by Romola Parish
Commentary by the artist
Romola Parish writes:
There is, perhaps, no other encounter with God as widely known as that of the Annunciation, the moment in which the Holy Spirit brings life and salvation to the world through the virgin’s womb. There are deceptions of the Annunciation throughout the history of Christian art. It is a powerful and essential moment on the Christian story, and so how does one recreate it afresh?
One thing that fascinates me is the way in which the same Christian story is refashioned continually in order to connect with its contemporary audience. Many images, of course, stand the test of time and are as eloquent today and they were when made. However, I don’t think the primary motive in making these images was consciously to try to recreate the annunciation for a modern audience. They were as surprising to me as them emerged in the making, as they might be to any viewer: a black, female angel and an oriental girl. I call the diptych a ‘universal’ annunciation but it was not created or intended as a feminist or ethnic reaction to the annunciation tradition in Christian art. It was what the two images ‘wanted to be’ through the making.
The process of making these embroideries was intuitive. Instead of planning the work out, and tracing the image onto fabric, the stitching progressed completely freehand, and the selection of threads took place whilst I worked. I felt that this allowed it to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, rather than being predetermined. It allowed the images to be what ‘they’ wanted to be, rather than something I was consciously in control of. So, this is what they wanted to be!
Andrew Bunch writes:
Perhaps the Biblical scene that we most associate with a Divine Encounter is the story of the annunciation to Mary that she is to give birth to the child Jesus. (Luke 1:26-38) This is portrayed in two works of embroidery by Romola Parish “Annunciation – Angel” and “Annunciation – Mary” and the stone carving “The Annunciation” by Nick Mynheer (next page).
Romola’s works act as a reminder of the real relationship between God and mankind. The Angel, God’s agent, has a sense of presence and command. The Angel is in a commissioning role, there is a mission to be gifted if Mary is willing to take it on. My wonder is how many of such potential invitations by God are sent out but actually not taken up. I am sure that I am not alone in recognising that opportunities have been presented to me in life, which I have not taken up. Yet in Romola’s depiction of Mary, there is a sense of acceptance and submission to the Angels’ command that is portrayed. Mary recognises the importance of the moment and responds positively. Yes, she is taking on a risk, she is doing something that does not fit well with convention, but she acts because she believes her action is in harmony with God’s will.