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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Questions on Self-Crucifixion

How did he manage it,
Graham Sutherland,
his crucifixion?

Imagine it:
a landscape artist, simply that,
resolved to paint a crucifixion -
and not just a, the most impressive,
most authentic yet.

He had a wooden cross made -
made to measure, so to speak -
and placed himself, roped, hanging there.

And thus completely incommoded,
drew himself seen in a mirror.
And there's the bit I fail to understand.
How did he manage that?

Had I been Sutherland
I think I would have had no mirror,
but with the brush held in my teeth
and wearing an effective blindfold
would have set out to mark on canvas

areas of pain.

I'll not pretend it would have looked like crucifixion:
it might have, but I doubt it. Any way,
what visual art portrays
need not be visual.
I think it would have worked for me,
but would it have been art?
Ah, there's the rub,
for that's the thing about a claim to making art...
it must communicate outside oneself.

The hope that Sutherland held dear
was perfect truth, history's
most pure and its most unadorned
view of its most significant event.

For perfect truth the self will always need
a crucifixion. Did you know
you can down-load self crucifixion ring tones
from the Internet? *



* by Virgin Steele

11 comments:

Jinksy said...

what visual art portrays
need not be visual.

There speaks an artist...

anthonynorth said...

Some interesting statements in this. To me, art is difficult to define. Basically, we know art that successfully communicates, true. But does that tell us more about the artist, or the public/media who make it popular?

Jim Murdoch said...

So you saw the documentary too? Yes, I thought that was a wee bit odd, actually strapping himself to a cross. I mention Sutherland in my latest blog too, a two-parter on the nature of poetic beauty. I was very much taken by the way his art changed after the war and, of course, he wasn’t the only one but as I was in the middle of the article at the time it was just too easy to slip him in.

kaykuala said...

It's amazing just what art brings to the forefront. Strapping oneself and handling a brush? I would have loved to see the documentary but did't.

Dave King said...

anthonynorth
Just off the top of my head (and it's a deep and fascinating question, so I may have to come back to it) I would say, both. I would argue that, whilst we may have to rease the two strands apart, they are both in there somewhere. Your middle sentence intrigues me: that we know art that successfully communicates, implying that we do not know art which fails to do so. But going back to the question you pose, the other side of the coin, surely, is what of the art that does not communicate, either because it faile in that or because it was intended from the first to be a private thing? Is it still art? Or is communication a prerequisite?

Jim
I did see the documentary, yes, but I did already know of the extraordinary lengths to which Sutherland went for that painting. I can only half see why he supposed that would make his painting more "truthful". I have been from my teens a great fan of Sutherland and went any and everywhere I could to see his works or learn more about him. He was - and is - to me the landscape artist par excellence. I agree that the way in which his art changed/changed him as a result of the war is perhaps the most fascinating part of his story - and an aspect not always brought out as clearly as it was in the documentary. He is the artist I would have chosen to be had the Fates shown me way back before I was born all that would be on offer and asked "which will you be?"

kaykuala
It was an amazing thing to do. Quite incredible. Thanks for your reply.

Dave King said...

Jinsky
Apologies. For some reason your reponse did not sail into the frame! Maybe you should have said a wannabe artist! Thanks though.

Windsmoke. said...

I imagine it would be most diffcult indeed :-).

Amy said...

What an incredible thought, that undertaking of painting a self-portrait of the crucified artist. (Not that the Times or any other major paper can't do it to him with their reviews!)

There are all sorts of ways to crucify oneself, and art does require it at times. But do we always share those moments? I do, all the time, but there is a public aspect of that revelation, and sometimes hell to pay from family and friends...

Finally, I have to say it: Your random thought at the end of the poem was so strange!

Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/normal-is/

Dave King said...

Windsmoke
Yes, presumably he would be hanging by both hands. I don't see him hanging just from one. So how did he wield the brush?

Amy
Really good to have your views. Thank you for sharing them. I agree with your comments. The random views I take you to mean the ring tones downloads? I agree. Upon reflection, it IS strange.

sharplittlepencil said...

Oh, I have it. He hung by one hand, did most of it, then used his less dextrous hand to finish. Or else he did most with one hand and imagined the rest...! This is sort of macabre, no? Talk about sacrificing for art... at least he didn't paint himself as van Gogh, right?!

Dave King said...

sharplittlepencil
Sort of pick and mix? Ingenious!