I should like to have reported that the recent, slightly ecclesiastical turn in my works was the result of some celestial intervention … a tap on the shoulder by a messenger sent from one of the top-draw deities currently on offer. A gentle nudge from a winged herald, no doubt pointing out the future dangers of my errant ways, and offering a much less rough ride if I simply signed up with their corporation. That may well have seen me ‘straighten up and fly right’ dear reader…
Unfortunately this has not been the case thus far.
No technicolor angelic visitations.. no talking unicorns.. not even the miracle of the ‘face divine’ appearing on the morning toast.
I’m sure this lack of revelation in my case is just an administrative oversight of some sort, possibly just the result of over-zealous data protection policy at HQ, but I’m confident that they will get around to me.
Time is still on my side, and if I don’t get word in the next decade or so I will be visiting one of their rather splendid places of business, and reminding their local representatives of their poor record keeping and asking to be included in the next mail-out.
I digress.. The reason for the recent collages taking this turn has been a little more practical and earthbound.
One of the more intriguing, of the many cultural differences on moving to Ireland from England nearly 30 years ago, was the fact that so many homes here had collections of religious pictures hanging in prominent positions on the walls.
The Holy Mother Mary, of course featured heavily, as did the infant Jesus, The child of Prague, assorted Cherubim and Seraphim and any number of current Popes would be on show.
Joseph, I always felt, did not get the billing he may have deserved. Agreed, he was not one of the main players, but surely just being the head of the house and primary breadwinner he should have appeared more often in the family snaps. Apparently there were some paternity issues, which must have been awkward, and may account for his reticence in being in many family groupings.
At any rate, no home was complete without said collection of religious iconography and that is as it was.
The representations themselves were often of poor quality and execution, but always held a strange fascination for me. Obviously there was a good deal of free license on the part of the artists that created them, most often giving the cast a very ‘Northern European look’ with blue eyes, fair hair, pale skin etc. Understandable for adverting purposes, as a darker, more Middle Eastern look may have proved a harder sell locally.
The corporate franchise is often re-branded for different markets, hence globally there is for example ‘African Jesus’, ‘Asian Jesus’, ‘Mexican Mary’ and even Indian cherubs.
Ours though, had looks most similar to us, and sensible marketing it was too.
With changing times and fashion, and a more secular society gradually taking a foothold within Ireland there is nowadays a glut of fifty year old Catholic memorabilia cheaply available as a result of house clearances and closing rectories.
Like most collage artists I am a gatherer of ephemera that may be used to create works, and this includes old frames. I enjoy scouring junk and charity shops for useful frames, especially old and more characterful ones.
Most often I simply discard whatever tatty old prints that are in these glazed frames, but recently I got a haul of about ten old frames from a second hand shop, most of which contained these religious themed oddities.
I imagine this cargo had arrived either as a result of a closed convent or of a priests house, shutting up shop as a result in the downturn in business.
Alternatively it could be the house-clearing of a particularly devout member of the community, now passed on to meet his maker and reap his reward for being the curator of such a fine collection of ecclesiastical bric-a-brac. I do hope he is not to put out that the Holy family is not quite as white as he may have been lead to believe.
As I began to take apart the frames for cleaning and restoration and setting aside the prints within, it started to dawn on me that in a bizarre way that some of them at least possessed an odd and surreal quality. I simply had to begin experimenting with them and see where it took me.
I’ll confess that taking my scalpel to the infant Jesus, or indeed his virgin mum did give me pause for thought. Momentarily.
I reminded myself though that these are not actual pictures of anyone, indeed not even the photo images of some dear folk, but simply the imaginings of another long-dead hack artist just doing his thing.
I have no wish to upset anyone with my reworking of these old images, especially those that hold a faith and take solace in their beliefs, but my re-imagining’s and utillisation of cardboard and paper in these pieces presents no intended offense, nor actual threat to your chosen gods, believe me.
Alternatively of course it could be just the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to remind head office of their shoddy admin policies. It may be that if the top floor gets to hear about what I’m up to, and decides what they have here is a definitely a case of wanton blasphemy, and calling for immediate intervention, I may yet get my celestial visit, with an offer I can’t refuse….
Either that or a good smiting…. I’d forgotten about the smiting….
‘Selling the New Salvation’
‘Mother Incarnate and Baby Cheesus’
‘St. Perpetua Intoxica’
‘The monkey in our tree’
‘Enjoy your nervous breakdown…’