Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Lemmer, Deon - VM - Erna Buber-deVilliers

Deon Lemmer: Resurrection of the Beloved (A Yearly Event)
He died. He lives
by Erna Buber-deVilliers
Two things struck me almost simultaneously the first time I looked at this picture. The first one was: YELLOW! And the second was that the painting looks like an old-fashioned epic movie poster that melds key moments of the story together with no regard for scale and time-line.
The yellow is such a happy colour, bursting with energy, life and light. It is not a colour traditionally chosen by artists to portray a Pieta, a Descent from the Cross or a Deposition. And that is what this is. It's a painting of Jesus dead.
Or is it?
The cross looks like a very tall telephone pole. See how the little windows in the building behind it can be read as those ceramic spindles that bear the telephone wires? There's good news a-coming! The wires will soon be buzzing! The workmen at the top of the cross are certainly not dressed in the garb of first-century Palestine, and the bearded guy just behind the horse's head is wearing jeans and a sweatshirt with his Middle Eastern headgear. Others in this picture are dressed just like the people in the children's Bible from my childhood, but there's one large long-haired swashbuckling figure, at the left, who could belong to Rembrandt’s seventeenth century.
When and where is all this action taking place?
From a portal leading into a magic city a white horse gallops towards us. The portal's pediment is inscribed: 2010 – Jesus Lives. Another horse patiently waits to receive Jesus’ dead body. Now and then.
In the upper left of the painting a powerful angel is arriving, an arm outstretched in a commanding gesture, pointing to heaven. On the hillside we see the empty grave. A river flows from the open grave down the hillside and widens out at its base. It is reflected on the walls of the Holy City. ‘Whoever drinks of the water I give, will never thirst again.’
The corona shining from the grave is repeated around the head of a figure I nearly missed. The risen Jesus is unobtrusive, almost hidden behind the mourner in blue and the dead Jesus' foot. The artist wrote: ‘It takes grace and faith to receive the truth of God's Resurrected One.’
Deon Lemmer wrote me a little story: “After my brain operation I had a wonderful experience with a horse on the beach. She appeared as it were from nowhere. I was frightened, but she continued walking right up to me and stood still, letting me caress her more and more confidently. That touching was so healing. We underestimate animals so much, especially those that have chosen to be ‘tamed’ by us. It's actually the other way around. My horse in the painting knows what is going on and stands still, patiently and humbly waiting to receive his Creator.”
Will we stand still, awaiting the touch of the risen Jesus and be healed? Are we ready to bear the burden he chooses for us?
This is a very busy painting. It's anything but still. Diagonals shoot off or zigzag in every direction. It's spatially confusing with some of the figures further away shown bigger instead of smaller. The top of the cross with its tiny figures looks very far away, yet its base is planted right here, directly in front of us. And it's that cross, the strong vertical line down the middle between earth and heaven, between man and God, which holds all together. The cross is God's anchor between past, present and future, between being lost and being found. The cross was his plan. It is his plan. Then and now. Here and there.
A final word from the artist: ‘In several sermons we were told to use and share our talents within and outside of the family of God to glorify him, so this was what I did. I donated the painting to the church. It was unveiled at the 150th anniversary of our little Anglican congregation. It hangs in the hall of Christ Church, Alexandria, South-Africa. I have resolved that I will as unobtrusively as possible go in and change the date annually.’
So this year, the pediment will bear the words:
2011 – Jesus Lives.
Bible references
The empty grave: John 20:1-16
Water that Jesus gives: John 4:14
Erna Buber-deVilliers is a retired Art teacher, a wannabe-writer, and a dabbler in many things. 

Deon Lemmer: Resurrection of the Beloved (a yearly event), 1260 x 750mm, acrylic and oil on stretched canvas, 2010.
Deon Lemmer is a South-African artist who grew up in KwaZulu, Natal. He obtained a Master’s Degree in Fine Art from the University of Natal at Pietermaritzburg. He is a gifted teacher and taught Art at various institutions including the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng Province. After eleven years there health concerns required that he change his lifestyle and seek a simpler, stress-free environment. He moved to a small farming town near the Eastern Cape coast. Alexandria is 100 km north east of Port Elizabeth. He still had a few private students until hospitalization, surgery and radiation because of a brain tumour two years ago required him to give up what he considered his first love: teaching. He calls this ‘just one of many beneficial interventions by God in my life’ and says: ‘Enter Deon, the sixty-year-old-greenhorn-fulltime (energy permitting) artist. I had my first solo show last year, and have another one in April this year. I've done almost 60 new paintings but have no idea which to select.’
ArtWay Visual Meditation March 6, 2011