The flesh of heaven…almost already redeemed & the question of ‘mercy’. 1

The flesh of heaven…almost already redeemed & the question of ‘mercy’.
27-10-2014, Diemen, by James Roolvink

I would like to describe an approach to the work of the artist Irka Stachiw. The light that she shines on light does not light up as actual light, in actuality, but ‘shines’ and lights up in the absence of light as that what has just passed ‘now’.

In the hermetic tradition a mirror effect is described in which the below reflects that which is above, so we can see in what is below the workings of what is above. The idea that below reflects what is above implies a logical contradiction between what is above and what is below, or to rephrase it more positively, implies a primordial difference between above and below, or to rephrase it even more positively, implies a ‘light’ which is the source of the distinction between above and below. That light itself ‘incarnates’ more as above than as below, yet is able to be below.

What attracts me in the paintings of Irka Stachiw is that the above somehow shows itself from within the below. Heaven, its possibilities, shows itself within the earthly ‘fleshy’ below, without infringing on what is below or melting it away. The above abides to the terrestrial laws.

In this short piece I will use two paintings of Irka Stachiw as an example to point to that original primordial light.

The first painting of hers that seized me, although it is easy to overlook it, was ‘Afscheid’ (‘Farewell’) in which it is very clear that something, something very crucial has gotten away.

Afscheid by

Afscheid (Farewell) by Irka Stachiw. Photography by Patrick de Bruin

It is not clear whether there is someone on the cross in this painting. Only two vaguely visible figures below left seem to look at the cross and appear to be aware aware that they miss something. The three figures from the centre to the right are perhaps just passing by and may not even be looking at the cross. Because background and foreground are very much woven into each other, everything is condensed and earthlike. The difference between background and foreground resembles the difference between below and above. The difference is present, but seems to be a part of the sticky background to which the foreground is indebted.

When we look more closely we may learn that whatever occurred and escaped us is not dependent on us and our awareness of what it is that has happened. It seems to follow its operations. In the painting below, ‘Later/Mas tarde’, a more positive openness appears. The panic of forgetfulness has subsided and we can almost breathe in what is symbolized by the blue (soul-like) sky and the fact that the figures on the right are surrounded by blue sky (within the red bloody terrestrial plane). The emphasis has switched from the figures who are all blurred to the scene itself. What is above, the sky, makes its entrance below and if you look carefully it almost seems that a yellowish stairway to the heavenly sky is visible from the middle to the top right corner.


Later / Mas Tarde by Irka Stachiw. Photography by Patrick de Bruin

That which has occurred is ‘naturally’ something divine and Holy. Are there two crosses that have turned into people, and are these people two crucified people or do they perhaps stand for us all or for the figures in the previous painting? Why is the third cross still there? Is that the cross we, as viewers, have to carry? The blurred figures on the right seem not to see the red figures who may be on the stairways to heaven. They see the opening of the open sky but the movement into the sky seems to escape them.

The ‘almost already redeemed’ is likely to be the major theme here as well. The divine, the Holy, is so close that it will escape us even if we stare it in the face. We stare and we look but we must see in order to really see and experience the workings of the divine. We must see between the colors, at the transitions, the movement from above to below and vice versa and must see beyond the distinction between above and below…with the means of everything that is above and below.

The question of mercy
We must see the light ourselves, for it is not pushing us, forcing us, to see and it respects our free will. That miraculous light does not force us by any ethical obligation to be aware of it or by any seductive appeal. Wanting to see or the readiness to see, like some of the figures in the first paintings (who may have had years of preparation in being ready), does not seem sufficient to be able to see this original primordial miraculous light and it therefore seems that it is ‘mercy’ bestowed by the light alone that enables us to see this light. This question of mercy is raised by these paintings when I see them. A question that is not answered, however, even by these beautiful paintings.

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