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Saint Michael and the Archangels 

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Artist’s Notes 
I lived in London from 1976 through 1980.  While there I saw impressive public sculpture around the city.   Close to the British Museum, in the outdoor court of the British Transport Union, I came upon a powerful sculpture of a woman holding across her lap a dead man. It was an artist’s contemporary interpretation of the image of the Pieta.   . It was made by the sculptor, Sir Jacob Epstein (1880 – 1959) an émigré from Brooklyn, who worked chiefly in England.  He was knighted in 1954 for his strong work.

In 1977 I visited the City of Coventry.  This city had had been rebuilt after having suffered severe aerial bombing during World War II.  Many artists had commissions to work in different sections of the new Cathedral.  Sir Jacob Epstein was commissioned to create a work for the new Cathedral’s outside wall.  I marveled at his grand sculpture of Saint Michael the Archangel battling Satan.  The beauty of this monumental sculpture has stayed with me all these thirty years.

The archetype or symbolism of the Archangel battling demons has a power that goes deep into our psyche.  It helps us see our own efforts to grow as humans in overcoming ignorance, hatred, violence and despair.  We see our struggles of life as universal and transcending the personal to apply to every human who has had to decide, choose, begin again, and find peace.  This internal struggle connects us to our ancient past, to our ancestors, and the Human Family today.  By our own understanding we can grow in compassion and hope; for others and for ourselves.  As a child, knowing about angels gave me a sense of being loved and helped me through difficult times.  I remember the small holy cards with images of angels watching over children.  I would keep one close to my bed.

The demons depicted in “St. Michael” are primeval; a brute force with heavy thick scales covering them. They emerge from the depths of the unknown spaces with destructive force. They are hidden representing that part of nature that remains with us from our deepest and ancient forms of life. The growth and development of the human race has been to struggle to overcome these forces.

St. Michael, the archangel has an ancient name meaning “who is as God”. References to him are in the Book of Daniel, The Qur’an, the Book of Revelation, the Midrash as well as many other ancient religious texts, traditions and legends. There are shrines and special sites around the world dedicated to St. Michael invoking his assistance and protection

In 1976-1980 during my sojourn in England I traveled to the continent visiting cathedrals and museums as I was moved to drawing some of the art work I observed.  I arrived back in Los Angeles in 1980 and began going through some ideas with my drawings, I found a rough sketch of St. Michael, decided to develop it and work it into a painting. The painting was a development of an idea, taking an icon like image and giving it more of my personal techniques. It became more elaborate with detailed drawings on all the figures. I used crayon sgraffito, multi-layered acrylic glazes, gold leaf, spattered paint on the clouds and pointillism techniques.

It was exhibited once at a The Small World Gallery in Venice, California. It was purchased by a family for their father, a Methodist pastor, who was enthused about the painting. I remember the pastor’s comments about the work, “St. Michael’s fighting the demons is an archetype of the conflict within each person and society. The struggle is how we grow as individuals.”

I was happy that this painting was in the home of my friends. It was an important work in my life and became one of my favorites. The time-consuming processes that went into the painting helped me to develop a greater appreciation of icons, oriental miniatures, and the Mexican religious carvings. In 1983 I re-drew one of the panels in the St. Michael painting and created a small three-colored plate etching.

In December of 2005 the master printer Jim Butterfield and I had some discussions about a collaboration to produce the next serigraph edition. My original plan was to retire and not print anymore. But after we spoke about the painting of St. Michael and how it could be the starting point of an elaborate serigraph edition I realized how important the whole process is to me. I still had the outline drawing for the painting. This collaboration was a chance for me to take my original painting of 1980 and develop new color, visual and drawing ideas.

We completed the last printing of color #62 on August 26, 2006. It was an iridescent metallic gold ink.  With so many layers of colors using pointillist and stippling techniques created the effect of a multi-faceted mosaic.                                               

 

 

Image Documentation 

An original, hand-printed serigraph published by the artist with collaboration of

Aurora Serigraphic Studio, Van Nuys, CA.

Edition Size: 250

Completed:August, 31 2006 

Dimensions: Image: 30" x 20 1/8"
                
Paper: 36" x 25"

Paper: 100% cotton rag, acid free

Colors: 62 colors printed


Price:$800   
          


 


Some Reflections


St. Michael is a reflection of the beauty of the Creator and the brilliance of the positive and power of light.  This destroys the demons.

St. Michael is our symbol of peace, divine presence, generosity, harmony among people, justice and compassion.

St. Michael, the archangel, is our help to cast out the demonic forces of greed, resentment, communal hatred, and self-destructive fears. He helps us to cast out the demons of confusion, despair and anxiety; demons of poverty, war, exploitations, plunder, violations and unjust laws.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”
.Edmund Burke
Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 - 1797)

Copyright © 2015 John August Swanson
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