Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Tag Archives: Easter

Living paint: Edwin Lucas’s ‘Resurrection’

To mark this best of all possible days, here is a bit of a cracker (click to enlarge) by the always interesting, and sometimes startling, Edwin G Lucas (1911-1990), the subject of an earlier post on this blog. (A biography and whole galleries of his work can be found here.)

The Resurrection, dated to 1940, is lifted from the Art UK site, where it’s credited to NHS Lothian, the owners, perhaps surprisingly, of nearly 500 paintings. So I guess you might stumble unexpectedly across this abstract expressionist parody of the baroque somewhere along the meandering corridors of an Edinburgh hospital, or at least let’s hope so.

I’m left wondering how Lucas achieved the consistently gorgeous, squidgy, almost munchable plasticity of his rapid brush marks. And how did he get those edges and tonalities into each sweep of paint? Presumably he left the bare strokes to dry off a bit before painstakingly tweaking in the details that transform some of them into teeny tiny people with little beards and haircuts, the multitudes of the redeemed. It’s a feat of technical virtuosity, and a witty celebration of the sheer incarnational lushness of paint, the brush marks coming to life – in more senses than one – before our eyes. And at the heart of it all, the luminous, cross-shaped body of Christ pings from the tomb. Alleluia!

As a rule I disapprove of God as a sky-god, but I rather like the big cartoony egghead Father at the top here.

If the 1940 dating is secure on this, it’s hard to think of anything else comparable. It would be more than a decade before Howard Hodgkin (to whom I’ve compared Lucas in a different respect) would start cramming his spaces with plasticky splatches. In fact, it doesn’t even resemble anything else by Lucas that I recall seeing. Maybe it’s a quite wonderful one-off?

Hell is harrowed. Happy Easter!

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He is risen: the angels roar!

Happy Easter! And here’s a woodcut by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff:

 

An imperishable inheritance

in parenthesis

While we are still re-living WW1, something apposite for this Easter Day – David Jones’s 1937 frontispiece to his In Parenthesis.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The gardener’s clothes

David Jones 'The Resurrection', 1924

David Jones ‘The Resurrection’, 1924

“She turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was him. He said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She looked at him and said, ‘Rabbi!’ “

What had Jesus found to wear immediately after his resurrection? Why, the gardener’s clothes, of course.

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Babylon is fallen, to rise no more!

Easter Day! Yay! Wooo! Babylon is fallen, and He is risen!

There has to be a Greater Narrative, and the Christian narrative of Redemption is the greatest. So we construct our own small narratives, and at a certain point they break through, make contact with the reality of the Thing Itself. What starts in a garden ends in a city, and the City of God is Babylon recreated, made new.

In the car I’ve been listening obsessively to Babylon’s Fallen by The Trumpeteers, which turned up on a cheapo golden age gospel compilation in the wreckage of the HMV Blue Cross sale. It’s on YouTube, here. After about 30 seconds it takes over your brain completely.

Seems to me that this is essentially a survival of the chorus of Babylon is Fallen, a Shaker hymn that went into the four-part shape note (Sacred Harp) repertoire, as revived here:

Tune your harps ye heavenly choirs, shout ye followers of the Lamb.
See the city all on fire, clap your hands and swell the flame.
Now’s the day of compensation, hope of mercy now is o’er.
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen.
Babylon is fallen, to rise no more.

Though in a ‘seventies beardy folk version by Swan Arcade, it’s claimed that the song originated with the Parliamentarian armies and passed across the Atlantic. Apparently it used to be sung at Sealed Knot re-enactments. If so, it’s impressive that something first sung by the Levellers eventually found its way into the context of deliverance from slavery. Interesting though that while the white version is triumphant, the black version is simply joyful.

The modern Sacred Harp revivals are wonderful, but somehow don’t quite touch the Alan Lomax archive recordings, like this. (Though the image here is out of period, and not of the singers.)  Listen and tremble!

My Love, the Crucified, hath sprung to life this morrow

William Roberts, 'The Resurrection', 1912