Culture Shot in the Atrium:
God's Wrath by Angus Pryor

17 January - 3 May 2015

God's Wrath, Angus Pryor, 2014

Space hopper installation, Angus Pryor  Birds, part of God's Wrath, Angus Pryor

God's Wrath, painting and installation by Angus Pryor, 2014

Pryor's interest in this painting and indeed in the entire show, still small voice: British biblical art in a secular age (1850 - 2014), began with the Stanley Spencer painting, Angels of the Apocalypse (1949). 

All works in this exhibition are transcriptions from biblical texts. Angels of the Apocalypse is derived from the Book of Revelations. Spencer takes the theme as part of a larger picture – literally; this was part of a polyptych. Pryor wanted to explore the idea of this “taken text” in a manner that was more secular in its intention and therefore looked closely at and researched Spencer’s work to see how a parody of this painting could be made, bearing in mind the original words within the text and how Spencer had transcribed them.

God’s Wrath is therefore a play on Spencer’s original painting in which the angels are represented by homely Cookham housewives adorned with swans’ wings, and God’s wrath is substituted by winged seeds which aid the process of regeneration in an already fertile, pastoral setting. In the painting, a symbol of playfulness is substituted for the Angels, using toys (Space Hoppers) to represent the main figures. These too are winged, each having a different Cookham-type hairstyle to signify that they are individuals carrying out a task.  Instead of the cornucopia of fertility provided by Spencer’s Angels, these angels are spreading plagues as they did in the original text, and in this case work the plagues are spiders and flies sprayed from a gardening-vessel.  The insects are being spread on a pastoral landscape printed with real objects (fruit and vegetables).  However, a pale, insipid vegetable base indicates that all is not well within the natural landscape.

The samples of text used within the painting are significant in two ways: firstly they are used as an image or mark, and secondly they are used to convey the narrative of the painting, much in the same way as religious manuscripts tell their story. The surface of the painting is broken up by a series of fragmented dots which, as well as unifying it, give it a pictorial presence that signifies the act of painting itself rather than the creation of an illustrated scene.  These dots are representative both of inclement weather and of renewal and regrowth.

Finally, there is a series of blackbirds and crows acting both as bastions of their own environment and as witnesses to the momentous events. They are voyeurs of the apocalypse.

The painting is situated within an installation, with the birds and Space Hoppers acting as the audience for the painting.  In this way, the objects in the surface of the painting directly relate to the objects in the installation.  The intention is to indicate that the children’s toys are inert but ready to be used. The potential of children playing in front of the painting represents the final act of regeneration.

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Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum
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