September 22, 2010

A Celestial Hierarchy

The gallery in Charleston asked if I might like to participate in an art exhibition in October on the theme of Angels. I still had some paintings on this theme from three years ago so of course I said yes. Later, however, I asked if I might deliver the work a little later in the month so that I could add some new paintings. The gallery owner was in a typically Daoist frame of mind, and replied that I should do so only if “it was natural and if the spirit moved me.” Since I hadn’t sold any paintings from my previous exhibition it was only natural that the spirit moved me to paint something new for an opportunity to show it in a more commercially viable venue.

Staring at a blank canvas with the exhortation to paint an angel ringing in my head was not, however, sufficient inspiration. For one thing, although I had a treasure trove of experienced viewing of the angel bedecked icons of Europe at my mind’s recall, there were also images of every Hallmark card there as well. So I set out on a quest towards celestial inspiration of a higher ranking.

To refresh my better memories, I looked back over my travel sketch books in order to mine them for representations of celestial beings and found enough to get some compositions started. The sketches of bas-relief angels from the facades of churches in Italy brought back fond memories of warm sunny days in the hills of Tuscany. The small oil painting above was painted from one of these sketches and named “Seraph Bringing Fire.”

The title of my new painting comes from a description of Seraphim in The Celestial Hierarchy by the early sixth century theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. I have South Carolina State University professor Dr. Grenier to thank for his recommendation that I read this intriguing but perplexing work. Certainly it has enriched my new series of angel paintings, as did listening to the compositions for organ that Dr. Grenier just recently finished writing based as well on the descriptions of angels in The Celestial Hierarchy.

I have made three figurative works on the angel theme and several abstract works on paper - some with discernable figures, others without. Many of these will be on view at Nina Liu and Friends beginning October 1 but I will post them here as well along with explanations.

The decorative cat on the left is number twenty-three in my series “Thirty-three Days of the Puma.” I thought it fitting to paint the big cat in a more celestial bearing to announce the start of the paintings of the angels. The design for this miniature is loosely based upon the illuminated illustration of St. Mark in his lion form from the Book of Kells

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