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In the Frame for August 2011: artist Little Flower’s ‘Freedom’

'When I first came across Freedom I was reminded immediately of one of my favourite paintings, Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) by Paul Gauguin. This was partly due to the biblical references in both pieces, but also a common richness and depth to the colours and fluidity to the depiction of figures. Both exude a kind of comforting warmth, despite their boldness.

'This sense of cosiness is subverted somewhat by the work’s subject matter. The quotation in the bottom left is from Revelation, hardly the most comforting book of the New Testament. Freedom is essentially a figurative representation of chapter 21, which describes John’s vision of the kingdom of heaven or the new Jerusalem. This is the walled city in the background, a city of “pure gold, like unto clear glass”. The figures in the foreground may be the kings of the saved nations referred to in the inscribed quotation: “…and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.”

'These illustrative aspects are fairly clear. More elusive, however, is a sense of the artist’s relationship with the text. The Book of Revelation, with its mysterious symbolism, has always been fertile ground for imaginative interpretation. I found myself wondering not only about the artist’s understanding of the chapter, but also his or her emotional response to it.

'As one might expect, this passage from Revelation does contain references to damnation, a “lake which burneth with fire and brimstone”. But the main body of the text focuses on the rewards in store for those who escape this fate. The title, Freedom, seems to indicate that the artist has focussed on this redemptive theme, perhaps even drawn comfort from it. We are unsure of the artist’s identity, and I’m uncomfortable with making any assumptions about how he or she was feeling when this piece was created. However, the wonderfully lyrical promise contained in chapter 21, verse 4 would have a powerful appeal to anyone experiencing distress of any kind.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.