The Restless Prophet and his Raven

A detail from my painting The Prophet Fed by a Raven is on the cover of the novel Cai by  Eurig Salisbury, awarded the Gold Medal for Prose at last week’s National Eisteddfod. The book is published by Gomer.

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Eurig Salisbury, winner of the the Gold Medal for Prose, National Eisteddfod 2016.

Of all the paintings I’ve made, this one has probably been on the most interesting journey. Since it was shown at MoMA Machynlleth in my Saints and Their Beasts exhibition in 2007 it has lived in the home of its owners in the USA, though thanks to their generosity it returned to Wales for my Retrospective in the Gregynog Gallery of the National Library of Wales in the Summer of 2011.

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In 2010 the painting had a surprising outing onto the cover of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. (This was at the suggestion of a friend who would be embarrassed to be credited for her kindness here, but it must be acknowledged nevertheless, albeit without revealing her identity.) Some time later the painting appeared in a calendar issued by the journal

When in 2013 Oxford University Press published a collection of essays and covers from the EID, The Prophet Fed by a Raven was selected as the cover image.

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Back at home in North Carolina it came out of it’s frame to be photographed –

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– to generate an image large enough for a display in the exhibition of EID journal covers at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum in Association with the Smithsonian Institution. (More thanks here, this time to the owner of the painting who went to untold troubles to get it to the photographer and back.)

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In 2010 it appeared between the covers of a a weighty tome, Biblical Art from Wales, edited by Martin O’Kane and John Morgan-Guy.

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Anita Mills, who wrote so thoughtfully about my drawing practice in Clive Hicks-Jenkins: a Monograph (Lund Humphries 2011) presented a swift, entertaining and insightful deconstruction of the painting that completely took me by surprise. Click on THIS link to read  it.

Marly Youmans wrote a beautiful poem in response to The Prophet Fed by a Raven that can be read HERE.

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I like the idea of a painting of mine travelling and having adventures. I’m gratified that people see it who have no idea who I am. For them there is just the prophet, the flaming raven and the scattering of sheep on the Welsh hillside beyond. I don’t think an artist could ask any more of a painting than to be out there and speaking for itself.

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For Z.B., M.Y. and A.M., my friends across the ocean.

Polyxeni and the Prophet

Maquette of a raven for the painting The Prophet Fed by a Raven

Some years ago I was approached with an enquiry by Polyxeni Potter, Managing Editor of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Poly asked whether I’d be willing to give permission for my painting The Prophet Fed by a Raven to appear on the cover of E.I.D.

I am always pleased when an image of mine finds its way to unexpected places, and the cover of this journal came as both a surprise and a delight. I gave Poly the necessary permission, and the edition duly appeared with Elijah fed by a flame-red raven on its cover. Later that same year an E.I.D. calendar arrived from Poly, and the prophet and his raven appeared in that too. Now, in the year of her retirement from E.I.D., a book of selected essays and the covers they came in has been produced by Oxford University Press, and to my delight and astonishment, Elijah has been chosen as the cover boy.

Over at her blog Zoe in Wonderland, Zoe Blue explains the reasoning behind the editor’s use of art on the covers of a scientific journal:

‘Established in the early 1990s, Emerging Infectious Diseases sought to bring both academic communities and public health communities timely information on emerging health issues. With such a goal, it was (and remains) important to reach as broad an audience as possible; it was intended not as an reference archive, but as a tool for greater communication. The founders and editors of the journal go about this task in a variety of ways, for example with web-publication as well as print, and with the inclusion of a section entitled  Another Dimension, which is a segment devoted to essays, short stories and poems relating to philosophical issues of science and health. Another method is by drawing the reader in with a full-color work of art emblazoned on its cover, which Managing Editor Poly Potter ties to the theme of each month’s journal in an introductory essay. Those covers, along with some of the most popular of the essays, have finally been bound… in the year of her retirement from the journal… into a beautiful book.’

In her introduction to the new book, Poly Potter writes:

‘Art humanizes and enhances science content and educates readers outside their areas of expertise about important unnoticed connections. Art accomplishes this by infusing scientific findings with empathetic understanding–in a literal way, through the faces and places of traditional painting or completely in the abstract through new ways of seeing. Beauty, color, emotion, style, and the eccentricity and vitality associated with the artists’ lives and times, against the formality of technical prose, open up the possibility, indeed the capacity, for alternative interpretation of data, by introducing the metaphor. The metaphor, according to Aristotle, owes its strength to making possible ‘an intuitive perception of the similarity of dissimilars,’ by implying likeness. A bird is not human, but a single element in its appearance can invoke humanity, just as a single element in a plant’s appearance can distinguish its species.’

My thanks to the un-named friend who pointed Poly Potter toward The Prophet Fed by a Raven, and my good wishes to Poly, who at the point in life when many people hang up their work-boots, is just about to embark on an adventure.

You can read Poly’s introductory essay to the edition of the journal that my painting appeared on the cover of,  HERE.