Paintings inspired by ancient religious texts unveiled

By Barrie Hudson - 17 July 2020

Arts and CultureAttractions
  • A close-up of one of the paintings, God on His Throne

    A close-up of one of the paintings, God on His Throne

A collection of paintings inspired by a book omitted from the Bible has gone on virtual exhibition in Cheltenham.

  • The Imprisoned Angels is another of the images inspired by the Book of Enoch

    The Imprisoned Angels is another of the images inspired by the Book of Enoch

A collection of paintings inspired by a book omitted from the Bible has gone on virtual exhibition in Cheltenham.

The 12 images, each in oil on a two-metre square canvas, show images from the Book of Enoch.

The book, omitted from both the Christian and Hebrew holy books but preserved in Ethiopian Orthodox tradition for some 15 centuries, deals with themes including devastation caused by rebel angels.

Artist Angus Pryor is Head of School for Art and Design at the University of Gloucestershire, was inspired to create Enoch: Heaven's Messenger when he heard a lecture about the book by Professor Philip Esler, the university's Portland Chair in New Testament Studies.

Mr Pryor, an agnostic, said: “Back in 2014, I attended Philip’s inaugural lecture on how heaven is presented in 1 Enoch and became fascinated by this influential ancient Jewish text. 

"Today, the complete text has only been preserved from antiquity in Ethiopia, where it forms an important part of the Old Testament of Ethiopian Orthodoxy. 

"Philip and I travelled to Addis Ababa the following year and were bowled over by the art and architecture there, as well the Ethiopian people themselves. It wasn’t long before I was compelled to start painting my own interpretation of the text.

 “In an homage to Ethiopian religious iconography, the 12 oil on canvas images replicate the linear, flat and pared down forms and colour palette associated with Byzantine, Ethiopian and early Coptic Christian iconography and, whilst idiomatic and stylistically distinctive, they are both observational and culturally responsive. 

“Naturally, these pieces will appeal to different people for different reasons, just as they do for Philip and me, but I’d like to see them used as a facilitator for discussion. Not just from a religious sense, but as a way to better engage people with some of the contemporary issues that arise, as well as with the arts.”  

The project took five years to complete, and the final stages of the work were done while the artist went through rehabilitation from a fall which left him paralysed from the neck down.

Professor Esler said: "Angus and I have been on a wonderful voyage of discovery over the last six years, and despite him describing himself as an agnostic, he is one of the most spiritual people I know. Angus has an instinctive grasp of values that go beyond the material and he manages to reproduce these fundamental realities of the world on canvas. 

"His works are masterpieces of religious contemporary art which draw inspiration from a number of beautiful church paintings and manuscript illuminations we discovered on our trips to Ethiopia. 

"This has truly been one of the most creative academic experiences of my career to date.”

The exhibition, which includes a richly-illuminated model of an Ethiopian church at its centre, was planned for initial installation at both Gloucester and Canterbury Cathedrals this summer, but the coronavirus outbreak put theo plan on hold. 

It has been installed at the university's hardwick gallery.

The exhibition can be viewed virtually in the meantime  at bookofenoch2020.com/virtual-tour

Your Comments

Be the first to comment on this article

Login or Register to post a comment on this article

Registered in England & Wales. No: 4513027, Positive Media Group, Old Bank House, 5 Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon, SN1 4BJ