The first ‘Shroud’

On Friday, I created a piece of artwork that really challenged me on both a deep spiritual and emotional level. A piece that I have thought about crafting for a while now; a ‘Shroud of Turin’, an accessory to worship, something that I can utilise as a meditation tool for my own understanding of the symbolism of birds, and their ability to transcend to the higher planes, something that we, as humans, cannot. I’ve had my eye on a dead seagull that was a few gardens don from our own, and last Thursday night, I clambered onto he garages behind our house to retrieve it; I was successful, but my leg went through the neighbour’s sheds (luckily, I was not hurt).

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The bird attached to the sheet

At first, I wanted the sheet to be a simple piece of work; the bird would decompose onto the sheet, leaving an ‘imprint’ of the bird’s ‘essence’ (to put it lightly). This delicacy would be an interesting change to my normal work, which is often quite brutal and expressive, and 3-dimensional. However, at first, this did not work. The bird had reached a level of decomposition that didn’t lend itself well to this idea, as even when I poured water on the bird, it did not leak onto the sheet like I initially planned for it too. At this point, I began to work almost instinctively, my concious taking a back seat; I began to nail the bird to the sheet, seemingly crucifying it, and then began to paint onto the bird. A deep red was the colour i chose, due to it’s similarities to blood, and the rather brutal, gory act of the crucifixion. It became ore about the sheet, more about the object, than the bird. As I painted the wings and the back of the wings shoulders and head, It started to bleed into the sheet; this was fascinating to behold, and with more water, I finally managed to achieve the desired effect.

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From the Side

The piece is gruesome, and as soon as I had finished creating it, I took a step back, and stared at the artwork that I had created. I felt sick, I felt insane, I found myself asking myself; ‘Have I actually achieved this, have I actually done this?’ This piece confronted me, it stared right back into my soul, and I was frightened. I could not look at it, and I had to leave and ruminate upon it for a few hours before I could go back to interact with it. I felt afraid for the first time in a long time, and it made me feel awfully human. How potent a piece of artwork this is, to cause the artist to re-evaluate his own life? his own decisions?

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The sheet with the bird removed

In the light, without the bird, the piece isn’t half as intimidating, in fact, it’s almost uplifting. I don’t know why, but it fills me with some sort of hope. It’s strange;  I find that the pieces, influenced by my love for religion and mythology, force me to accept the ideas of death; something that terrifies me far more than anything else in the world. I will endeavour to continue these pieces, they seem to serve a purpose that I do not full understand.

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