September 24, 2010

Angel Number Three

The oil painting above, “Angel Passing the Light of Wisdom,” is the third of my figurative angel paintings for the exhibition at Nina Liu and Friends opening a week from today. The painting is based upon my readings of the descriptions of angels in the classic work, The Celestial Hierarchy by the fifth century theologian Pseudo Dionysius. Pseudo Dionysius himself would probably not approve of this endeavor for on the subject of angels he wrote:

“The word of God makes use of poetic imagery when discussing these formless intelligences but, as I have alaready said, it does so not for the sake of art, but as a concession to the nature of our own mind.”

Nevertheless, the poetic descriptions of the various ranks of angels and their services to mankind have been helpful to me in rendering these images because they hold certain visionary qualities that lend themselves to a visual narrative - both for the figurative as well as the abstract works. The hierarchy of angels as described by Pseudo-Dionysius falls into three categories of ranking in accordance with proximity to God. The first domain, which the theologian describes almost humorously as being in the “anteroom of divinity” consist of the seraphim, the cherubim and the thrones. The second tier of angels are the dominions, the powers and the authorities. At the highest level are the principalities, the archangels and the angels.

As one who was raised in the egalitarian but bland atmosphere of Protestantism, the notion of an elaborate system of intermediaries between mortals and their God is foreign to say the least. It does bring to mind the pantheon of ancient eastern religions. The forward comments in the translation of Pseudo-Dionysius that I have borrowed for this project in fact notes a kinship with the writings of the early Christian church and Hinduism. There is a certain sense of enchantment emanating from these pages. Despite the complexity of the language and descriptions, there is an almost refreshing humility in the concept of mortal eyes and minds not having the moral and intellectual merit to gaze directly upon the almighty and yet the celestial intelligences can be relied upon to interpret divine messages and disseminate ethereal grace. And they do so with such color and personality!

The painting of the large cat about to take a leap is number twenty-five in my “Thirty-three Days of the Puma” series.

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