After Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’

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I have now completed a drawn reiteration of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. For now, I’ll leave the image here (and if you click on it you’ll be taken to a larger version so that you can have a better look).

I’ve been racking my brains to think of something to write about the making of this piece which is neither banal (‘it was difficult’) or predictable (‘it took longer than I thought’). Perhaps the best thing to do is to simply list some thoughts and see how they stack up as reflection. Here goes:

  • Each panel I drew was like a mini-painting in itself in that there was rhythm and composition and visual interest, often narrative or at least amusing. It’s a complex work when taken as a whole but that complexity arises out of the complexity ‘on the ground’, so to speak.
  • Notwithstanding that level of detail there is an overall rhythm to the piece that is its structure. The circling parade around the central pool might be obvious but there’s also a large ‘X’ below that.
  • There is no sex on the picture, despite all the nudity. Derek Jarman (who is trying to make a film based on the painting) reckons that there’s one couple copulating, but unless it’s couple who are mostly hidden, I have no idea who they are.
  • The ‘Hell’ panel was hard to make purely because creating a solid black with a .5mm 2B pencil is a slow process. There’s a rhythmic quality to the resulting surface which is missing form the source painting. Drawing and painting are not the same. Bosch could add opaque white to a coloured/dark background whereas I had to excavate the white back from the grey or black. One other solution is to leave the light or white parts and work around them but that can create the impression of an ‘aura’ or rhythmic surfaces that envelop the objects in the foreground. It is hard to make any brush marks on the painting.
  • In previous drawings (After Joseph Beuys’ Wirtschaftswerte and After Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of St Thomas, for example) I left a white border around each panel which formed a grid that appeared notionally ‘before’ the image and stood, in some ways, for my intervention. In this work (an in After Picasso’s Guernica) I didn’t bother with the white border. The grid, though, is still visible in the rupture created by the details not quite matching up.

Since completing this work, I have shown it with the Guernica drawings in an incomplete form as a response to Bank Street Arts ‘LEAVE // REMAIN’ call out for their 2016 members’ show. I titled the conflation: After Picasso and Bosch (The majority of this drawing remains at home. A minority has been left here for you to see).

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