Sometime in 2001, I was commissioned by Fr Eduardo Vargas, a visiting priest from The Americas to paint him something small; He wanted a depiction of The Sacrament. With time against us (he was en route to Rome to complete his studies) I had to work quickly.
One quiet evening, and running parallel to this story, I was at a vigil held for a dear friend who was silently and bravely battling a health issue. Although his news wasn’t positive, he remained stoic and truly inspirational. During the ceremony, my focus would flit between prayer offerings, the yet-to-be-discovered commission and an elderly man who stood directly ahead, clasping behind him a rosary. Through the palm of his weary hands, he would draw every individual bead one by one via his thumb and index finger. So quickly would they feed through I found it near impossible to focus on the service at hand.
I looked closer still, this time locking in on the hands; one clasping the wrist of the other so tightly it seemed to cut off the very life-blood running through. Both limbs had now become two different entities; one, full of life, grasping, as if pulling to support the other which looked tired, limp, almost lifeless. The rosary beads, lost in the folds of skin and bone, bled out from the centre into the chapel’s evening light… my painting could begin!
Sparing the detail, my dear friend who would often pay a visit for tea to share in banter about art, music and movie history, finally lost his battle sometime after The Sacrament left our shores for a new home. He loved the painting and its narrative. I was fortunate to hand him a one-off framed print with a personal message written on its lower border.
Many months after his passing I visited his resting place to pay my respects.
My message, in part, had been inscribed on his headstone.
RIP Peter Lesser, a true gentle-man
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