I was holed up in Burgundy as Covid began to rage. In a corner of the vaulted furnace room of my house, I began working with gouache, tiny brushes, gold leaf, and calligraphy pens, standing in my own scriptorium in a little village in the Morvan forest.
This is my first foray into the world of illuminated manuscripts. My work for many years has incorporated text and art-historical imagery. But I didn’t realize until I was well into my new work that the decision to mash up texting, social media, and an ancient art form was eerily in tune with the times as well as my own history.
Glowing screens on cellphones, tablets, and laptops were, I realized in retrospect, the obvious illuminated manuscripts of the digital age. Back in Medieval times, the best they could do to generate light was gold leaf.
We live in a fast-paced age, yet everything ground to a halt as a result of Covid. Contact with others became difficult, even dangerous. Illuminated manuscripts seemed to be an invitation to slow down when the world is going a mile a minute. I surrendered to the labor-intensive techniques seen in precious pages hidden away in rare book rooms.
When I stumbled into this rather neglected art form, my manuscripts reflected my intense desire to communicate something of our radically changed lives. Now in 2024, working in my new studio on the top floor of my house as I write this, I see how they allow me to give expression to melancholy subjects, political frustrations, and the lunacy of everyday life.
All sheets are 22-1/2” x 22-1/2” gouache, ink, 22 karat gold leaf and/or silver leaf on Arches 300g
Text: Hello Kenneth R, Your USPS tracking #9485 8003 0916 3199 8212 01 has been delivered to the mailroom. How was your delivery? [thumbs up icon] It was great [thumbs down icon] Not so great
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