Re-constructing historical methods and styles of painting on wooden panels, over a period of years, and adapting these processes to my own contemporary uses has often challenged my understanding and assumptions about the meaning and purpose of art in both old and new contexts.
'Painting In-congruities', oil on panel after Albrecht Bouts
My first experiment explored a ‘Surrealist’ juxtaposition of tromp l’oeil collage elements alluding to the Belgian colonial past in the Congo. These were painted onto a re-constructed early Flemish panel painting by Albrecht Bouts. Totemic male and female ancestors, fetish figures, deities or architypes were provocatively jumbled together in unfamiliar ways.
In the ongoing reconstruction of a 14th century panel painting above I worked with water gilding and historical pigments from Kramer, like cinnabar, malachite and ultramarine (ground from lapis lazuli) to make my own egg tempera (Click the link for an explanation of the start of this project) Panel Painting Part 1
Freely adapting these materials and ideas I have nearly finished this tromp l’oeil in oil on oak panel above that deliberately alludes through the materials and prcesses used to icons or religious panel painting of the 14th century or earlier. In ‘Fallen Idol’ homage to C. P Cavafy, painted fragments of torn paper from an art history books, representing the broken marble statue of Hermes and the infant Dionysius by Praxiteles, 19th century sepia photographs of academic life models, and a detail from Bronzino’s 'Portrait of a Young Man', share the framed space with a yellow butterfly. The visual and material contrasts between gold and gesso suggest a series of dualities; heaven and earth, human, divine, sacred and profane, mortal, immortal, real and illusory, past and present, living and dead………..
Most recently I have been working on a re-construction of a triptych of the Virgin and Child with two side-panels of the Annunciation painted 'en grisaille'. It is re-imagined from various different works by the Master of the Saint Ursula legend, a painter who worked in Bruges in the 15th century. The opening and closing side panels operate like windows and doors into a parallel universe and set up relationships between narrative and icon, text and image, inside and outside, time and space, that resonate in both historical and contemporary contexts.
Playing with variations on the theme of the re-imagined historic ‘reconstruction’ there is both correlation and continuity as well as conflict and dissonance in both the context and meaning of the works and their significance and interpretation. Reproduction, restoration and even faking are fascinating processes that can throw a raking light over perceptions of art, reality and appearance and our relationship with history, memory, imagination and creativity.
Similar ideas are the focus of the contemporary works brought together for the exhibition, 'Memling Now' at Sint Jan's Hospital in Bruges. Click the link below to find out more:
'Memling Now': Sint Jan's Hospital