The Pictorial Bible I: Settings of the Psalms


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Word and image have a profound and intimate relationship in the Bible, rooted in the theology of the Creation and the Incarnation. At the beginning of Genesis and John’s Gospel are parallel disclosures of the First Cause: ‘In the beginning God’; ‘In the beginning … the Word, and the Word was … God’ (Gen. 1.1; Jn 1.1). Moses introduces God as the spoken Word, a voice (the fiat of divine creativity) calling forth in the darkness: ‘let there be’. God summons, first, light to make the world visible (Gen. 1.3–5). Spiritually speaking, John writes, God illumined the world again when the Word became flesh. Christ, the incarnate Word, who as and with God created all things from the beginning, became the light of the world, and made God visible; became, the Scripture proclaims, ‘the brightness of [God’s] glory, and the express image of his person’ (Jn 1.4–10; Heb. 1.3). (‘Image’ here renders the Greek word eikon, the term used to describe a likeness or representation of an eminent person in sculpture and painting.) Thus, the Word of God became the light of God, became the image of God. The Word ‘became’: not by throwing off what he was before, but by taking on the nature of an image also. Word and image, divinity and humanity, concur mysteriously in one person. These principles underlie the conceptualisation of the artworks in The Pictorial Bible series.

The first project in the series takes the form of an exhibition comprising visual translations of the Psalms. The decision to begin research on text-based images with the Psalms came quite literally as a bolt from the blue – with the appearance of Hale-Bop in 1997. My objective was to compose a ‘spacescape’ based on this Psalm as a celebration of Hale-Bop, but without illustrating the text directly. The other works in this project followed in the same vein.

The Psalms are self-contained units of poetic writing. As such, they, more than any other section of the Bible, suggest a capacity to be adapted to discrete and integral pictorial compositions. Composition takes place within the framework of a grid. In my text-based images the grid represents a simple, orthogonal, non-hierarchical, and recognisable pictorial integrity. It also serves as a shape or container in which to insert the letters that make up the Psalm. The system for translating the passages into images involves eliminating all the punctuation and spaces between the words to create a continuous letter strand. The Psalm texts derive, for the most part, from the Authorised Version of the Bible (1611) – the source most familiar to a Protestant English-speaking audience.

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Exhibition installation, Y Tabernacle, MOMA Wales, Machynthlleth, Dec. 4, 2000 – Jan. 6, 2001

Works

Click on the coloured numerals to open captioned pdf versions of the artworks, and upon the thumbnails to open enlargements of the same:

99/1 ‘Sanctuary’ I (1999)
99/2 ‘Sanctuary’ II (1999)
99/3 ‘Sanctuary’ III (1999)
00/1 My God, It’s Full of Stars!’ (2000)
00/2 5000 Series: Matthew (2000)
00/3 5000 Series: Mark (2000)
00/4 5000 Series: Luke (2000)
00/5 5000 Series: John (2000)
00/6  ‘The Work of … Fingers’ (2000)
00/7  ‘Stars of Light’ (2000)
00/8The Lines Have Fallen unto Me in Pleasant Places’ I (2000)
00/9 ‘The Lines Have Fallen unto Me in Pleasant Places’ II (2000)
00/10 Cover (2000)
00/11 Fountain (2000)
00/12 ‘Hide Thy Face’ (Marigold) (2000)
00/13Hide Thy Face’ (Vivaldi) (2000)
00/14 ‘Hidest thou Thy Face’ (Coronet) (2000)
00/15 ‘Hidest thou Thy Face’ (Eras Light) (2000)
00/16 ‘Hidest thou Thy Face’ (French Script MT) (2000)
00/17 ‘Hidest thou Thy face’ (Rag Italic) (2000)
00/18 ‘Hidest thou Thy face’ (Lucida Calligraphy) (2000)
00/19 ‘Hidest thou Thy face’ (Apple Chancery)
00/20 ‘Stars … Snow … Hoarfrost … Morsels’ … (Manna) (2000)
00/21Builded as a City that is Compact Together’ I (2000)
00/22 ‘Builded as a City that is Compact Together’ II (2000)
00/23 ‘Builded as a City that is Compact Together’ III (2000)
00/24 ‘Build the House’ (2000)
00/25 Deep Pit (2000)