Altar of Repose Mural (Detail), Mary the Queen Parish, Photo taken by Joel de Leon

Why Consider Colors and Leaves?
AM+DG 18 April 2019

Listening To The Leaves (Mga Bulong Ng Dahon) is an Altar of Repose art installation commissioned by the two parishes, namely, Mary the Queen Parish (MTQ), San Juan and Kristong Hari Parish (KHP), Commonwealth, Quezon City for their Maundy Thursday vigil. Like the first edition of the Altar of Repose in 2018, in this year’s art installation Jesuit priest and artist Jason Dy, SJ collaborates with Ateneo Art Gallery’s assistant curator, Joel de Leon and the Bulaklak Team as well as the respective committees of the commissioning parishes. 

Altar of Repose Mural (Detail), Kristong Hari Parish
Altar of Repose (Installation View), Mary the Queen Parish

The main tableau of the installation art consists of color field mural painting with leaf prints suspended from the ceiling at the respective site, i.e. right side altar at MTQ Parish and main altar at KHP. Dy appropriates the color field painting style of the abstract expressionist movement in American in the 1940s because it has the potential to delve deeply into the questions of human existence and to apprehend the spiritual. As a theologian and existential philosopher Paul Tillich claims as he reflects on the works of abstract expressionist painters like Mark Rothko, their works “… set out to plumb the darker depths of human situation and only in and through such depths to reaffirm the fundamental religious truth of the situation.” 1

The color scheme of the mural from greenish-black and deep violet, reddish brown, red-orange, to yellow and white suggests the transition of dark to light and the color spectrum in between during the process of change. This color scheme is drawn from Dy’s small acrylic color field painting entitled Descent (2019) that shows the travel of light to the depth of death and darkness. This title is informed by Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult) that states that Jesus in his death “descended into Hell” to bring “good tiding” to the dead as seen in the first letter of Peter (4:6). In the mural, Dy has chosen this color scheme to suggest this kind of movement from darkness to light reminiscent of the Passover of Christ from suffering, crucifixion to his death as well as from death to his resurrection.

To complement the color field painting, the leaf prints are added in order to be inspired by nature’s cycle of trees leafing, flowers blossoming, fruit-bearing, trees “unleaving,”2 and seeds sprouting. In the scriptures, Jesus has a keen sense of nature in his parables. In teaching his disciples to trust in God’s providence, he tells them to look closely on the lilies of the fields or the birds on the air (Matthew 6:26-30). In prophesying his death, he uses the grain of wheat falling on the ground, to die and to bear much fruits (John 12:24). In anticipating his second coming, Jesus observes the fresh buds of leaves on a fig tree saying: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near” (Matthew 24:32).

Thus, the leaf prints are offered as a parable to our contemporary society not just beset by global warming but more so of attuning ourselves to God’s creation in order to learn the realities of Christ’s paschal mystery that good triumphed over evil, kindness over violence, new life over death, love over indifference. 

These murals sited in two churches hope that both parishioners and pilgrims will spend an hour to be still, look at the colors and listen to the leaves. In the silence of Good Friday, we may hear the quiet hope that blossoms in Easter Morn.

Altar of Repose Mural (Installation View), Kristong Hari Parish, Photo by Ignacio Degocena

1 Quoted in George Pattison, “Into the Abbys” in Modernity and Faith, pp. 115-116.
2 A word coined by Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins entitled Spring and Fall
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Altar of Repose collaborators: Joel de Leon and the Bulaklak Team (Markvin, Christian, and Jonar), Photo by Jason Dy, SJ

Special thanks to Fr Guy Guibelondo, SJ and the Mary the Queen Parish Jesuit Community, administration and staff; Fr. Rolando Jaluag and the Kristong Hari Parish administration and staff; Boots Herrera and the Ateneo Art Gallery Team, Jesuit Residence Community; and the Ateneo de Manila Central Facilities Management Office