The DIVINE COMEDY
The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between c.1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the pre-eminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem's imaginative and allegorical vision of the after life is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century. It helped establish the Tuscan dialect, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language. It is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.
INFERNO (Italian for Hell) is the first part of Dante's epic poem. It is an Allegory telling of the journey of Dante through Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth – Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery.
The poem starts on Maundy Thursday in the year 1300. The narrator, Dante himself, is thirty five years old, and thus "halfway along our life' s path" –half of the biblical life expectancy of seventy. The poet finds himself lost in a dark wood in front of a mountain, assailed by three beasts (a lion, a leopard and a she-wolf) he cannot evade. Unable to find the "straight way" to salvation, he is conscious that he is ruining himself and falling into a "deep place" where the sun is silent.
Dante is at last rescued by the Roman poet Virgil, who claims to have been sent by Beatrice, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld. Each sin's punishment in INFERNO is a contrapasso, a symbolic instance of poetic justice; for example, fortune-tellers have to walk forward with their heads on backward, unable to see what is ahead, because they tried to see the future through forbidden means. Such a contrapasso functions not merely as a form of divine revenge, but rather as the fulfilment of a destiny freely chosen by each soul during his or her life.
Dante passes through the gates of hell, which bears an inscription, the ninth and final line of which is the famous phrase "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is. What the three beasts may represent has been the subject of much controversy over the centuries, but one suggestion is that they represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent and the malicious. These types of sin also provide the three main divisions of Dante's Hell: Upper Hell (the first 5 Circles) for the self-indulgent sins, Circles 6 and 7 for the violent sins, and Circles 8 and 9 for the malicious sins.
Unable to move forward. Unable to move back.
The livinglifeless evolved from the original frame work of a reinterpretation of Dante's inferno. Isolating aspects of particular interest to my practice, I focused upon the notions of limbo and fraud (treachery), and chose to take a lengthy self-examination of my own patterns of behavior. The state of the in between has been a reoccurring motif in my practice and as such the intention was to portray images and forms where the narrative was not explicitly set.
The use of fraud or treachery as referred to in the Eighth circle was imbued in the process of construction, to make a conscious act not to reveal all. By employing a process of layering in both the images and the sculptures, their stories start to shift and change.
As this body of work evolved, drawn forms grew forth from images of taxidermy mounts, lifeless beasts, predators and hybrid bones. Manipulation by my own hand has cloaked the animals in human frailties, offering a familiarity, a sense of pathos to their suspended state.
The resulting series uses an exposed nerve ending, a raw surface where chance and a trapped transition is laid bare.
Seven humble drawn portraits drip with a sensitivity, a barely there existence anchored by the weight carried in eyes.
Three large painted forms float in a space undefined, pretending to be something that they are not, in the hope that they can escape the landscape of their own bodies.
Upon the outer layer with a flesh unlike our own, the two sculpted pairings of a rabbit and a crow occupy a static snap shot of human frailty. Predator or prey, their roles remain intentionally unclear. A relationship is caught within a microcosm of suspended space.
Carolyn V Watson