Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Now Showing: Clive Hicks-Jenkins and the Miraculous
“The Rapture,” by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
The story of the Archangel Raphael includes many adventures and extends to the sounding of the trumpet at the end of times and the beginnings of the day of Final Judgment. He is the Angel of Healing Waters, blowing along their surface to remove whatever suffering is within them. He is also the companion of Tobias, a young man betrothed to a woman so cursed her seven previous engagements ended in the death of the fiancé on the night of the wedding. He instructs Tobias to catch a fish from those waters over which he holds such sway, and he burns the heart and liver to drive away the demon that defeats her so, then uses the gallbladder to heal his father’s blindness.
This is an angel that sees all; you can see that much from the expression on his face. He sees the beginnings of our world in the chaos of the waters and the ends of them are carried in his breath, part of which is always held in waiting for God’s command to blow the final trumpet. In Clive’s above portrayal of Raphael, you can see the foliage embroidered on his jacket; the wings hold the waters of the earth and the waters of chaos, the feathers of birds, and the constellations of the night sky. He carries the universe and all its stories and maps—imagined, fantasized, and followed--on his back.
And from all that, he can give to us the gift of a second sight of sorts, and here he does. We are presented with a dizzying aerial view, a very full view of the earth. To Tobias, who is turned away from us, he gives some other, secret knowledge not imparted to us. And yet another view is present: the dog’s. Clive’s Jack, carried along in the fray, sees *us*.
The above painting was the result of a collaboration with the poet Damien Walford Davis.
Earlier that day,
sensing something archangelic in the air, they cordoned off .
the cool piazza, locked the domed
basilica, closed the crossing .
to the island charnel house and church.
When the quattrocento stage was set, .
they sent the scapegoat out, the lure –
fishing-rod in hand, patched terrier .
to heel – and drew the blackout curtains
close. When he walked in later, .
brilliant as the fish he held, they gathered
round to touch his suit and sun-bleached .
hair: So did it speak? they asked, afraid;
What colour were its wings? And did it .
burn? No words, he said, or fire;
but from that height I saw beyond .
the valley to an exit road where drones
then jetplanes strafed a speeding column .
black, and men crept into holes, their
pounded flesh the many colours of his wings. .
Damian Walford Davis 2011
“Tobias and the Angel,” by Clive Hicks-Jenkins Clive writes: “The large chiaroscuro study of Tobias and the Angel (the detail above repays clicking on to see a magnified version) is progressing in rather unexpected ways. I’ve been exploring tone and texture to conjure angelic wings and garments that are a step onward from what I’ve attempted in the past. Something happened with the mark-making, transforming what I’d intended to be a tweed-textured jacket into a weave far stranger, almost suggesting a matador’s glittering ‘suit of lights’ oddly combined with the spotted markings of a big cat. This wasn’t at all the direction I’d planned, but now I’m hooked.” These marks then developed further, through a hearty back-and-forth with the readers of his artlog (a lively and energetically collaborative space in itself), to show constellations, smoke, plumage, and water. All this would later have to be translated to the color “version:” “Just the base colours of phthalocyanine blue and cobalt turquoise being worked in at the moment, after which I’ll start laying in the patterning. It’s a long job as the markings suggest turbulent waves, flow patterns, constellations and overlapping pinions, so there’s nothing for it but to keep my concentration fixed and to work work work…” [then] “Back to wings again today, and the task of suggesting colour, iridescence and texture. Water-flow, pinions, ruffles, scales and constellations of stars are a few of the ideas worked into these. Paint has been brushed, smeared, sanded back and scratched through with engraving needles. It’s a slow process but I’m getting there.” Though many of the works for this show are done in black conte over white Arches paper, the acrylic works that he has created show an amazing development of color. A palette already phenomenal—truly, the first thing to draw me into his works in the beginning—has become miraculous. The glowing honey color of Raphael’s jacket, the astonishing shimmer he has created in the wings, and the blues of St. Herve’s face are the openings to a new world in themselves. See the peace in Herve’s face tucked up trustingly against the wild snarl of the wolf. See again, that eye: the central eye of the piece, the wild wolf that sees you watching him, and is not moved.