Saturday, 21 March 2009

Private Exhibition

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Pictures are occasionally loaned for exhibition purposes, and I do accept commissions when time allows. Oil on canvas portraiture my preference. 

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Friday, 13 March 2009

Development

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Development as 21st century paint greets 19th century photograph.







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Apparition

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The clouded moon's pale yellow light
Is filtered through an approaching mist.
Trees rustle in the evening breeze talk to me
Before you appear, framed in the darkening night;
Wisps of hair dancing like snakes unleashed;
Your curls brightly glowing against the light
Like dying embers of some unearthly fire.
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As you turn to go my mind silently cries:
"Wait. Wait. Let me look upon you ..."
But the words will not form on my lips.
I try to catch the sleeve of your cerement
But it, like the mist itself, defies my grasp.
I am anchored to the ground as you fade.
You are gone as quickly as you appeared.
.Where you were is empty of your apparition,
Yet I feel your presence lingering, lingering ...
Chilling my soul!
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Masquerade

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Come to the ball.

Dance through the hall.

A glorious play for all.

A mask is needed for this play.

Hide thine face, so you can stay.


Love is a dance.

Of exquisite romance.

The truth, or a lie.

Whatever the hopes, the dreams may die.

Perhaps.

Just perhaps, what you ask?

You'll find happiness behind that mask.
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Sleep

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I must pass on down the way, and on alone. Under the grass
You wait; the breeze moves in the trees, and stirs and calls,
And covers you with white petals, with light petals.
There it shall crumble, frail and fair, under the sun,
O little heart, your brittle heart; till day be done,
And the shadows gather, falling light, and, white with dew,
Whipser, and weep; and creep to you. Good sleep to you!
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Encounter

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At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapour, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim ...
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The wanton airs, from the tree-top,

Laughingly through the lattice drop -
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully - so fearfully -
Above the closed and fringéd lid
'Neath which thy slumb'ring soul lies hid,
That, o'er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall! ...
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This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!



Though the experiences of Elizabeth Wojdyla and Barbara Moriarty in early 1967 formed a small part of the inspiration for this cemetery scene, it was by no means the sole contributor. The painting melds numerous experiences that were held in common into a pictorial statement which hopefully captures the eerie mixture of fascination and fear that frequently accompanied supernatural encounters with the undead.

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Grail

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The Holy Grail - The Sacred Cup of the Last Supper.
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These pictures depict the Grail in mystical realisation. The number of true apostles is how many days it took to translate to canvas. The finished work is displayed in its ornate antique silver frame in the large entrance hall to my coastal retreat and greets visitors visually as they step over the portal. This work left me exhausted, but pleased with the result. I was in a transcendental state throughout the process, pouring much energy and love into its conception and creation. An ambitious project by any standard, I am nevertheless most gratified by the response received from those who have seen the painting in person. Like all my works of art, this one in particular needs to be experienced in the flesh. Viewings for acquaintances and aficionados can always be arranged by appointment.
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Portrait with the communion chalice in use at the Holy Grail Retreat.
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This is a more recent depiction of the Grail from a different perspective.
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Luceafăr

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"When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has ceased! How his insolence has ceased! … How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. Those who see you will stare at you, and ponder over you: 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who would not let his prisoners go home?' " (Isaiah 14: 3-4; 14: 12-17)
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Lucifer is not the proper name of the Devil, but denotes only the state from which he has fallen (Petavius, De Angelis, III, iii, 4).
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Michael




St Michael the Archangel is usually depicted with either a sword or a lance, frequently shown impaling the Devil. As the Archangel of battle and defender of Heaven, Michael is the patron of exorcists; indeed, all who struggle against dark and demonic forces. Michael ranks among the seven Archangels and is one of the three Angels mentioned by name in Holy Scripture. He is believed to be the Archangel who told the Virgin Mary of her approaching death. Michaelmas, September 29th, is the feast of St Michael the Archangel (also the Feast of Saints Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael); also known as the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of St Michael and All Angels. The seven Archangels are Michael, Jophiel, Chamuel, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Zadekiel.
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Christian tradition gives to St Michael four offices: (1) To fight against Satan. (2) To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (3) To be the champion of God's people. (4) To call away from earth and bring men's souls to judgement ("signifer S. Michael repraesentet eas in lucam sanctam," Offert. Miss Defunct. "Constituit eum principem super animas suscipiendas," Antiph. off. Cf. "Hermas", Pastor, I, 3, Simil. VIII, 3).

