Lorna May Wadsworth (b. 1979 -)
The Kiss of Betrayal, 2015
Acrylic, two shades of 23 carat gold and charcoal on canvas
120cm x 180cm (not including frame)
On loan from the artist
The Kiss of Betrayal
In The Kiss of Betrayal, Wadsworth takes the iconic moment of Judas’s treachery in the Garden of Gethsemane and re-sets it in a startlingly contemporary context. By isolating the figures in a vast cinematic close-up, the piece is electric with ambiguity. Referencing icon painters of the past, Wadsworth’s sculptural figures are set against 24 carat gold, but rather than left a solid gold background the edges of The Kiss of Betrayal are lined with shadowy charcoal, referencing Judas’s treachery. The two heads, each figured like classical sculptures, are separated by a lightning bolt of suspense, their angles reminiscent of glamorous silver screen kisses from old Hollywood. Christ’s eyes gaze out heavenwards, the catch-light picked out in silvery platinum.
The piece sears into the crisis of homosexuality within the modern church. It is at once entirely rooted in biblical orthodoxy and the art historical canon, but in stripping all the extraneous details away, this painting directly challenges the homophobic unease inherent in many parts of the modern church. “I wanted it to be a little ambiguous, like you’re not sure if Judas is about to ‘nut him’ or kiss him”, Wadsworth explains. “By making such a cinematic scale close up, removing all other allusions to the plot and the context, to perhaps engage with and confront some Christians’ troubled acceptance of gay marriage, and I guess gay people full stop. I like to introduce a duality when I tackle religious themes, to make people really think about their beliefs and prejudices.”
(Dr Sophie Kelly)
Born in Sheffield, Lorna May Wadsworth now operates from her studio in East London. She rose to prominence in the contemporary art world before graduating from Falmouth College of Art, with a series of notable works, including portraits of the Right Honourable, Lord David Blunkett and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
One of her most acclaimed works, a monumental portrait of the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher, was completed from five life sittings. The resultant painting is one of the most commanding and respected formal portraits of a modern British Prime Minister.