Holy Pictures

As a child our house was full of “holy pictures” (as my mum called them). In fact, aside from my sister’s wedding photographs, and my ABBA posters, the only pieces of art that adorned our walls were pieces of Catholic iconography. “The Crucifixion”, “The Last Supper”, “Mary’s Assumption into Heaven”: that kind of thing.

While some Christians really freak out at this kind of iconography – equating it to idol worship, seeing it as something which gets in the way of a relationship with God – it’s something I’m quite happy with. And it’s soemthing I quite like, Last year, for example, when I was travelling around I spent a fair amount of time in both Catholic and Orthodox Churches marvelling at the works.,

And certainly tonight, attending the “Blake Prize” at the National Art School, there were elements of the iconography which I grew up with. The prize started in 1951 as a religious art prize, though more recently it’s become a prize centred around “spirituality, religion and cultural diversity”. As I’ve attended the prize over the last few years it’s been interesting to watch the evolution of the works involved. Each year, there appears to be fewer and fewer overtly religious works, though the theme remains.

My favourite work, this year, for example was of a life-sized statue of a black woman holding a loaf of bread. As I walked through the crowded exhibition, I thought at first she was someone who was blocking my way. But then when I realised, I too, found myself firm-footed, unable to move, as I took in the work. Beautiful craft, and wonderful conceptually. Another favourite was a piece called “Ladders” (in its broadest sense it could be a ladder to heaven, to spiritual enlightenment etc). For me it was probably the craft more than the idea which appealed.

I would have taken more notes, except the exhibition opening was incredibly crowded with a surprisingly – and encouragingly – large number of young people. I’ll revisit the exhibition over the weekend to take it in with a greater depth.

And besides, I’m feeling a bit tired tonight. This is my third night in a row where I’ve felt tired, actually. And I can’t decide if it’s because I’m coming down with something – I’ve been sneezing a bit too – or if I’m just feeling tired from working too hard.

So, after spending 45 minutes or so wandering around the exhibition, I’ve grabbed a bite to eat, and have come home to relax.

Over the next few days I’ve got a few things planned including (hopefully) lunch with Yvette tomorrow (though she was sick today), seeing a cabaret show tomorrow night, catching up with The Other Andrew for his birthday, and going with Grant to see “Sounds Like Teen Spirit”, a documentary about the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

In the midst of all this, I have Swedish homework to catch up on, and I’m hoping for a few hours of relaxing on the couch doing nothing much at all.

And hopefully getting back to see those “Holy Pictures” in a less crowded environment.

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