St Abb's National Reserve

St Abb's National Reserve
View from my office

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Because I've been working with Seahouses Development Trust on Seahouses Festival, I took the opportunity to do a bit of research on the theme of 'migration', this year's festival theme:
Migration Art was also known as 'Barbarian Art' as it was the art of the Continental Germanic peoples who moved West after the Roman retreat, and the Hun advance through Asia- between 300 and 900AD. Imagine a peoples, living under different tribal names (Visigoth, Angles, etc)and making separate journeys across Europe, whose culture of portable, functional art was its common feature. Their art was wearable, utilatarian, beautifully wrought and often became grave goods. Personal art, not at all monumental; its funtion to serve in the afterlife, rather than left behind to ensure immortality among the still-living. It encompasses different styles, being influenced through travel and trade. This kind of art was a huge influence on the makers of Christian books and documents (in the UK, for example), and their places of worship, either by design or subconsciously, and The Lindisfarne Gospels is an example; (use of gold, some of the complex patterning, and use of animal imagery).
I'm picking the Lindisfarne Gospels, because of the close proximation of Lindisfarne to Seahouses, before I paddle off to Egypt. Peoples migrate, and make pilgrammage. Egypt was dominated both, by Rome, then Greece, and at that time Christianity was blossoming there, too.
St Menas' shrine was a huge and popular complex of 3 churches, that drew pilgrims from all over the world. St Menas' flasks, which carreis blessed water, or earth, have been discoved all over Europe and are identifiable by their distintive design, impressed on the flask. This tradition of holy tokens was common, and, no doubt a source of funding from which to build greater monuments and better facilities, for the legions who were committed to these spiritual journeys. From Canterbury, and other English Catherdrals, one could purchase items made of tin, perhaps as a mark of one's efforts, or taking blessings and protections on a perilous journey? These tokens bore the images of saints, were copied, and recopied, the original portrait being subverted to the power of the iconic image and its underlying message of faith.
In Egypt, under the influence of invading forces, the tradition, at least on one area, Fayoud, the burial traditions had evolved so portaits of the dead- realistic, detailed images in wax or tempera on wood were bound into the mummy wrappings, to appear as if the person were peering from the shroud. These images we discovered, and rediscovered various European explorers, and eventually considered valuable, collectors prizes and shipped off to the wealthy to display in their fashionable homes. A shipment of antiquities, aquired by The Baron of Manouti for a German collector was lost in the North Sea in 1820 (approx)- an area of water called 'The Cemetary' by mariners, I have heard.
Back to the early hundreds BC,where I meant to land, before I was drawn to the beatiful portraits of Fayoud (which can be seen in Museums, across the world) Coptic Art, from Egypt was another great influence making its way across Europe: its distincive patterns on fabric, illuminated scripts were portable, and it can be said, these distinctive patterns are evident in the lindifarne Gospels, and others like it. The style survives through Christian church decoration, portraits of saints and other religious art. Modern coptic art, and icon painting still flourishes, and the images produced today may be from the original images made, nearly 2000 years ago.
So, my own cultural migration may not be entirely faithful- as happens with the retelling of tales; it was forged on accidental discoveries, then the force of desire to see what was over the next horizon. It only was meant as an acknowlegement to the process behind a piece of work, whether mass-produced, or unique, and i am interesteed to hear anyone's additions, corrections, comments to the blog.