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2.03 - Deliverance

Deliverance

The images in this section were produced between 2007 and 2008. They consist of paintings in oil and in oil plus woodcut, and a series of editioned coloured woodcuts.

The works involve a specific subject (the raising of revellers at live music events) to explore themes common to other aspects of my work so far. The theme is burning transcendence and the emancipation of the spirit from the body. The works describe the passage of the spirit from an 'earth state' to an atmosphere aloft and the physics of this delivery.
 
The first three paintings displayed here are all very large; they measure 2.5x1.8m. The bodily forms in the first two pictures ('Magicians Roam Free' and 'Uprising') were made with many layers of carbon pigment, oil and woodcut. Much rubbing back through less resistant layers exposed underlying marks to give the figures various degrees of corporeality. It was in this way that I hoped to attain the feeling of the body as a scar, a mere trace of a physical presence

Above the lower crowd is a ceremonial body of mythic beings. These figures are a frieze of effigies and are projected deliberately flat upon the picture-plane. Perhaps they are the higher consciousness of the individuals beneath, a league of magicians operating on a level just beyond physical reach.


It is imagined that these interdimensional beings gather to participate in the ceremonial passage of the aspirant rising soul. They assist in the extraction of desire from bodily mass and release this energy to the night sky. Their interaction and gesture is of incantation. Some are depicted in a kind of holy flame, immersed in the feedback of this transition from earthly state to insubstantiality.

The lower section of the paintings imagines a crowd as if it were a crucible for the energy generated above it. A ground plane created by a sea of heads was a starting point for earlier work such as Hungry Spirits and Husk. In some images the heads are like coals, the upraised hands like flickering flames, upon which the body of the spirit is borne lightly, as if on heat waves.


The top section of the images contains the simple triumph of a disembodied figure, untethered and released. Falling up, its suspension is intended to encapsulate that momentary state of abandonment or joyful helplessness that seems to make our human longing and desires worthwhile. It is a state perhaps only ever attained at the apex of a passing moment between rising and falling. This body is a mirage suspended uncertainly in the atmosphere of its own conjuring.

The third picture displayed here ('Restless Farewell') was made at the same time as 'Uprising' (above), utilising the same subject but treating it in an entirely different manner. This allowed me to describe a realm of the spirit in differing material terms, thus bringing into question what a body is in those incongruous places. The figure at the centre of this gathering is William Blake, simply as he occurred to me at the time of making.

The use of crowd surfing as a model was an attempt to take one isolated movement, then resurrect its roots and dissect its internal function. In this image ('Launch', 2.1x1.2m), it is the 'archaeology' of the spirit's ascension that is being explored. The rising figure is depicted as if it were in cross section on multiple levels—like a textbook diagram of an Egyptian grave site. 

The lower section of the painting incorporates large primal figures printed from wood, as if they were 'mud men' or an integral part of the ground with which they are connected. The raising of the horizontal figure occurs throughout various layers of atmosphere, like the passage of an astronaut into outer space or a shaman into other dimensions. I have tried to express a sense of weightlessness similar to that which I had explored previously through different subjects in works such as Rising Stone.

The construction of images of this nature became relatively complex, involving cut-away sections of woodcuts that coincide with the shifting range of tones across the surface. Some bodily forms that read as a positive presence are actually negative spaces in the many layers. Some parts of the pictures are developed as much through the removal of soluble areas of paint as others are through repeated applications.

The following image,' Let It Loose' (1.8x2.4m), utilised some of the same shapes as the picture above, but they were treated as differently as I could manage. I exaggerated the sense of the untethered burden of the body, as if it were unleashed from earthly connections.

 

The image adjacent is titled 'Apparition over Ash', and it measures approximately 2.2x1.5m.

Throughout the time of making Deliverance, although I referred to the model of crowd surfing, I naturally developed my own mythology to translate the objective source material.

I imagined the silver silhouette of the performer as a floating magician, imprinted upon the dark space above the crowd like a stamp or a sign in the sky.

It is an other-worldly apparition created by the turmoil that occurs upon the material plane.

The lower bodily form that attempts to rise up is like a crucible for the energy it reaches towards.

The silver magician holds the guitar as if it were a staff or wand, illuminated by his own burning presence.

He ignites, the ashen ground plane a base material beneath. 

 

I produced smaller versions of some of this imagery in woodcut editions and paintings.

    

    

The painting below, 'Uproot', is a very large image, measuring 1.8x2.4m. Although this picture was made with a subconscious reference to alchemical engravings of ritual activities, the composition is inspired by an occurrence I had seen at a concert. I then mythologised that event to create a fictional scenario that occurs in the theatre of the mind.

I had witnessed the crouching figures of two event staff lit up on either side of a stage, from which a woman's body was being lifted. In my image, there are two spirit effigy event staff on either side of a levitating witch. The occasion is the unearthing of a ceremonial tusk. The tusk is her hair, which is like a flame. This tusk has a magic function, and its uprooting coincides with the bringing down of dew or perspiration.


I depicted the witch as a detached, surreal form that passes over us like a sylph of the firmament. Looking back on this series, I remember having seen medieval broadsheets depicting celestial phenomena as if they were the solid bodies of mythic beings.

In these works I was focused on the elemental aspects of what I had seen—the perspiring body hanging limp in the air and the radiating forms of those who seemed to support her above the turmoil of the crowd below. The dangling form of the hair dowses the flame and echoes the form of the rising smoke. These images are large multi-coloured woodcuts measuring approximately 1.1x1.3m.

  

The following two paintings (each 1.5x1.2m) continue to incorporate the figures of the crouching security guards, who seem to conjure up the rising bodies from the coals and embers below them. The extraction of spirit from the body through the metaphor of burning was explored in earlier works, including Bodily Forms. This imagery describes an aspect of the spirit that will not burn and relates to Hindu beliefs regarding the element of fire within the body.

  

The paintings below develop the preceding theme, exploring more thoroughly how the transcending spirit is brought up through horizontal layers above our heads. I portrayed this process as if it were carried out by stagehands within a theatre set. The image on the left measures 1.5x1.2m.

This painting (‘Borne Aloft’, 1.5x2m) reduces the figurative form to a body of light, seemingly beyond the grasp of those that have placed it there.

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