Medieval European attitudes towards authorship and individual intellectual property were very different from those prevailing today. Artists, poets, scribes, and musicians often thought of themselves as the curators of inspiration rather than the authors. 12th-century poet Marie de France prefaced almost all of her own writing by calling herself merely the translator or the transcriber of narratives, stopping short of naming herself as author or creator.
It is in this spirit of curation that I present these reproductions of medieval manuscript content. I cannot claim to be the author or creator of these images, these fanciful figures and curious beasts. They came from the vivid imaginations of medieval people, they decorated the margins and chapter headings of the Four Gospels of the New Testament in the famous abbey of Iona (now part of Scotland) and survived the centuries covered in the peat of an Irish bog. I have copied here the artwork of 9th-century monks, merely zooming in on their intricate handiwork and saturating their designs with acrylic pigments. I've essentially lit them under the microscope for the viewer to see just how masterful these medieval artists were at polished intricate detail, true architects of microcosmic scope. So, these are not my own creations, but an observer's and admirer's studies of specific medieval art masterpieces that deserve the closest of looks.
On Saturday, January 14th, I opened an exhibit of my illuminated manuscript reproductions at the Metropolis Coffeehouse in Denver's South Broadway Shopping District, at Ellsworth Street and Broadway. The exhibit features some of my favorite details from the Book of Kells, a richly ornamented illuminated medieval manuscript of the Four Gospels of the New Testament. To create artwork from these designs, I draw them freehand on primed black canvases, then fill them in with the details and designs from the source manuscript, adding my own embellishments here and there. Below are three images showing the process, from a snapshot of the medieval (ca. 800 C.E.) manuscript, to the "rough draft", and finally, the finished product:
From my artist's statement, posted at the exhibit:
The exhibit will be on display until February 10th, and many items are still for sale. I've enjoyed preparing this exhibit so much that I'm considering expanding it to other local shops and galleries!
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