“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.”John’s First Epistle
The Apocalypse of Hope and Mercy comprises thirteen polyptych paintings arranged in the shape of a cross (evoking the thirteen petals of a rose, which symbolises the gathering of souls that aspire to unite with God, or the thirteen attributes of Divine Mercy in Jewish prayer). In each of the polyptychs, which are made up of four panels of cedar of Lebanon (in Psalms 92:13 we read: “The upright will flourish like the palm tree, will grow like a cedar of Lebanon”), there inevitably appear some images of catastrophes. But I have done everything in my power to steer clear of the “apocalyptic millennialism” which has again become so fashionable in our times, beset as we are by the crisis of democracy, relentless wars like open wounds which seem set never to heal, and environmental degradation apparently on track to devastate the planet, turning “our shared home” (in the words of Pope Paul VI) into a “republic of insects and grass” (to quote the telling title of an essay by Jonathan Schell)…all of which fuels the tendency to imagine dystopias (usually of a technical-scientific kind) located in a threateningly near future, in which society will be ruled by an oppressive and hyper-vigilant power; or in which the human species as we know it will be superseded by a dazzling “post-humanity”, free of the many and diverse flaws which both afflict and typify us – an ideological current in which we can pick out echoes of Nietzsche’s “Übermensch”, albeit without the tragic grandeur that characterises the thought of the great German philosopher.
The Apocalypse of Hope and Mercy is centred on the human being and the home as a metaphor for the Church (the Body of Christ). The garden of my home is for me a fully-fledged “hortus conclusus”, a peaceful haven where dragonflies fly about and which abounds in many different species of plants frequented by birds (like those nesting in “the tree that grows from the mustard seed”, reminding us that only in the End Times will all the virtualities of the Kingdom of God be fully realised). My garden is akin to the rose window of a gothic cathedral (the façade of the monastery of Sant Cugat del Vallés, the Catalonian town where I live with my family, boasts a beautiful example of such a rosette), the lake of life where heaven and earth meet (home, then, regarded as a New Jerusalem).
Reading Revelation is a way to spiritual ascent so as to be able, eventually, to see God with one’s heart and thus begin to enjoy the future Kingdom while still in this life – for it is in life itself that we may find liberation, which consists of the joy of being alive, attained through a permanent and bitter inner struggle between good and evil (the beast of melancholy, the lack of love and fondness for life).
In all mythologies, and in myriad legends and tales, the home is always the goal of epic odysseys, spiritual quests and psychic transformations. In 1223, Saint Francis (basing himself on the mediaeval tradition of pastoral drama) staged a living tableau of the Nativity in the Italian locality of Greccio, thus inspiring Giotto to the most far-reaching revolution in the history of Western art. The great artist from the small village of Colle di Vespignano transposed the scene depicted by him from the abstract heaven of Byzantine painting – golden and remote (a moral or spiritual space) – down to the “promised land”, placing the various figures (viewed with deep compassion) in a three-dimensional, liveable and reachable space.
“Love never comes to an end”).Paul: First Epistle to the Corinthians
Like all genuine art, the Apocalypse of Hope and Mercy should be an invitation to heal through Love (that Love which, as Paul wrote in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, “never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away”).
In the fifty-two panels which make up the Apocalypse’s thirteen tableaux, I juxtapose everything – absolutely everything – that exists on earth (the overwhelming multiplicity of being which engulfs and transcends us, and which we are unable to perceive as a whole). In so doing, I pay homage to Him who sees everything at once (the micro- and the macroscopic), for time does not exist for Him. Through the painting’s colourful and all-encompassing panoptic vision, I strive to show something that approaches God’s perspective.
Alejandro Häsler, June 2014 – January 2016
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