Re-imaging the Book of Durrow

The work is a reproduction of the opening double page of St John’s Gospel in the Book of Durrow. I have created the work on rag paper using archival watercolours, acrylic ink with added gesso and 24 carat gold leaf embellishment aimed at giving the modern viewer an appreciation of the. wonder and awe with which 7th and 8th century readers of the manuscript must have held the pages.

St Ninian

Saint Ninian, bishop, missionary, and apostle to Scotland, drawn and painted in the style of a early medieval illuminated manuscript. Inspired by the Book of Kells, the ruins of Whithorn Abbey, and artifacts such as the clog-rinny (the Bell of St Ninian).

Re-imaging the Book of Durrow: the opening double pages of Luke’s Gospel

It is difficult for people in the 21st century, routinely surrounded by colours of every hue, to imagine how the sight of the Book of Durrow would have affected viewers in the late 600s AD. I have attempted to convey some of this wonder by recreating pages in watercolour and ink using modern lightfast organic pigments augmented with raised gesso and 24 carat gold leaf in the manner of later medieval illuminated manuscripts.

While this treatment may seem like heresy to some, I argue that my own experience when I first witnessed the transformation that the addition of polished gold brought to the designs was a valuable addition to my understanding of the experiences of 7th century and later early medieval viewers of these books. The addition of polished gold leaf not only adds the experience of ‘the Light of the World’ reflecting out of each page, but it also helps tie the designs more firmly to the Eastern manuscript traditions of Byzantine and Greek Orthodox religious art.

Re-imagining Luke’s Incipit Pages in the Book of Durrow

This is a further attempt at reproducing a double page illumination from the Book of Durrow in modern organic watercolour pigments similar in tone to how the pages might have looked when first illuminated back around 680 AD.

I have again embellished some areas of the illumination with raised gesso and 24 carat gold leaf in an attempt to give modern eyes the sense of awe and wonder that the original manuscript might have induced in the world of mainly muted tones in the 7th century.

Our Lady of The Dome

An illuminated quote from a 1928 sonnet by Rev. Patrick J. Carroll, CSC, Vice President of Notre Dame University. Done in 8th century Kells style with egg tempera on vellum, this artwork incorporates elements of 1920s Art Deco, as well as religious symbolism reflecting the poem and the poet.

Book of Kells John Portrait reproduction

This is an at scale reproduction of the Book of Kells St John portrait page made using the same tools, materials and techniques as the original artist. It’s not finished because some aspects require further research. The white pigment gypsum doesn’t handle very well and it isn’t clear how or why the Kells artists preferred it over white lead. There is also an as yet unidentified tool mark in the halo which has been used to make a series of small circles, its not a compass or a feather barrel, and at some point it split but the artist continued to use it leaving behind a valuable but enigmatic clue in the trail of slightly warped and incomplete circles around St John’s halo.

Ligno Vitae

This piece mixes traditional insular techniques and materials with modern graffiti markers and letter styles. The work is on parchment with the tree of life and the word Ligno created using the geometry and pigments from the Book of Kells including, oak bark ink, cudbear lichen, orpiment, lead, woad and Verdigris. The word Vitae is painted in graffiti markers with the traditional pairing of chrome and black associated with the simpler graffiti scripts. The theme is based on the extinction rebellion terminology for climate change, that the world is on fire.

An dá Ghrian {The Two Suns}

Originally inspired by two sisters singing Gaelic harmonies at a pub in Glasgow Scotland, this piece has come to represent Áine and Grainne, sisters of Irish mythology. Áine, whose name means “radiance”, was believed to rule over the light half of the year and Grainne reigned over the darker half. Grainne might also represent another aspect of Áine, the shadow and light that dwells within us all. This piece was painted with mixed media on hand-made paper.