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Harrold, Tim - VM - Tim Harrold

Tim Harrold: The Centurion

A Universe-changing Event

by Tim Harrold

The Centurion is in part a response to Stormtrooper Crucixion by Ryan Callahan, which was part of the Stations of the Cross exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook in London in March 2018. This controversial artwork gained much publicity. The Centurion would not have been made were it not for the discovery of a toy Stormtrooper among the collected junk in my studio. So when it was found, I began to think about making a piece that offered an alternative to Stormtrooper Crucixion.

The Centurion is an assemblage using a mixture of found objects, paint, and printed and handwritten material. It sits in an old drawer from a German chest of drawers. There is a porcelain label by the handle with word Wichszeug on it (this means ‘more stuff’, that is, ‘odds and ends’). A hand emerges from a door. It has a hole in the middle of the palm. From the hole in the hand pours ‘blood’, which makes its way across the linoleum ‘floor’ to the feet of a toy Stormtrooper from Star Wars, where it gathers in a puddle. The Stormtrooper has raised arms. On the lintel and doorposts are dabs of ‘blood’. The backdrop is made up of two pages from the anatomy book An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists by Fritz Schider (Dover 1947, 1953). The first is a drawing of an arm and hand, which has a nail through its wrist. Around the arm are notes written in pencil. The second page shows an ‘athlete supine’, that is, a figure lying down in photographic and diagrammatic forms. More penciled notes are scribed next to the diagram. Scrawled in the same pencil on the side of the door are the words, “Surely this man is the Son of God.”

The Centurion depicts an icon of contemporary pop culture – a Stormtrooper character from the Star Wars movie franchise – playing the part of the centurion at the crucifixion of Jesus. The casting of the toy Stormtrooper as the centurion seems only natural. Both represent oppression and empire. Both represent regimentation and tyranny. Both represent control by fear. The hand coming through the door is Christ’s. Jesus said, “I am the door.” Here he is reaching into the centurion’s life through his death and resurrection, through his sacrificial blood and healing wounds, through the portal between the dimensions of heaven and earth.

The hole in the hand may historically and anatomically be inaccurate, but it’s an instantly recognisable symbol. However, the nail in the wrist of the drawn hand is historically and anatomically accurate. The arm is drawn stretched out as if crucified. Around it, written in pencil like a student’s notes, are the medical details of what Jesus went through when he was crucified. The details are excruciatingly painful to read – in fact, the very word excruciate comes from the word crucify.

This is the moment that the centurion utters the words, “Surely this man is the Son of God.” This is the reported exclamation of the Roman soldier who witnessed Christ’s death on the cross as recorded in Mark 15:39. He raises his arms in revelation, awe and worship at the recognition of what he is witnessing, at this glorious, profound and unique universe-changing, history-pivoting event. It is the moment of a sudden coming to faith. The kingdom of God has invaded this representative of the empire of man: his universe is forever changed, his personal history eternally turned. Fear and the need to control melt away.


Tim Harrold: The Centurion, 2018, assemblage.

Tim Harrold was born in London, UK in 1960. He studied Expressive Arts at Brighton Polytechnic 1982-85, during which time he co-founded and performed with the Theatre of the Bleeding Obelisk absurdist troupe. Tim came to faith in Jesus in 1987. He taught art and worked with young people in church and community. In 1990 he married Vera, a teacher and crafter. Together they created interactive installations for 24-7 type prayer and have led creative workshops at Christian conferences. Tim has shown his assemblages – which he describes as visual parables in dioramic form – in a number of group exhibitions, notably with commission4mission in London and as part of the Thurrock Art Trail. He has had solo shows at Well House Gallery (Horndon, UK) and 35 Chapel Walk Gallery (Sheffield, UK). Tim is also a writer, photographer, filmmaker and itinerant speaker. There are two previous posts about Tim Harrold (one with John Espin) on ArtWay.

ArtWay Visual Meditation August 11, 2019