“The resurrection of Christ is the start of a new life for every man and every woman, for true renewal always begins with the heart, from our conscience. Yet Easter is also the beginning of a new world, set free from the slavery of sin and death: the world at last opens itself to the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of love, peace and fraternity. Christ lives and resides within us. Risen, he shows us the light he shines, and he does not abandon all those experiencing hardship, pain and sorrow.” This is the Urbi et Orbi blessing presided by Pope Francis during Easter 2019. It was only a year ago, but it feels like an eternity, a different era, and maybe it really was.
This year, as if to suggest innovation and an openness towards modern times, the Vatican has produced the much-awaited Easter stamp aimed at a younger crowd, a sign of a revolution that is just behind the doors.
Graffiti-style lettering, urban background and a stencil that reminds us of Heinrich Hofmann’s Christ (1824-1911): pure Street Art. A stroke of genius and a sign of sensibility towards our perpetually regenerating world, that is responding to current times with simplicity. A theme dear to our Pope, everybody’s Pope, who several times has highlighted his wish to draw attention to the younger generation, to minorities and to the most vulnerable, because they represent the future of our planet. A dive into the past (through a homage to an artist famous for his Christ renderings) and a vision of the future, in the much sought-after Street Art style, which is now being used everywhere, from luxury brands to bottled water promos.
A strong message, fronted by Mauro Olivieri at the numismatic and philatelic office of the Vatican, who admits during an interview that he “stumbled” across the representation on a wall in Rome, near the busy Vittorio Emanuele road. He knew there and then that the image (by the artist Alessia Babrow) would be on the Vatican’s 2020 Easter stamp. He was expecting some resistance from his colleagues, instead they all agreed unanimously.
Could this be a sign of a change in the Vatican and its artistic direction? We can only wait and see what comes next to understand what happens behind the scenes of one of the most powerful and farsighted institutions, that for millennia has protected, supported and safeguarded art around the world.
A chat with the artist: Alessia Babrow
When did you find out about the Vatican’s intentions, and how did it make you feel?
I found out through Rita Restifo, a famous Street Art photographer. Initially, I did not quite believe it. So I did some research, which confirmed what I had been told. I felt a mix of emotions.
How long have you been making Street Art, and what is the message behind your stencil?
I have been making Street Art since 2013. Generally speaking, my artworks are symbolic and speak of all my studies. Something quite apparent is a reference to the heart’s powerful electromagnetic field, which holds all of Christ’s consciousness (or holistic consciousness for atheists), inherent to every human being.
What are your plans for the future?
I have lots of upcoming projects… Like everyone else, I am just waiting for things to go back to normal.
Do you have any artistic reference points?
To be quite honest, I have never had an artistic reference point. Though I love many artists whose artwork I appreciate. Being a multifaceted artist, I am considered a mix between Marina Abramovic and Banksy. At least this is what some of the critics have written, and whether it is true or not, I am flattered!