The Last Supper (2016)
Based Upon were commissioned by a prestigious private client to create a sculpture in bronze based on The Last Supper. It was a great privilege for us to be asked to create a contemporary work of sacred art.
From the outset we approached this subject with humility, seeking to understand the Last Supper by consulting with the scriptures and through our own meditation on the subject.
We assembled a band of devotees from as far and wide as Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Spain and joined together in a weekend of silence and prayer. On the third day we moved into an old barn in Somerset, England that we felt had the aesthetic and atmosphere of the Upper Room in Jerusalem, as it would have been 2000 years ago.
At a table dressed with clay pots, the apostolic crew feasted upon the foods of the time, prayed and sang hymns to celebrate Passover. Throughout the day we cultivated a deep stillness, inhabiting the strong emotions of the Last Supper: a band of brothers informed by their Master that this would be the last time they would eat together, that one of them had betrayed him and that the future of what he had taught them rested on their shoulders.
At the sharing of the wine, when Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28) a great stillness came upon the room, akin to how it is described when the Holy Spirit had descends into the space. All who were present felt it unquestioningly - the apostles, my creative partner in Based Upon - Lex Welch, members of our team and technicians. At that moment, signified by a single chime of a gong, we instructed the technicians to instigate the raft of 3D scanning equipment we had brought, to see if we could use the latest and most powerful technology (most recently used on the set of the latest Star Wars movie) to capture some of the holy resonance that we experienced in that moment.
Throughout the making of the work all of those involved in creating the sculpture – more than 50 people in all, given the complexity of the work – were briefed on the sacred intention we sought to protect, from the works inception to its completion. It is our belief and hope that the work resonates with that intention and with the grace of Spirit as it is witnessed today.
Our process shifted between the very modern approach of 3D scanning to the ancient technique of lost-wax bronze casting which predates the Last Supper itself. The vaulted arches above the figures reference the ceiling of the Cenacle on Mount Zion, believed to the site of the original Upper Room. The backdrop behind the bronze figures was made by hand in our London studio using ancient patination techniques to depict a celestial sky, suggestive of a heavenly non-material realm.
One final point of interest is that Judas appears to be sitting on a pile of gold bullion – a modern take on the bag of silver he was given in exchange for Christ’s betrayal. While this is a useful artistic device, its significance runs deeper, as it is actually the ingots of bronze that would eventually be used to cast the work. We believed that given its own resonant frequency, the bronze would become imbued with the grace that presented that day.
We held a small ceremony at a decaying former church in London in which we asked some close friends and family to come and view the sculpture - lighting candles in front of it and offering prayers and music before sending it on its way to our client’s home.