Christianskirkjan, a fresco of The Great Feast (1901), to which Fuglø's reliefs therfore connect.

The reliefs are not only retro. They are reminiscent of three-dimensional maps with contour lines. The displacements are so extensive that the whole assumes a dissolved, cubist look when the work is seen at close quarters or from the side. Simplicity and complexity go hand-in-hand, and the story is enriched by the decoration of the abstract pieces, often in robust rhythms.


Amidst the wood and acrylic reliefs, strange foreign elements appear, such as a light switch, a fish hook, a lock, a rivet, all of which endow the reliefs with a touch of collage. These are items that people have given the artist. As objects with special meaning for the donators, Edward Fuglø has incorporated them into his work as a local commentary on a sacred history. Thus, the life and passion of Jesus becomes uniquely present and personal.

The order of the narrative is also interesting. For example, the relief of Jesus Calms the Storm appears later than it should and so provides additional drama to the Passion of Christ. Likewise, The Ascension also reflects His Return on Judgement Day.

A wealth of thought-provoking details meets the eye. In Jesus Enters Jerusalem, Jesus rides alone without the traditional jubilant crowd; he meets his fate alone. In The Baptism of Christ, a tiny deer appears in the background, an allusion to the words of David, Psalm 42: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God”.  As Christian art of old, the reliefs offer both good storytelling and satisfying nourishment for the mind and soul.


The reliefs were developed in close co-operation with Sjúrður Sólstein, a cabinetmaker and instructor at Klaksvík Technical School, which provided the workspace for the crafting of the individual reliefs. Sólstein was responsible for the difficult and demanding work of carving the numerous components of the individual reliefs, following Edward Fuglø's detailed, 1:1 ratio designs.

With their magical mix of simplicity and complexity, narrative and decoration, old and new, imagination and handicraft, Edward Fuglø's reliefs constitute a brilliant contribution to Faroese church art. The Carpenter of Nazareth would have nodded in appreciation.

And to conclude, some facts:

Each relief consists of a 2 cm thick birch plate with a diameter of 135 cm, edged by 2 cm of brass, which originally was the brass baseboards of earlier, now replaced,  pews of the Church.

Varnished, painted (acrylic) or unfinished wooden pieces have been glued onto the base plate. The materials are spruce, African bubinga and zebrawood, and, not least, pine, which comes mainly from the former stretcher of the Church's altarpiece. To this is added driftwood, used metal parts, etc.

The motifs - clockwise from left - are as follows:

1. The Annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38)
2. The Adoration of the Shepherds (Luke 2: 8-21)
3. Jesus at the Age of Twelve in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52)
4. The Baptism of Christ (Matthew 3: 13-17, Mark 1: 9-11, Luke 3: 21-22, John 1: 29-34)
5. Jesus Feeds the Multitude of Five Thousand (Matthew 14: 13-21, Mark 6: 30-44, Luke 9: 10-17, John 6: 1-15)
6. The Healing of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17: 11-19)
7. Jesus Calms the Storm (Matthew 8: 23-27, Mark 4: 35-41, Luke 8: 22-25)
8. Jesus Enters Jerusalem (Matthew 21: 1-11, Mark 1: 1-11, Luke 19: 28-40 John (12: 12-19)
9. Jesus Carries His Cross (Matthew 27:32, Mark, 15:21, Luke 23: 26-32, John 19:17)
10. The Ascension (Luke 24: 50-53, Acts 1: 9-12)

Accompanying the ornamentation are also six, small vignettes, which are mounted between the windows of the Church. They consist of carved and painted shapes that function as close-ups of details from the reliefs themselves: a star, a lamb, a column, a fish, a jug and a dove.

author: Nils Ohrt

Stamp images and description thanks to Posta

Faroe Post - Posta