The sculptor Arthur Dooley was born in The Dingle, worked in Cammell Lairds, and travelled the world with the Irish Guards, at one point he was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. A well travelled man he eventually settled back in his native Liverpool. For a period he worked in Dunlops in Speke to earn money while he developed his career.
For Arthur the crucifix was an abstract and formless representation of Christ. For him the essence of Christianity was the resurrection, through all the pain and against all the odds for humanity to achieve victory. Humanity for Arthur was working people, the people he came from and who his work spoke to. My character Vinny had his own view of Arthur’s work.
From my second novel The Morning After
Vinny knew the Black Christ. Most people who travelled to South Liverpool by bus did. As a kid, he passed the statue on the wall of the Methodist church on Princes Avenue often and was drawn to its dark beauty.
The Methodist church, a nondescript modern brick building, was set back slightly from the road. The figure that leaned forward and out toward the roadway was the most notable thing about the building. It was much more active and dynamic than the normal, painfully resting or restricted depiction of Christ. This black metal structure was bursting from its constraints, leaping forward arms outstretched. It was more walking dead than the Lamb of God. It was a portrayal of Christ resurrected, his limbs stretched and taut, muscles and tendons visible in this portrait of pain and suffering brought back to life in shocking realism.
At the end of the chapter Vinny is again under the statue…
Vinny pointed up. “I used to see that statue on the way home from town. It’s weird how something can be both so frightening and beautiful. He’s the Black Christ?”
They shook hands.
“He’s supposed to be the resurrected Christ, but you know the guy who made it?” asked Jaime.
“No, no idea.” said Vinny.
“Arthur Dooley. Whenever I see the statue, I don’t see the resurrection he meant, but death. To me, he looks more like a famine victim from Ireland than a resurrected Christ. ”
“Wow, maybe you’re right.” Vinny looked at the statue, arms outstretched. Black or Irish, who was the figure appealing to? “I’ll see you Tuesday, I guess.”
“Yeah, Sammo’s cremation.”
However you think of it, The Black Christ, or Christ Resurrected, the figure has become central to the identity of Liverpool Eight.
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Arthur Dooley on This is your Life in 1970
A 1972 documentary on Arthurs life and work.