Weighing Christianity

Saturday, January 11, 1992

By Ann Rosenberg | The Vancouver Sun, January 11, 1992

Like many of its non-profit peers, the gallery on the second floor of Regent College (5800 University Boulevard) puts work by significant known and lesser-known contemporary artists before the public. This month it's David Robinson, whose group of sculptures Exalted Beings turns figures into metaphors for spiritual states.

In Perfect Imbalance, for example, an elegant man stands precariously on a beam suspended over an abyss, like a skywalker bravely working the high steel. The fact that he's unclothed exoept for what appears to be a speed-swimmer's cap; the fact that he's ethereal in his beauty but has pointed, devil-like ears: these things are significant.

These attributes ensure that we perceive this wraith as a hybrid combining qualities of the olympian hero with the daredevil - a daredevil, perhaps, much like Satan who some believe was God's most handsome and intelligent angel before he became victim of his arrogance and tumbled into a self-made hell.

The cliff-hanging superman is also a self-portrait of Robinson, who is a tall, thin, practicing Christian. According to Muse - a newsletter published in Calgary - the artist is aware that he's using sculpture not only as a way of recreating God's act of creation, but also as a means to regain his "image of God" within the "pain of human experience."

Hence, in an almost life-size scuIpture called Speak, the artist stands prisoner in a too-tight docket mounted on a cross-beam, feet dangling uselessly below. At the same time the mournful figure in contemporary undress transforms the Biblical reference by standing for all who've been cowed and ultimately silenced by torture and death.

Although the exhibition has an exalted moral purpose, it's not a dry sermon. I believe the artist counts on us to chuckle at the fact that in contrast to Michelangelo's Christ-like titans who were sometimes constrained by classical bindings around their chests, his aerobicized new-age Christ figures suffer the indignity of too-tight bathing-caps.

And there's overt humor in Neighbours. Here an obese man and a skinny one contend on a teeter-totter-like device within a picket fence enclosure. One plans his strategy while the other fiddles with his nails. This is an Aesop-like scenario that is not a moral tale about dieting.