Monday, April 25, 2016

Divine Decay

 “Despite wide recognition that art has an important commercial aspect, art sustains its cultural image as an essentially sanctified domain of higher spiritual values, beyond the realm of material life and praxis”. [01]

-Richard Shusterman

Divine Decay is a series of photographic/mixed media constructions informed and inspired by holy texts, illuminated manuscripts, death memorials, alchemical/occult symbols, sacred geometry, religious icons and Renaissance panel paintings. The work deals with memory, remembrance and decay and tackles issues such as spirituality which is often neglected but also essential for the well-being and inner balance of the individual in our hypertechnological and increasingly materialistic society.

The gritty and damaged appearance of the images alludes to fragility, mortality and the transient nature of earthly existence. Although such subjects are generally perceived as rather morbid and depressing, reflection on their significance could prove to be an illuminating way of reflecting on life. Photography is a medium often associated with death and impermanence: in her influential book On Photography Susan Sontag suggests that “all photographs are memento mori.” “A photograph,” she says, “is  (participation) in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.” [02]

The use of photographic portraiture intends to affect the viewer on a visceral and spiritual level: quite often a face has been described as “the mirror of the soul” and even today some cultures believe that a photograph somehow captures the soul of a person. The combination of portraits with religious iconography, holy texts and various esoteric symbols suggests that death may not be a definite full stop but -perhaps- a gateway to another kind of existence. According to many religions and wisdom traditions life on earth may be perceived as a gift, a learning experience or a kind of journey. The father of analytical psychology C.G. Jung (who combined various fields of research such as religion, mythology and alchemy) believed that the human psyche has a relatively trans-spacial and trans-temporal nature. As he has argued, “we are not completely subjected to the powers of annihilation because our psychic totality reaches beyond the barrier of space and time.” [03]

Life after death as a concept is somewhat incomprehensible, ungraspable and unfathomable. Nevertheless, it is perhaps something we ought to consider and prepare for. The aim of  Divine Decay is to remind us both of our finitude and our potential immortality: via playful combinations relationships are formed which result in a kind of alchemical synthesis of various elements which seek to communicate with the viewer on an aesthetic, esoteric and spiritual level.


[01] Shusterman R. (fall 2008) ‘Art and Religion’. Journal of Aesthetic Education. 42 (3), p.2.
[02] Sontag, S. (1978) On Photography. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
[03] Jung, C.G. (1999) Jung on Death and Immortality. Princeton University Press, p. 132.