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He Qi’s ‘Messiah’

Gloriously saturated hues of primary blue, yellow and red contained and controlled by bold black outlines remind me of stained glass.
Christ triumphant dominates the symmetrical composition. His hands, raised in greeting or benediction, are marked with the wounds of his crucifixion. He is lit from above by, one may assume, his heavenly Father, and from below by his infant self in the manger. The two angels, lit up by these same sources, represent the entire heavenly host singing “Glory to God!” The harpist looks up to heaven, the lutist looks down to Earth, while Christ meets directly the gaze of the viewer. Gender and race are insignificant factors in the depiction of all three major figures. But baby Jesus seems charmingly Chinese – a real earthly baby boy in a particular time and place. His basketry cradle evokes Moses’ little boat of rushes.
The infant Christ lights up the night-time street of a city, the light streaming right on up the road. Meanwhile, behind Christ’s right shoulder we see a great door opening into a broad courtyard suggesting the heavenly mansions or the new temple in a new earth. Over his left shoulder, the ancient symbol of the Lamb of God.  
While the graphic style of this piece is freshly contemporary, its imagery is biblical and timeless.


  • Daniel vanHeyst

    Daniel vanHeyst is Professor of Art and Drama at Kings’ University in Edmonton, Alta.

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