1189 - 2021 : Commentarium in Apocalypsin 1184

Katherine Sirois

Commentarium in Apocalypsin

The development of artistic creation inspired by great Gnostic and esoteric traditions such as that of the apocalyptic literature, involves an intimate process of interpretation of symbols, visions and archetypal images. This interpretative process seeks and questions, updates and gives new shapes to cosmic phenomena and cycles, terrestrial forces, ancient mysteries, universal figures, allegories and signs such as celestial bodies and astronomical events, the four elements, specific animals, objects and numbers, geometrical forms, but without ever freezing or imposing definitive meanings. Like seismographs who capture and express the energetic frequencies and the disquietness of their times, Magda Delgado and Pedro Pascoinho manifest a certain Zeitgeist in this constellation of works haunted by the Apocalypse of Lorvão; an illuminated manuscript dating from 1189, which was produced by monastic scribes near Coimbra and currently kept at the Torre do Tombo National Archives in Lisbon. Thus Commentarium in Apocalypsin gathers a collection of contemporary visual expressions and comments on the mystical illustrations and enigmas that compose the Portuguese manuscript, a copy of an earlier codex made by Beatus of Liébana (8th century) and consisting in a Commentary on the Revelation of John, the very last book of the Bible, written in Asia Minor, on the island of Patmos during the 1st century AD.

This manifested Zeitgeist is firstly characterised by a dark uneasiness, by an anguish which is crystallised in the depiction of a dazzling and blinding sun, that of the overflow, or in the image of a Black Sun, star of despair, melancholia and loneliness in the face of death. Furthermore, this Zeitgeist also reveals a persistence to this day of a desire for change, an expectation of something to happen, a tragic yet grandiose destruction and the unfolding of cataclysmic yet epic events. Those spectacular phenomena can then give rise to a great renewal, that of joyous, ideal and divine prosperity and abundance. 

The prophetic approach to the Apocalypse, which induces a literal reading of the text, poses the insoluble problem of the status and role of prophecy by highlighting its inherent ambivalence, that is, the tension between the faculty of clairvoyance and the power of suggestion. Directly or indirectly influencing the course of historical events, it favours mechanisms of hallucinatory delirium in which one perceives himself as a protagonist, witness or victim of current or future events. Motivated by a semi-conscious desire for the end of time - the end of a time -, the prophecy is often based on the condemnation of society, deemed to be corrupt and degenerate (reign of the Antichrist or Age of Iron). Thus the prognostic is part of the expectation for the return of a glorious era, a Golden Age, according to the Hindu tradition, or the reign of Christ, according to the Church. But the search for a hidden truth unfolding behind events fatally immobilises and imprisons the reader in predetermined meanings that he paradoxically helps to realise. This dynamic reveals the power of suggestion of prophecy and therefore its ideological and political dimension.

A symbolic and interpretive approach rather refers to a personal or collective eschatology whose meaning is continuously and dynamically constructed by the reader who, then, engages in a work of self-analysis. The quest for inner transformation and expansion of consciousness goes through the ordeal of revelation. Within a symbolic or allegorical reading of the text, revelations can be experienced as a personal understanding of enigmatic messages. The visions and revelations are therefore the act of unveiling meanings by receiving unexpected access to contents considered to be trans-historic and transcultural, because it is likely to concern us individually or collectively, whatever the context of reception may be. There is a resolutely transformative and redemptive dimension in the interpretive approach of sacred texts. Thus, the book is literally open and the pages are also blank as one is leafing through, using imagination, experience and sensitivity while continuously renewing, reinventing and reactivating the message and its significance.

Whether regarded prophetically or symbolically, hallucinatorilly or therapeutically, the Apocalypse and the great revelations are in line with our times. They concern us in our current affairs and this is where the strength and relevance of this encounter between Pascoinho’s black drawings on paper and Delgado’s colourful acrylic on raw linen canvas reside. Merging with the immersive musical piece they co-created, the dynamical visual complementarities and oppositions at play are emphasised by the successively somber and luminous sounds and tonalities. The web of geometric patterns, mathematical proportions and vibrant chromatic planes brings openness and expansion to the Warburgian-like associations of symbols, fragments and mnemonic impressions. The contrasted juxtaposition of dark and melancholic figurative motifs with luminescent abstract paintings where primary colours dominate, deploys a kind of Axis Mundi connecting heaven and earth, subterranean and celestial domains, contingencies and necessities, torments and aspirations, genesis and end of the time.

1189 - 2021 Commentarium in Apocalypsin
11.09.2021 – 15.01.2022
Exhibition Text : Katherine Sirois
Translation : Henrique Frederico
Photography : Bruno Lopes
Video : João Silva
Sound : Registos de Magda Delgado. Masterização de Pedro Pascoinho e Carlos Pascoinho
Production support : Fernando Lopes 
Art handling / Setting up : Maria Torrada