Christ's story in a landscape triptych 32 foot Barn boar Mural

Christ's story in a landscape triptych

Pickering artist creates altar installation for holidays

Christ's story in a landscape triptych

Celia Klemenz / Metroland

AJAX -- James Ruddle recently completed a triptych mural titled, The Light of This Broken World. The large burn painting, created through a process of burning the images onto wood using gasoline and a blow torch, was installed in the sanctuary of Forest Brook Community Church. December 3, 2010

Oshawa This Week

By Mike Ruta

AJAX -- An artist's tools of the trade are familiar to most: acrylic or oil paint, brushes, easel and the like.

But for James Ruddle, add gasoline and a blow torch to the list.

The Pickering artist used those tools to create a large triptych that is installed at Ajax's Forest Brook Community Church, of which he is a member.

Ruddle says "it was always my dream to paint an altar piece for a church.

"I came up with the idea of doing a look into Jesus's life, from birth to Jerusalem to dying on the cross. The Christmas story from birth until His death," he says.

Ruddle's piece, The Light of this Broken World, is a landscape in three parts, showing Bethlehem where Christ was born, Jerusalem where He lived and taught and Calvary, where Jesus was crucified. It is on boards of uneven heights from an old sawmill, stood up on end one beside the other. Rudddle says the tops of the boards echo tall buildings in a North American urban landscape, an amalgam of a Western and a Middle Eastern cityscape.

A commissioned piece, it's one of his "burn paintings," a technique he's developed over the last six or seven years. And Ruddle, a former welder, is pretty handy with a blow torch. Only this time, using wood instead of canvas, for the first time he painted gasoline right on his work.

To create the work, Ruddle first drew his image on the boards in pencil. He then strengthened the outline with charcoal before painting gasoline on the areas he wanted burned before lighting the torch and literally setting his work afire. The contrast between the burned and un-burned areas of the work, due to the various shades of the wood, is sufficiently strong that, apart from some chalk pastel colours mixed with water and a cheap latex primer for the whites, that's all there was to it. Well, that and 80 hours of Ruddle's time.

"An important part of my piece is documenting it so people can understand there's a lot of time and effort that goes into it," he says.

Ruddle, an art teacher at Keswick High School, promotes art and the artistic process whenever he can. And he comes up with some wild ways in which to do it. He will soon be living in a 40-inch-square box for 40 hours, painting all the time. In 2007, he spent 72 hours in a six-foot box.

Check out Ruddle's other works, including burn paintings on canvas, at www.jamesruddle.com. Click on the Forest Brook Mural link and see a YouTube video of Ruddle creating The Light of this Broken World.

The triptych will be on the church's altar until Jan. 23. The public can view the work Monday to Thursday to around 5 p.m. and on Fridays until roughly 3 p.m. Enter via the church's side door (south entrance).

#barnboardmural #triptych #blowtorch #burnart #jamesruddle

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