This body of work, simply but appropriately titled “Apocalypse” consists of a series of images based on the last book of the Bible: Revelation. This late first century visionary text purports to describe a series of prophetic visions delivered to an imprisoned Christian apostle, who reveals himself in the text as “John”.
The visions contain some of the most vivid, powerful and at times disturbing images in our literary heritage. Guthmann, himself a student of the critical study of religion, is currently working on a written thesis which evaluates the cultural and literary background of the text of the Apocalypse, and he now gives new life to this story in a series of dynamic illustrations created over a two year period.
The artist first gained significant notoriety for his crudely themed yet meticulously executed drawings of penises on newspapers, documented in the infamous phenomenon of Drawing Dicks on the Herald Sun, and has in this body of work opted for the inclusion of a minor deviation from traditional representations of the Apocalypse. The moderate twist? Guthmann’s Apocalypse is replete with images of erect phalluses. At times their appearance is incidental, at others they have seem to have become instruments of divine wrath, and in yet others they appear to be the primary object of dynamic end-time theophanies or appearances of God. Here the Apocalypse is, with the aid of the artist’s hand, transfigured into an Acockalypse; the implications for interpretation are limitless. Interestingly, Guthmann insists that while the work could very easily be construed as merely poking fun at the Biblical text, and appears to betray an overt subversion of the claimed authority of the text, it is a mistake to think that for him the Biblical text has become the object of derision or ridicule. Rather, the text requires new modes of interpretation, which the addition of the male reproductive organ allows for.
The series has been created using a traditional and time-consuming medium, the use of which extends back to the late renaissance: etching. Etching involves embedding an image onto a sheet of metal using a variety of instruments and chemicals, the sheet then becoming a sort of template from which prints are made by applying ink to it and manually running it through a large Intaglio press.
Melbourne-based fine artist, Jonathan Guthmann, will explore the idea of the Apocalypse, especially that described by the book of Revelation at his sophomore exhibition “Apocalypse” at Backwoods Gallery, Collingwood, opening on the 14th August 2015.
Guthmann says although he would not describe himself as a religious person, his studies and academic qualifications in theology, mythology and associated ancient languages, allow him to examine and convey through his art some of the perennial questions behind conventional religion.
My imagery borrows heavily from the worlds of ‘mythical forms and phenomena’, because behind them lies the story of humanity’s relentless quest to both find and create meaning for itself,” he says. “Whether we come from a religious background or not, it doesn’t mean the questions that surround religion aren’t there. Because many of us are no longer satisfied with the conventional religions’ answers to existential problems, that doesn’t necessarily imply these questions no longer exist or warrant being addressed. Put in simple terms, much of my work is an attempt to get people thinking about the fact that theology once served as the primary means of addressing the great existential problems such as life beyond death, the existence of a deity or supernatural entities, our place within the cosmos etc. It is the artist’s hope that the work is at once informative for those with an interest in mytho-religious symbols, and that it ultimately encourages viewers to examine how they themselves address these questions.
Who: Jonathan Guthmann.
Where: Backwoods Gallery, 25 Easey st, Collingwood, Melbourne, Vic
When: August 14th from 6pm, till August 23rd.
Facebook event here