Luc Freymanc has produced more than 2,000 drawings and paintings in stylistically unique examinations of Jesus and the crucifix, offered to the world through Instagram @jesus.drawings. In a basement studio in a town outside of Philadelphia, this artist virtuoso practices Christian humility.
Instagram and website viewer feedback indicated many of Freymanc’s drawings (some of which are shown on the following spread) were being used for meditative prayer, sometimes even for relief of difficulties and emotional tensions. He decided to do what icon painters have done since early Christian times—to keep himself as persona, removed from any exchange. With true iconographers, it was historically impossible to gain permission to copy or use works. Subsequently convinced that the only true method for letting art speak for itself was to completely remove oneself, Freymanc adopted a pseudonym absent any anxious attitudes about commerce or fame. He explains, “I do not want to know anything about the artist behind a piece of sacred art I use for my personal ‘Visio Divina.’ Staying in the background seems even more important to me here in America where I had to see this surprising, oftentimes massive antipathy among Christian denominations.”
Freymanc is a calculating and enigmatic Christian diplomat with a penetrating intuition in rendering intricate rhythms in figures. These living poems of human spirituality, married with mysterious anonymity and speckled against the backdrop of Gestalt theory, achieve universality. There is a sobriety that gives greater prominence to the force at hand and a maturity in demonstrating extraordinary control. Within episodic and repetitive drawings spells, the artist yields multiple daily works, each rendered in less than 20 seconds.
In 2001, Freymanc began making available royalty-free and alternative-style Christian art for worldwide non-commercial and church use. This work primarily consists of drawings and paintings for individuals, churches, and Christian religious organizations for websites or other media. He also began creating, showing, and selling religious and secular expressionist works under his real name, but gracefully declines to publically reveal that information. In explaining his approach he says, “For me, to be truly relevant, art must either political or sacred. Everything else, as masterful as it may be, is pure decoration.” Freymanc believes that the most prominent type of Christian art in the US is a pleasing yet shallow depiction of the surface of faith. “I think artists should more often convey the suffering of Christ in the love for humanity to remind us that being a Christian is demanding.”
- ‘Jesus’; ink, fountain pen, paper; 5.5 x 4 inches; 2007.
Freymanc’s heraldic disposition, pietistic zeal, and evident knowledge of art are evident in his drawing exercise preparations. Before he works, there is a “cleansing of the mind,” but not what he would characterize as prayerful meditation or direct intention. When he wants to express emotion (man of sorrows, crucifixes), he attempts to bring himself to a mode of strong empathy. He has to feel how Christ might have felt (to the extent this is possible) in order to capture the suffering, pain, or desperation with a just a few pen strokes. To achieve this, Freymanc relies on extensive medical study on the cruelties of scourging and death on a cross. The crucified oscillates between brutal pain in the feet and hands countered with respiratory distress.
Quieted by an instinct for equilibrium, the artist also extensively studied life in that time and location. “I read everything and anything that enabled me to better empathize. This empathy is a bit draining emotionally, which is why I often end drawing sessions with some ‘lighter pictures.’ And I cannot dive into the same empathy every day, which is why I often draw more relaxed scenes or symbolic subjects.”
The artist says his pseudonym also serves as a gateway for him to “become” Luc Freymanc. As he switches off his real-life, conscious brain, he shuts the door to a more rational approach to art. That closing then opens the floodgates to purely inspirational flow. This, he believes, is his God-given talent. The hand executing the work becomes an extension of the greater spirit. Unsurprisingly, he is often so wrapped up in the quality of gestures and cadences of sinuous and tense marks that he is “unaware” of where the drawing is heading to. He cites Gestalt Theory when he describes how he knows when to stop such a quick drawing in time for maintaining the right level of ambiguity.
Last year, Freymanc broke both his arms; they were largely immobilized for months. With the left hand partially paralyzed he found even his right hand less adroit. To regain motor dexterity and fluency, he began drawing again with very small works that required no arm movement and only one hand. This is when he began posting his hundreds of drawings to Instagram, which gave him an easy way to make works available to the public and allowed for the execution of minimally edited and seemingly casual posts.
Freymanc describes his home basement studio as large and crowded, with several workstations. He reserves an average of three days a week solely for art. However, briefly once each evening, he draws and posts online 20 or so images. Some of them are like monoprints—wet drawings rubbed over to a second sheet and then refined by adding some ink or pencil marks. He likes to listen to Al Kresta talk radio because it helps distract his conscious mind from drawing. Sometimes he uses oriental papers but he doesn’t like to handle unwieldy individual sheets. Freymanc prefers to use rolls mounted on desks so he can work continuously. He likes challenging papers, those that “talk back.” He is always using several notebooks, pads, and rolls with different paper and rarely works in color.
Freymanc calls himself an illustration artist, but only out of protest. His thematic development is a calling, but to him “ministry” is too weighty a word. There exists a mission to show people that Christian art can be non-conventional. It can be exciting, fresh, raw, and expressive. That is no easy task, and he is constantly balancing how to be loose and provocative without being blasphemous. He purposefully seeks the fleeting and the volatile. After all, this is the sign of our times. Yet, the medium and the becoming of Luc Freymanc have their constraints in serving purpose. They often only allow for the spark of the sacred at a moment in time. This artist channels that ineffable sacrality with originality, an admirable coherency, and without ever reaching a feeling of satiety.
This article by Shauna Lee Lange originally appeared in Faith & Form Number 2/2017.