Whilst in Rome, I visited the artistic museum within the Vatican; amongst the curiosities and displays of needless wealth, one area had a great, lasting impression on me; the room which held the papal garments. The way that the pieces of clothing were hung, was so interesting; often pinned ever so slightly, with these beautiful brass, detailed hooks holding up certain aspects of the clothing. The way that the hooks seemed to have been slid through the garments, as if they were manifestations of subdued violence; of a puncture, smooth and quite entrancing. I don’t know what it is that draws me to this, possibly the morbid curiosity inherent in all human beings; much like a train wreck, you no longer want to watch, but you cannot help it.
After a few sketches, I came to the conclusion that these hooks were quite possibly the most beautiful part of this exhibition; the detailed design, simple, but elegant, looked absolutely beautiful juxtaposed against the darker backgrounds of the cases, and the pure, rich colours of the holy garments. I find it strange, as Sarah, my othe rhalf exclaimed; ‘these garments are watched so carefully, lookd after so well for the entirety of their lives, only to be hooked as if they were strung up, and then left to collect dust in this glass case.’ Such important garments, such displays of holy power and wealth, left to decay in a box, unworn, failing to act upon it’s intended purpose.
Experiments in nails, nailed into canvas; blood dripping, props, effigies of our own flesh
I then began to think of these garments as flesh, as skin, and the hooks slide through with minimal effort. It’s interesting, morbidly, to perceive such an image from something like this. The juxtaposition of the violence of the hook through the holy garment, of something sharp pushing through something organic, much like those who enjoy pain for it’s seemingly pleasurable qualities. As I have looked at blood before, more specifically, blood dripping down fabric; I thought of a nail puncture through flesh, much like in a crucifixion, which then drips and coagulates on the surface of the punctured object.
Images of the nail ‘paintings’
Through my research, I have come across symbolism commonly associated with nails; the three nails utilised to nail Christ to the cross during Crucifixion, which some Christians wear instead of a crucifix to reminds them of the death; whereas, other state they are symbols for Satan, as they were utilised to kill Jesus and also retain some phallic imagery. However, the most interesting symbolism I have found is of an ancient Deity of the Etruscan, an later Roman, Pantheons; Nurtia, later called Nortia. This deity’s sphere of influence was Time, Fate, Destiny, and Chance, and was symbolised by the Nail. Her attribute was a Nail, that was driven into the wall of her temple at the end of each year, in order to seal and validate the fate of all those who worshipped her. In this vein, I created a series of nail paintings, simple pieces that do not take a lot to craft, but I felt they had some sort of power that I had yet to unlock; some way to push the work further. Whilst we discussed these paintings during my formative assessment yesterday, my tutor described them as nothing more than ‘props’; she questioned why there was a need to utilise art materials. as they were canvas, not skin, and dye, not blood, they did not orchestrate the actual concept of skin and flesh, of blood and of pain, they were merely a ‘prop’. She spoke the truth, they are nothing more than canvas and dye, but I don’t create nail wounds, I create art. Art is something to be considered, and through this act of hammering a nail into a wall, I want to ‘drive a point home’ (excuse the pun), the birds I crafted before are not birds, they are wood tied up with string, only when one believes that they are birds, that these nails are going into flesh, only then do they gain ttraction, movement, legitimacy. If no-one were to believe in them, then it would not be art.