Work: The Water and the Blood

The Water and the Blood: Christ’s Passion
Fenton Gallery Cork 16 Nov – 7 Dec 2002

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.

Fenton Gallery Installation: Vault space
View of ‘Blood’ room showing 3 works: right: Stations II; centre: Sacred Heart: the Blood; left: Passion


Sacred Heart: the Blood
100cm square. glass, wire, stone, paper
Collection Passionist Order, Mount Argus, Dublin. Installed 2003 in Church of the Sacred Heart, Blanchardstown, Dublin in the main sanctuary.


Sacred Heart: the Blood (detail)
Detail of central image in glass/wire construction depicting the birth of the host and chalice – the Eucharistic covenant through the nourishing aspect of the Blood flowing from the Wound.


Stations II: the Way of the Body
50 X 300cm. distressed and pigmented paper under sections of glass.
Private collection Ireland.


Stations II: the Way of the Body (detail)
Details of paper effects. Acrylic pigment bled through piercing, cutting, rubbing.
This long narrative story of suffering emphasises the role of the Body, the physicality of the Passion journey toward transformation and Glory.
The 14 sections of glass subtly refer to the traditional 14 separate Station settings.


70cm square. Distressed and pigmented paper under etched glass.
Private collection Ireland.


Passion (detail)
The etched patterns of water floating over all paper layers in this body of work represent the guiding, healing influence of the Holy Spirit. Here they offer a downward impetus to the fullness of the chalice-like volume of blood, toward the rim of gold leaf indicating Divine Glory.


Fenton Gallery ‘Water’ Room
Showing: Sacred Heart: the Water at end wall; Stations I: the Release of Grace at right. Resurrection also formed the third element in this group, counter-pointing the Passion work in the ‘Blood’ Series.


Sacred Heart: the Water
100cm square. glass, wire, stone, paper
Private collection, Ireland


Sacred Heart: the Water (detail)
Central detail of structure in glass, stained glass, wire in copper, steel
In this work water flows from the Wound, its circular pool touching the entire world of Intellect (top text, clear section of square surround) and the world of Matter (the layered stone section of the bottom square surround. Its influence is all-encompassing.


70cm square. Cut, stained paper with gold leaf under etched glass.
Note: this work did not photograph well due to reflection of pure white paper under the glass. Details show more clearly the colour and texture of cuts and stains.
Private collection Ireland


Resurrection (detail)
Detail showing pure white central ‘chalice’ form created by surround of cut, stained section.


Resurrection (detail)
Detail of staining through cuts under etching.


Stations I: The Release of Grace
Distressed and pigmented paper under etched and sectioned glass.
In this narrative, long work, the fourteen Stations are slim sections of a central stripe of distressed, stained paper. Over this a glass layer is split along this path. The etching of the glass layer seems to flow from this split, this band of suffering. It depicts the release of Grace of the Holy Spirit from the journey of suffering. At one point, the glass divides at the death on the Cross. From this divide, the fullness of the Spirit is now released to flow over the whole surface of the paper.
Private collection Ireland


Stations I (detail)
Detail of etching pattern flowing from split and wound strip


Wound Series: The Well of Purity
50cm square. Pigmented, distressed paper over painted wooden panel under etched, pierced glass, stainless steel edging.
This work toured with all the Wound Series in the international tour of 40 Shades of Green. This show featured works in art and craft that highlighted process and making. It arose out of the Cork European Year of Culture 2005 program and was first shown in the UCC Glucksman Gallery, Cork city in 2005.
Collection the artist. Available for purchase.


Wound series: Well of Purity (detail)
Detail of pierced, peeled, and bled paper under etching pattern of water ripples.


Wound Series: The Well of Mercy
50cm square. Distressed paper with acrylic over painted wood panel; etched glass panel over; stainless steel frame.
This work also toured in the 40 Shades of Green show referencing process in Irish art/craft from 2005-2008 sponsored by the Irish Crafts Council.
Collection the artist. Available for purchase


Wound series: The Well of Mercy (detail)
Detail of cut and bled paper under etched pattern of tears. Central hole opening onto painted panel

Well of Mercy (detail)
Closer detail showing interaction between etched pattern over paper effects.


Wound Series: The Well of Enlightenment
50cm square. Distressed paper with acrylic over gold leaf; etched glass layer over; stainless steel frame
Also toured in 40 Shades of Green 2005-2008 in Germany, Lithuania, N. Ireland, U.S.A.
Collection the artist. Available for purchase. 


Wound Series: Well of Enlightenment (detail)
Detail of cut, peeled, and bled paper surface under etched glass in rain pattern. Central opening onto gold leaf panel


The Wound Series: The Well of Nourishment
50cm square. Distressed paper with acrylic over painted wood panel; etched glass panel over; stainless steel frame
Toured with all the Wound Series in 40 Shades of Green 2005-2008
Collection the artist. Available for purchase.


Wound series: Well of Nourishment (detail)
Detail of cut, peeled, and bled paper under etched glass in water ripples as chalice space.

Further reading:
Review of Pamela Hardesty at the Fenton Gallery by Mark Patrick Hederman 
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