A Few Thoughts, Depictions Of Godliness

“A Jewish visionary will see visions of the seven heavens because his religious imagination is stocked with these particular symbols. Buddhists see various images of Buddha and Bodhisattvas; Christians visualise the Virgin Mary. It is a mistake for the visionary to see these mental apparitions as objective or as anything more than symbols of transcendence.”

Karen Armstrong (p214):

 Right now I am finishing off Prelude to Conception, which has been sitting there for months since it is my 'gateway' painting (like Viva Las Shiva was for Sedition and Judy Garland) . Karen Armstrong has inspired some sketches in questioning/editing the different artistic religious traditions of the world, and their images, or at least the monotheistic ones.

If God is Witness - Is it for the prosecution or defence of our humanity? I'm still figuring that one out so don't wait for it. For now, I don't think it would be either. As I suspect God is both witness and the witnessed. I wouldn't have spent so much time reading up on quantum physics if I didn't question the difference between God as historical artifact and the personal, empowering story that gives people's lives meaning. In my new series of paintings - The Resurrection of the Tin Man - I am mixing traditional religious art history with punk music, quantum physics and narratives of war. It's a heady mix that sent me back to the liturgies and histories of monotheistic religions.

I personally have found Armstrong's A History of God very useful in stretcing out the idea of what a religious painting 'aught' to look like. While I'm currently in awe of artists like early Netherlandish painter Rogier van der Weyden (1399 /1400 – 1464 below), I know my paintings are not looking like his. Well, after a few hundred years can you blame me? 

When I was doing life drawing in my my late teens and 20s I never liked religious paintings, but now I am rather in awe of how subtle, subversive, and inspiring this area of art history can be.  Today, I feel I can learn so much about the current evolution of religion, the rise of fundamentalism in all quarters, and the way in which we struggle to find meaning in daily life. It's humbling to see these paintings in an entirely new light; and to try to reinvent them in the context of what life looks like today.

The above video is Hazel OÇonnor from the  1980 UK film Breaking Glass which is a fantastic scene using religious iconography to protest the dehumanisation of humanity by computers (this was 1980, the lyrics are quite prophetic).   The second video is Resurrection by Fear Factory, one of my favourite bands.  Artwork:  below - from my earlier pastel on paper 7 Rooms (1989) obviously exploring a Christian tradition; below- sketches from my visual diary; and bottom is a painting by Weyden from the 15th century.   More Studio Diaries

7 Rooms 1989 Gopalkrishnan

Carl liturgy of the Tin Man 2011




painting by van der weyden



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