“I heard a voice speaking to me: ‘The young woman whom you see is Love. She has her tent in eternity… It was love which was the source of this creation in the beginning when God said: ‘Let it be!’ And it was. As though in the blinking of an eye, the whole creation was formed through love. The young woman is radiant in such a clear, lightning-like brilliance of countenance that you can’t fully look at her… She holds the sun and moon in her right hand and embraces them tenderly…
The whole of creation calls this maiden ‘Lady.’ For it was from her that all of creation proceeded, since Love was the first. She made everything… Love was in eternity and brought forth, in the beginning of all holiness, all creatures without any admixture of evil. Adam and Eve as well were produced by love from the pure nature of the Earth.”
(Below is the text I sent out recently to my mailing list, with a special early bird offer for this work.If you’d like to join the mailing list for future offers and general news you can do so at the footer of any page of this website, or just click here.)
This image has been in the works for a long time, though it hasn’t really gone through too many iterations, unlike a lot of the work I make. As always, the picture is made from many elements taken from my collection of Victorian wood and steel engravings, which I layer up and draw into and further develop in Photoshop, before producing them as prints.
Our Lady of the Radiant Darkness started out with the moon and the colour black. An image had arrived in my mind when I was out walking earlier this year, of a figure appearing to emanate from the blackness surrounding the light of a glowing crescent moon. It was quite a sudden appearance of a ready made picture, though that vision has undergone the usual natural changes that pictures tend to go through on their way to becoming the final result.
The earliest iteration of the piece was almost entirely black, as seen below. I really love this, and it was in line with my feeling of wanting to make and see images that were nearly fully black at the time, but in the end as the months have gone on the light won out…
I moved to Dartmoor in early summer last year, and over the time that I’ve been here, despite the many colours in the magnificent natural surroundings, and the vast dramatic skies, the colour that comes to my mind when I think of this place is a deep, living black. I think of the inside of the granite that is the deep bedrock of Dartmoor, and which my house is also built on, and which also makes up a giant encircling feature of my back yard.
Running through all of my work is a hope from my side that the images that I put out might have some kind of talismanic properties for the people who see them and who put them up on their walls, and this one has especially come to represent something along those lines for me, thus partially hence the wordy title.
There's been something in making this picture for me that lends me some peace and stillness when I continue to look at it, and it's taken on something of that role that iconography has of using the human form to represent something that is universal and without form. In this case, at a time when I've been going through some significant health issues that have brought up many thoughts around mortality, for me it's cosmic wonder, trust in the processes of nature, even in what may feel like dark times, and a sense of those words from Hildegard above, which again I think point to the ineffable in a vision of form.
Whilst making this and gazing at it for many hours, I’ve also been minded of the time I spent in Tibet with my dear friend Seth and some other travellers, on a pilgrimage to walk around the holy Mount Kailash. Kailash sits on its own, within a ring of smaller mountains or hills, with a central kora within that, and the outer kora, which I walked, outside of that ring of hills. It was an amazing experience walking round this route, with hundreds of others from all walks of life, mainly Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, and Bonpos, doing the same, many of them fully prostrating themselves the whole way, slowly moving prostration by prostration.
Walking around the kora, with eyes on the enormous black Mount Kailash, with its signature white clouds pouring off its peak, I felt a constant magnetic pull from what in my mind’s eye was a rainbow-tinged deepest black inside the mountain, imagining a golden thread linking me to Kailash, winding me in as I circumambulated it. This feeling has stayed with me strongly.
I was also reading a book by Buddhist Roshi Joan Halifax, called The Fruitful Darkness, while I was travelling, and that title stuck with me, and seems to have found its way towards the title here too.
The desire for blackest blackness is part of what made me decide to make this as a giclee print, rather than a screen print. There’s an incredible black that you can get with giclees that I’ve not seen in other prints, I’m guessing because it’s essentially a kind of powder binding to the paper, therefore absorbing the light. There’s also a huge amount of microscopic detail and nuance in this print, which is hard to get quite so clearly with screen printing.
There’s a lot more I could write about this image, but I’ll have to save that for perhaps another time, when all of us have finally completed all of the things we need to do and we all have infinite leisure time.
In the meantime, here are the details for the two editions that I’m making of this work:
Our Lady of the Radiant Darkness
Releasing on this website 5pm GMT Thursday 12 October
Museum quality archival pigment print on 310gsm Hahnemuhle German Etching paper