Sketch of “In the Tradition of Smiling Angels”

Claire curneen

“In the Tradition of Smiling Angels” is a sculpture by Claire Curneen, currently in the National Museum of Cardiff which I visited. Clair Curneen is one of my favourite artists and I find her work always has a strong resonance with me. While much of her work has a religious element, that is not the aspect that appeals to me, rather the representation of the human form and her use of material and texture.
The Angelic figures are both astoundingly beautiful and powerful, yet their posture is unassuming and fragile. The sparing use of gold glaze contrasted against the matt teracotta makes it even more significant, rather than being completely coated with gold as much byzantine Christian art does, especially with the depiction of angels. The idea that angels, who presumably have access to infinite gold and radiance choose to use it minimally is a very humbling idea.
Also in several of Curneen’s other works, the gold lustre has been used to represent blood. If we look at this piece under this context, it gives us a very different representation of angels, whose faces are smeared in blood, their fingers dripping and blood pooled at their feet. This leads us to question whose blood is this? Do angels even in fact have blood? Were the two angels witness to an incident, or the cause of it?
All these questions, and the reflection on human nature are what draws me to Curneen’s work, and the fact I can see her work first hand is a great inspiration to me


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