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Pieta

Pieta
Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993)

Drawing

1956

Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, No.11

Commentary by Francis Hoyland

This drawing is as physical as the work of Michael Edmonds is abstract.

The figure is heavy and very masculine. I am fascinated by the drawing round the mouth and chin where the contours have been reiterated at least four times. It looks as though they swung to the left and then back again. I guess that Frink was thinking of the mass of the head as a whole as she made these marks rather than of an elegant silhouette, which is why that part of the jaw feels so massive to us.

The whole image seems to have been felt for in this way, but I sense some connection between the marks on the surface of the paper as well, the shape between the forearm of the near arm, the upper part of the same arm and the further arm-pit seems to have been 'seen' as part of the picture surface as well as form.

The 'nest' of space and shape under the chin seems to work in both ways and the line emerging from it and travelling towards the raised arm connects with the arm below as well as the strong direction under the arm-pit.

We recognise that Frink 'saw' these things because we can see them ourselves. Drawing is always a dialogue between the second and third dimensions. Seeing in this sense does not necessarily mean seeing a model, but rather paying attention to what one is doing while one is doing it.

The design is certainly grand with its great slanting lines, which fill the rectangle and the opposing tilt of the head. It is a stern celebration of the strength rather than the apparent defeat of Christ which would give rise to pity or to a 'Pieta.'

The marks from which the drawing is made go round the forms as we can see in the near forearm and sometimes they appear to bleed.

I am reminded of an early Norse or Irish Christian poem which I once read which portrays Our Lord as a kind of Nordic hero, mounting the Cross as trial of strength - we are far from the serene God-man of St John's Gospel.

 

   
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