Dark Mountain 12: Sanctum

Back in the summer I made reference to a couple of projects I was working on but of which I could say no more at the time. Thankfully one of those projects is now about to see light of day, as the Dark Mountain project are publishing the 12th volume of their Dark Mountain journal. Entitled ‘Sanctum’, this collection of writings explores ideas of the ‘sacred’ in the dawning of the Anthropocene, (though one contributor – John Michael Greer – offers an alternative term – ‘Cthulhucene’ – that I like) where there’s no shortage of evidence for sacrilege but a marked dearth of it’s opposite. It’s a concept I have approached several times in my art, and consider it one of the common themes running through everything I do, so when I saw the initial call-out for artist contributions I did not hesitate in presenting some prime examples from my back-catalogue  – principally this painting, ‘The Passion’ from 2015:

I was asked to initially produce 3 images each for two pieces of text, but after turning my finished work in so quickly I was invited to work on a third text. Each writer came at the subject of the ‘sacred’ from very different perspectives, but as I read through the texts and made notes, images rose up in my imagination that had echoes across all of them. The art editor for the project, Thomas Keyes, offered an interesting challenge to the contributing artists – to produce their work on pieces of vellum (or parchment), made from prepared animal skins. a practice that goes back centuries but was most notably used in key religious texts and learned texts from the Medieval period. Compounding the challenge was the demand that each image could be no more than 6cm square in size. I’m used to working on canvas panels ten times that size, but I felt my meticulous approach to fine detail would be well-applied to such a relatively small scale. Working on the vellum itself (each piece stapled to a square wooden block) was not easy, as some inks and paints simply refused to adhere to the surface, but having worked over the years on all manner of unusual materials I fell back on experience and managed to achieve the desired effects. Here’s the paintings I did for each of the three texts:

From The Darkness (Sara Jolena Wolcott):

Between Home And Hell (James Nowak):

The God-Shaped Hole (Elizabeth Slade):

This was a really interesting project that I was pleased to be a part of, and it’s good to see your work reproduced to such a high standard in what is a very handsome and thought-provoking volume. The book is hard-cover, slightly smaller than A4 scale, printed on a thick rich-quality stock upon which the printed images (reproduced at actual size) look crisp and strong. Respect is due to those at Bracketpress for doing such an outstanding job on the book’s production. Dark Mountain continues to be one of the most interesting ventures of recent times and their dedication to presenting these ideas and images in such a pristine form is a testament to their collective commitment to a vision that’s worth expressing. They’ve followed the Blakean approach of unapologetically stating: “This is important, because we say it is”. And it is.

Copies of the book can be ordered direct from Dark Mountain here.


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