Francis

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St Francis of Assisi is mine and many other people's favourite saint. Francis was born in 1182, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. His early years were frivolous, but an experience of sickness and another of military service were instrumental in leading him to reflect on the purpose of life. One day, in the Church of San Damiano, he heard Christ saying to him: "Francis, repair my falling house." He took the words literally, and sold a bale of silk from his father's warehouse to pay for repairs to the church of San Damiano. His father was outraged, and there was a public confrontation at which his father disinherited and disowned him, and he in turn renounced his father's wealth. One account says that he not only handed his father his purse, but also took off his expensive clothes, laid them at his father's feet, and walked away naked. He declared himself "wedded to Lady Poverty," renounced all material possessions, and devoted himself to serving the poor. Since he could not pay for repairs to the Church of San Damiano, he undertook to repair it by himself. He moved in with the priest, and begged stones lying useless in fields, shaping them for use in repairing the church. He got his meals, not by asking for money so that he might live at the expense of others, but by scrounging crusts and discarded vegetables, and by working as a day labourer, insisting on being paid in bread, milk, eggs, or vegetables rather than in money. Soon a few companions joined him. Dante in his Paradiso has Aquinas say of him:
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"Let me tell you of a youth whose aristocratic father disowned Him because of his love for a beautiful lady. She had been married before, to Christ, and was so faithful a spouse to Him that, while Mary only stood at the foot of the Cross, she leaped up to be with Him on the Cross. These two of whom I speak are Francis and the Lady Poverty. As they walked along together, the sight of their mutual love drew men's hearts after them. Bernard saw them and ran after them, kicking off his shoes to run faster to so great a peace. Giles and Sylvester saw them, kicked off their shoes and ran to join them ..."
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After three years (in 1210) the Pope authorised the forming of the Order of Friars Minor, commonly called the Franciscans.
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Zibby

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Elizabeth was the first wife of Anthony Hill. He worked part-time at my London studio darkroom from 1963 to 1968. She was called "Zibby" by all who knew her. When I came to paint her portrait years later from memory I placed the subject in the Elizabethan era. She was traditionally old-fashioned in outlook and mirrored Elizabethan Englishness despite her mother being Scottish born and bred. Her father was every bit a Londoner. They represented a type of person who will soon no longer exist, which is perhaps another reason I was drawn to placing her in the distant past. Her views today would be regarded as extreme and indubitably politically incorrect. But not so much back then. What I liked about Zibby was her sense of humour, plus the fact that she spoke her mind without fear or favour. She had wit and showed immense generosity to those whom she liked. Her tongue could sometimes be acerbic, as well as soft; yet she was always true to herself and that is at the heart of what really counts. I appreciated her honesty, and continued to know her until her divorce from Anthony at the turn of the 1980s. This was followed by an accidental encounter with her and her daughter, Jacqueline, a few years later along a busy Kentish Town thoroughfare. I never saw this unique lady again after that meeting. Zibby belonged to a breed now virtually extinct.  


Zibby at my portrait studio in the 1960s.


Earlier rendition of the portrait of Zibby (given the name Elizabeth at birth, becoming Elizabeth Hill when she married Anthony Hill in the mid-1960s).
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Pius XII

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With profound and sincere devotion, we humbly request that the cause for the beatification of Pius XII proceed without delay. My portrait of the pontiff wearing his triple tiara, the last to do so, is poignant for anyone who remembers the Old Mass in all its wonder and mystery before Vatican II, begun by his successor, swept aside the signposts of centuries..

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Darkness

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Darkness is not relevant unless light pentrates it and vents illumination of something caught in its beam. Darkness has no substance without light. Whereas the latter will be seen a trillion light years away in the void; shining long after it has expired. We catch a glimpse of darkness only because light shines upon it from some near or distant place and brings illumination to its reflected form. Light extinguishes dark. When dark consumes light we see no more. We drift as though we are undead.
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Passus

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The narratives of the Passion are found in the four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Three of these, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels, give very similar accounts. The Gospel of John includes additional details. According to the Gospel of John, Pilate had Jesus brought out a second time, wearing the purple robe and the crown of thorns, in order to appeal His innocence before the crowd, saying "Ecce homo" ("Here is the man"). The priests urged the crowd to demand Jesus' death. Pilate resigned himself to the decision, washing his hands (according to Matthew) before the people as a sign that Jesus' blood would not be upon him. Mark and Matthew record that Jesus was returned His own clothes, prior to being led out for execution. The Synoptic Gospels state that on arrival at Golgotha, Jesus was offered wine laced with myrrh to lessen the pain, but He refused it. Jesus was then crucified, according to Mark, at the third hour (9.00am) the morning after the Passover meal, but according to John He was handed over to be crucified at the sixth hour (noon) the day before the Passover meal, though this is resolved because the Synoptics use Jewish time, and John uses Roman time. The Gospels state that they divided Jesus' clothes between the soldiers except for one garment for which they cast lots. The Gospel of John states that this fulfills a prophecy from Psalms 22: 18. Some of the crowd who had been following taunted Jesus, saying "He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now!" and suggested that Jesus might perform a miracle to release Himself from the cross. According to the synoptics, the sky became dark at midday and the darkness lasted for three hours, until the ninth hour when Jesus cried out "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" ("My God, why have you forsaken me?") The centurion standing guard, who had seen how Jesus died, declared Jesus innocent (Luke) and Son of God (Matthew, Mark).
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The Man of Sorrows by Pietro Lorenzetti, circa 1330 (Lindenau Museum, Altenburg) was not necessarily the inspiration for this portrait of the Passion, but its juxtaposition across seven centuries is nevertheless apposite and hopefully complimentary.
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Sunday, 15 February 2009

