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    Beyond Sight: The Artist and Mystic Intuition

    Conway, Michael A. (2014) Beyond Sight: The Artist and Mystic Intuition. The Furrow, 65. pp. 592-599. ISSN 0016-3120

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    If you visit Tate-Britain and stand in the main foyer and look down the long corridor to your right, you will see in the distance on the farthest wall the extraordinary triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion by Francis Bacon from 1944. Bacon, of Irish Protestant descent, was a non-believer, who had, however, great admiration for the ‘dedication’ of believers despite, what he termed, ‘living by a total falseness’! As you turn left, your vision is, then, rather quickly interrupted by a very powerful and massive sculpture from Jacob Epstein, Jacob and the Angel from 1940/41. The mysterious, haunting, background story from Genesis (32:22-32), paradigmatic, perhaps, for all spiritual struggle with power, tells of Jacob’s confrontation with an unknown stranger, who refuses to reveal his name. He does, however, concede to give a blessing, in response to which Jacob declares: ‘I have seen God face to face; yet, my life has been spared.’ Richard Harries surmises that this sculpture from Epstein ‘clearly reflects something of the struggle of his own life, both artistic and domestic, out of which he was to wrest a blessing.’ Perhaps. Epstein, himself, was of Jewish background, but he regularly depicted, in various media, Christian themes and subjects. But back to the Tate: formally, the space is entirely secular; the supporting language and narratives, however, at least in part, are religious. How is one to read and make sense of such juxtapositions in contemporary culture? What, if anything, has art to do with religion beyond mere mimetic re-presentation, and does religion have something to offer the arts beyond the bare thematic? In his introduction to the Reith Lectures from 1982 Denis Donoghue observes: ‘A work of art is in some sense mysterious; but I see no evidence, in contemporary criticism that the mystery is acknowledged or respected.’ It is through this lens that I wish to explore the arts in this short paper.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Beyond Sight; Artist; Mystic Intuition;
    Academic Unit: St Patrick's College, Maynooth > Faculty of Theology
    Item ID: 7796
    Depositing User: Michael A. Conway
    Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2017 10:40
    Journal or Publication Title: The Furrow
    Publisher: St. Patrick's College, Maynooth
    Refereed: Yes

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