Now here's a funny thing I noticed on my recent lovely trip to southern Austria. While there, I made a small personal pilgrimage to the tiny lake peninsula of Maria Woerth, which boasts two medieval churches and a bishop's palace and very little else bar a souvenir kiosk
Both churches have partially preserved romanesque frescoes. With typical medieval disregard for the art taste of previous generations, this painting of Christ in Glory at the altar end has had a large hole punched through it and plastered over to install a small window.
The stained glass is fairly unremarkable, perhaps we would rather have the fresco back. But hang on, look more closely. Whatever is Our Lady standing on? There seems to be half a face peeping out from the semi-circle shape at the bottom. Most disconcerting.
I've rotated the close-up so you don't have to crick your neck. The face etched in grisaille seems to have been salvaged from another (much better) artwork. Or is she standing on the moon, and this is the Man in the Moon peeping out? All very odd.
A few years ago my nose was a bit out of joint when an old acquaintance compared my artistic efforts with those of Cecilia Gimenez, would-be art restorer whom posterity will know as Master of the Monkey Boy of Zaragoza. Pictures of the fresco 'before' and 'after' went viral but she has the last laugh: I have just read a past article in The Independent (for link click here) saying that the subsequent influx of tourists to the church from all over the world has raised thousands in extra revenue. I can think of a few unremarkable sacred artworks in these parts which could benefit from a similar treatment: perhaps we could invite the good lady to visit .....
The unfamiliar translation of the Old Testament lesson today opened my ears to an expanded meaning of Proverbs 8, which prefigures the presence of the Son in the creation of the world. "The Wisdom of God cries aloud:.... I was by his side, a master craftsman, delighting him day after day, ever at play in his presence, at play everywhere in his world, delighting to be with the sons of men." Creative activity is holy, even if it goes unrecognised and unrewarded in a worldly way. If you are feeling guilty about spending time on your artistic endeavours, remember such 'playing' gives us an opportunity to mimic Christ. Less productivity, more play!
Too late to hang on our tree unfortunately, but I have just received this charming Christmas bauble from a church in the USA who asked to use one of my Nativity icons on their annual run of fundraising tree decorations. Very chuffed with how well all the important detail fits the space - it was a circle-in-square design: that's the importance of sacred geometry neatly demonstrated. And what a super idea for a fundraiser!
I guess we all tend to waste a lot of effort on half-resolved ideas and experiments which end up buried in sketchbooks or discarded on the back of scrap envelopes. Some while ago I went to a short workshop on natural geometry, and had a lot of fun with compass and ruler revisiting the only bits of maths O-level that really chimed with me (that and drawing nets). I tucked the notes in the cupboard and forgot all about it, until I broke the tile lid of a wooden box and decided to paint a gesso panel to replace it: an ideal opportunity to revisit the notes and do a little exercise in combining 'fourness' and 'threeness' in the manner of a medieval rose window. Jolly difficult too - not quite up to the standards of the cathedral architects yet, but at least the effort has not entirely gone to waste.
The view from my desk
Current work, places and events, art travel, and interesting snippets about Christian icons, medieval art, manuscript illumination, egg tempera , gilding, technique and materials.