Paradiso exhibition catalogue 1993

Click here to view the works from the Paradiso exhibition

Pamela Hardesty:

Dante’s Paradiso, completed in 1321, is the third and final part of The Divine Comedy. The poem is a description of his journey through the many spheres of heaven towards the abode of God, and this journey serves as a long progress toward spiritual understanding.

My previous work in paper dealt with texture and landscape, and metaphor of a spiritual intent. In The Paradiso I found a challenging and masterful metaphor for spiritual realisation. I was attracted by the magnificent geometric structure which gave clarity to its beautiful imagery of affirmation and joy. I set about trying to give form to this imagery, hoping that the power of Dante’s vision would thereby reveal itself.

The all-pervading image of Dante’s journey through heaven is light in many forms, culminating in the source of pure light or truth, which is Dante’s vision of God. I found the main challenge of my work was to somehow convey these stages, degrees, of light. I began to explore means of creating actual reflective surfaces, using glass, especially, as well as creating illusions of light in layers of paint. I looked to medieval solutions for the depiction of light, particularly in the paintings and mosaics of Dante’s period. My study of the mosaics of Ravenna, where The Paradiso was written, was an important influence.

The works in this exhibition represent, firstly, portraits of specific heavens, such as the group of seven planetary heavens, which are highly structured and complex, illustrating the various spiritual lessons presented to Dante in each heaven according to its theme. The rest of the works represent specific visions from the higher levels, where his sight has achieved a more mystical ability.

The Paradiso has pushed me toward new materials and a broader landscape. I remain in awe of Dante’s achievement, its vitality across nearly seven centuries, and its potential to take me further.

Seamus Heaney:

The greatness of The Divine Comedy has to do with an overall sense of the artist having ‘come through’. Allegorical, theological, political, personal, encyclopaedic, all these it is, but its big shape is the archetypal one – of faring forth, going to a nadir, and returning to a world that is renewed by the boon won in that other place. To read it is to go through a refining element, to be steadied and reminded of the possible dimensions of our life. Obviously, Pamela Hardesty has felt its huge inspirational force, and been taught by the visionary excitement of it all.

Her installation is both a revelation of its own means and ends, and a reminder of the immense potential and staying power of Dante’s art.

Seamus Heaney,
January 1993
The Paradiso, Canto XXIX verses 136-145

“The primal light the whole irradiates,
and is received therein as many ways
as there are splendours wherewithal it mates.

Since then, affection waits upon the gaze
and its intensity, diversely bright
therein the sweets of love now glow, now blaze,

Consider well the breadth, behold the height
of His eternal goodness, seeing that o’er
so many mirrors it doth shed its light,

Yet One abideth as It was before.”

Click here to view the works from the Paradiso exhibition

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