Jesus

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When I was a teenager I presented my mother with a framed picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which I had found at St Joseph's Catholic Church Repository on Highgate Hill, London. She kept it by her bedside for the rest of her days. A photograph of this picture appears immediately below. When my mother died I felt the same attachment for it she had felt. It now hangs on a wall close to my own bed. My portrait in oils of Jesus drew inspiration from the feeling derived from this old Catholic image.





Working on an early version of the portrait in the garden at my retreat.
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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Sarah

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And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!


The oil painting I feel best captures her can be viewed by clicking on any of the above.
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Friday, 13 February 2009

Self-Portrait

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Title: The Artist as a Young Man circa 2013 (second impression).
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Adversary

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You see I am vanity personified.
I'm a finger of the Devil's pride.
I am the Devil tried.
The Devil's Fool you are,
No matter how you shout
Your avowals to start again.
The Devil you acquires
With vain conceits that steadily eat your soul
As worms quilt the body's fodder which is your end.
Unless you realise in heart and mind that as you are
You're the Devil's coal ready to burn to ash ...
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Episcopus

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I drew inspiration for this portrait of a deceased bishop principally from the Capuchins' Catacombs located in Palermo, Italy, where there are thousands of corpses lined on the walls like paintings. The catacombs date back to 1599 when the local priests mummified Br Silvestro from Gubbio. The last religious to be interred was Br Riccardo of Palermo in 1871. Rosalia Lombardo was one of the last lay corpses to be received into the catacombs before the local authorities discontinued the practice. Rosalia died circa 1920 and quickly became known as the "Sleeping Beauty." Her sister and family frequently visited her coffin after her death. Some of the corpses have long ago lost their flesh and are skeletons. Others have flesh, hair and eyes. All are dressed in clothes from the period in which they lived. Several of the corpses appear as if "screaming" from the dead. Some have body parts which have fallen off over the years. The catacombs are divided into men, women, virgins, children, priests, monks and professionals. The professionals' section contains the bodies of professors, doctors, lawyers, painters, officers and soldiers of the Bourbon and Italian army. Among the famous names are those of the painter Velasquez, the sculptors Filippo Pennino and Lorenzo Marabitti and the surgeon Salvatore Manzella. These bodies, some preserved while others are in stages of decomposition, remain with us and on view. Their souls, however, have long since departed to God and to a better world. In this eerie place you can actually sense that.




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Thursday, 12 February 2009

Lilian

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Lilian converted to Catholicism in 1989. She had previously been a nursing-home employee. The Archdiocese of Ottawa, Ontario, where she then lived, established a commission to investigate her claims of stigmatism. The Roman Catholic Church often resists publicity regarding supernatural claims, notes the Reverend Thomas Reese (a Jesuit priest who edits the weekly Catholic magazine America). Lilian first exhibited stigmata during Easter 1992, the year my mother died, having previously received visions of Jesus. According to one of her two booklets, published in 1999, Jesus appears frequently to her, addressing her as "My suffering soul," "My sweet petal," and "My child." When asked about cross-shaped wounds (she has an apparent cruciform scar on her right jaw near the ear), she stated in 2002 that such stigmata were of the Devil, that before her genuine stigmata came she had periods of possession. Her wounds are to the backs of the hands and tops of the feet, in addition to small wounds on the scalp representing a crown of thorns (John 19: 2). When attempting this challenging portrait I also drew inspiration from the German stigmatic Theresa Neumann (1898-1962) who allegedly lived solely on the Holy Eucharist from 1925 and bled from both her eyes and bore a big stain on her right shoulder where the Cross would have been carried by Our Lord. A case for the beatification of Theresa Neumann was introduced on 13 February 2005 by Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Bishop of Regensburg, Germany. Ana Luz Hernández, another inspiration for my canvas, is a stigmatic marked with wounds on the forehead. Reported cases of stigmata take various forms. Many show some or all of the five Holy Wounds that were, according to the Bible, inflicted on Jesus during His crucifixion: wounds in the hands and feet, from nails, and in the side, from a lance. Some stigmatics display wounds to the forehead similar to those caused by the crown of thorns. Other reported forms include tears of blood or sweating blood, wounds to the back as from scourging, or wounds to the shoulder as from bearing the Cross.


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