In his latest exhibit, titled Aetas Martyrum (Age of Martyrs), artist Mike Muñoz explores the social and spiritual dimensions of martyrdom in the contemporary setting. “Though the first thing that comes to mind when we hear of martyrdom would be the period of the early Christianity, the topics of persecution, forgiveness and conversion are equally relevant today as before,” says Muñoz.
The third in a series of exhibitions (after Deus Historiae and Christiadeum) that tackles God’s presence in human history, Aetas Martyrum focuses on rarely seen religious imagery and symbolism. Muñoz utilizes religious symbolisms and images from as far back as the Renaissance and Baroque periods “to bring them back to their proper use.”
“By incorporating my creative process, I want to create art works that would present my reflections on the topic,” says Muñoz, using carpentry, lighting, text, and industrial metal craft to convey his message.
“Dicipulus non major Majistro est” (The disciple is no greater than the Master) draws references from Caravaggio’s “Crucifixion of St Peter.” Muñoz explains, “The painting is divided into four parts to accommodate an inverted wooden cross as the central point of the work. The inverted cross has been more popular in occult movies, literature, and black legends, but I plan to retrieve it from such consciousness and present it as a symbol of St Peter’s humility in the face of martyrdom, and therefore giving Glory to God. Etched on the cross is how Jesus indicated the way Peter would die.”
Another piece is “Via ad Danmascum” (Way to Damascus), similarly inspired by another Caravaggio painting, “The Conversion of St Paul.” The painting is divided into two halves, retaining the image of St. Paul on his back, and the upper half featuring a cut-out image of the rays of the monstrance, instead of the Eucharist, and the question, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” is etched at the center. Lights are installed at the upper half, depicting light from heaven and highlighting Jesus’ question.
Putting a premium on extensive preparation and research, Muñoz wants his audience to pick up where he is coming from and make their own reflections and conclusions. Next year, he plans to put up an exhibition on the history of Christianity in the Philippines.