Monday, April 22, 2013

Painting and Music

Black Angels - 2013 - 32"x48" - Mixed media with acrylic and tar on panel.

Dedicated to George Crumb - Part 1 of his quartet for electric string instruments, crystal glasses, and two suspended tam-tam gongs: Dark Angels. 1970.

Imagery also based on the ninth chapter of Revelations: (partly quoted)
 And the fifth angel sounded, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.
 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.
 10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.
 13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,
 14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.
 15 And the four angels were loosed for to slay the third part of men.
 16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand.
 17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
I was introduced to Crumbs music when I bought the Kronos Quartet's CD of the piece. Easily the scariest piece of music I've heard - and fascinating in the fear it instills. In the 1950s and 60s, composers began a new push in experimental music, especially with regard to electronic techniques. George Crumb was commissioned by the Stanley Quartet to create such an experimental piece. Crumb decided to explore the contemporary world's religious strife in his composition. "Black Angels" reflects these haunting and mystical undertones; Crumb meant for the violin to embody the devil's music, and cast the cello as "the voice of God."
Originally I thought the scripture citing the destruction of a third of man-kind was in Isaiah; and therefore had planned on including it in my Isaiah project. Despite the fact that the scripture is in Revelations, I pursued it as a part of the project. 
The painting is a metaphorical abstraction of the writing and as much influenced by the music as the scripture. Although the scripture describes the angels army as horsemen I fell back on the historical vision of winged angels. I admit that this was somewhat inspired by the film "Legion" in which the archangels Michael, and later Gabriel (Michael wouldn't carry out the mission when he realized that man-kind still had hope) were sent to carry out the destruction in our day. 
Yes the angels were painted with roofing tar, darkening the sky and seeking to embody the fearsome nature of the moment. The "locust/scorpions" where constructed in Photoshop to mostly replicate their description in revelation. This was a time consuming project considering that the tar alone required six weeks of out-gassing the solvents (and outside of the studio).

George Crumb: Black Angels

Program:  Subtitle: "Thirteen Images from the Dark Land: a parable on our troubled contemporary world."  Religious connotations: "fallen angel" (falling from grace, spiritual annihilation, redemption); polarity of 7/13 (God/Devil) within three sections (Holy Trinity).  Viet Nam references (departure - absence - return).  Universality: musical allusions to various cultures.  Inscription: "finished on Friday the Thirteenth of March, 1970 (in tempore belli)."

Arsis4 performing part 1 "Departure" of Black Angels by George Crumb

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