The Water and the Blood: Christ’s Passion exhibition catalogue

by Pamela Hardesty
Fenton gallery, Cork 16 Nov – 7 Dec 2002

Click here to view the work

This body of work arose out of an interest in the physicality of spirit, the role of the body in spiritual progress and transformation. This interest came out of my own struggles to understand my faith in relation to the sacramental life of Catholicism, and also out of my own developing awareness of my humanity, my physical self and its relationship to the Divine through the practice of prayer and my life in Christ.

I looked to the Passion story as the pre-eminent depiction of a physical journey toward spiritual progress. I researched traditional, symbolic narratives of the Passion, as well as medieval Wound cults, particularly of the Sacred Heart, and votive understandings of Passion elements.

I worked very much with the atmosphere and proportions of the Fenton Vault space in mind. Its intimate, enclosed, and confrontational parallel vaulted stone rooms were chosen as particularly suitable for my imagery. I saw that each of these spaces could hold one of the two traditional aspects of the Sacred Heart impact: one side for the Water and all that it symbolised in cleansing, healing; and one side for the flow of Blood, with its nourishing impact of covenant.
I began by creating a “portrait” or a distillation of each aspect of the Sacred Heart flow in complex, dramatic, heavy abstractions of the Water and of the Blood in glass, stone, and paper units bound by wire. In these I used the central focus of a wound surrounded by a flow of glass as a circular, divine space surrounded by a square of materials used to depict Intellect and Matter as the receptors of the Divine flow.
The other strand of work looked at the physical breakdown as agent for transformation. Here I used paper for its skin-like, transformational qualities. I submitted it to various abusive processes such as cutting, piercing, peeling, and rubbing, and then stained through its delicacy with acrylic pigments. I used this paper under etched heavy glass layers holding water imagery of the Holy Spirit. Throughout this work I hoped to present the suffering and breakdown as a beautiful and necessary agent of growth and change. Two long paper sections held Stations of the Cross imagery; two square chalice-like works reference Passion and Resurrection; and a series of four Wound works show various aspects of the gifts associated with the flow from Christ’s wound, namely Purity, Mercy, Enlightenment, and Nourishment.

The two strands of work in this exhibition have continued to operate for me as languages of spiritual understanding. The complex glass structures work as a kind of “divine” vocabulary, working with light effects—while the paper continues to articulate human concerns and experience in its fragile, malleable surface.

Click here to view the work

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