for this painting is below the images.
SAME PIECE - SHIMMER VIEW
with my Eyes, Ranna®,
mixed media on canvas, 152cm x 122cm/ 60" x 48". ©
one of my favourite Renaissance paintings, there is an image
of a woman holding her eyes on a stem between her fingers,
so that at first they appear to be some sort of flower. This
really impressed me. It dovetailed perfectly with my comment
to a friend after my first visit to Italy in that being there
was "like breathing for the first time, breathing with
is as though I carry my eyes about on a wand, taking them
for a lifelong tour of human existence, while I dream on,
painting, by Franceso Del Cossa is in the National Gallery
of Art in Washington D.C., titled St Lucy (c. 1470)*.
It illustrates the Christian legend (c. C3rd AD) of Lucy who,
among other things, was condemned to burn at the stake but
the flames did not touch her. The reference to her eyes is
that a would-be suitor was so smitten with her eyes that she
feared that this would do him real harm so she tore her eyes
out and sent them to him on a platter. There is a similar
oriental mystic legend in India, but there the protagonist
is a man who tears his eyes out and sends them to the lady
smitten by them. Lucy is at times also illustrated with a
lamp to signify illumination and a poniard (when the flames
did not touch her, the authorities stabbed her in the neck
with a poniard instead, successfully killing her). Now, I
ain't no saint(!), but coming from such a long period of involvement
in Asian concepts I was particularly taken with the cross-reference
between East and West in the myth about the eyes.
before this, I had been reading Dante (Inferno and Paradisio),
and then the whole thing about fire and flames has been swirling
around since I finished the gold Veil
(II). About the Veil pieces I wrote in my diary
at the time that "I wanted to climb out of my skin" and in
the same period, I wrote in my diary when working on Dance
that "The wrestling match leaves me with ripples of fire flashing
to and fro under my skin". A few months after I finished those
pieces, I saw the movie Stigmata which, although lapsing
into some silly Hollywoodisms, gives an unadulterated portrayal
of the brutally searing nature of spirit experience (no New
Age tryst with the Divine in some soppy glade, you know!),
replete with fire and flames.
fire does not have to burn; it can illuminate... so now we
are back full circle to Lucy and Italy.
seared into my mind's eyes (out there on their stem!) while
in Florence was the astonishing reaction I had to all the
Medieval/ Gothic work. I remember turning and momentarily
glancing back at some of these as I exited one of the galleries
in the Acedemia Gallery where Michelangelo's David is housed,
and will never forget what I saw: although Andrea del Sarto,
born about a decade after del Cossa's death, is my all time
favourite high Renaissance artist, it was the medieval paintings
that came home with me, and the extraordinary way in which
the blues of the Madonna's robes float away from their gilded
background as unfettered ethereal entities.
in the States, I began prowling the National Gallery of Art
in D.C. - they have a magnificent collection of Medieval (and
Renaissance) art, probably the best outside the Cloisters
and the Met. I shot rolls and rolls of film of this part of
their collection. I bought a number of reproductions which
are taped to the wall of my studio. In a radical move for
someone so fixated on Asia and Asian philosophy for so long,
I bought "Signs and Symbols in Christian Art", Ferguson, G.,
1954 (paperback 1961), Oxford University Press, NY.
some time later I was visiting home, driving through bush
fires along the coast, and seeing and being in our Australian
I had begun creeping up on the Italy/ NGA experience but had
to get free of the organza pieces and Asian references. When
sea creatures/references began appearing in the Rip series,
I was ready for the blue and could finally catch up with what
as sown in Florence...
Breathing With My Eyes is here, a shimmer treated image
to push the floating blue and illuminating flame, simultaneously
folding time back past Del Cossa's Renaisance to Medieval
times and forward to now, radicalizing the visual quotation
of Del Cossa's purely Renaissance version of Lucy. Breathing
With My Eyes is peopled by anything but a saint but instead
with someone with dark eyeliner and lipstick, the softening
features of middle age held at an introspective but much less
humble angle than Del Cossa's Lucy, holding a brush not a
poniard, her eyes out on a sortie by themselves informing
the dreaming brush, her hands more vigorous than Lucy's. Yet
this a-temporal subject is sitting pensively still with her
legs crossed, within the veil of embodied experience [white,
gold, copper, & black backdrop to the figure - the colours
but her left toe broaches the flame.
its creation I suspended all social interaction, barely spoke
with anyone - even my poor husband - and did only the absolute
minimum of written communication. I listened to nothing but
a CD of Gregorian Chant, imbuing the piece with this measured
peaceful expression in voice, just "audible" I hope to the
quiet and still viewer. It is speculated, by the way, that
the Gregorian hand - the medieval method of notating modal
vocal music - is derived directly from Indian modal chanting
notation methods, and there are specific correlations between
Indian, Greek, and Ecclesiastical musical modes.)
Ranna®. All rights reserved.
If you go to the gallery's web site, www.nga.gov, and search
the collection, you can see a color image of del Cossa's St
Lucy. Search by accession number, 1939.1.228
Ranna's art "...explores the profound while
serving as a portal to beauty."
(Kennelly, E., re Island, Continent exhibition
by Ranna®, Washington DC.
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