Visions and visionaries, from Blake to Latham and other contemporary masters

by Professor Livio Billo, University of Padua

In the contemporary world, art and media have become dominated by the same “rationality” inherent to electronic and digital devices. In this context, can an aesthetic idea, reliant or not on the mechanical, mass-produced and artificial nature of its form, still function freely? Can this idea still exist at all? In other words, can those images that refer to free imagination, those “visions” of the fantastic and the irrational, recover from or resist such disruption? Or, instead, can they be redeployed and renewed without discarding technology a priori, but engaging with it on an equal footing?

The answer from Visions and Visionaries, an exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery, London, from December 2018 to April 2019 under the patronage of Sir Denis Mahon Charitable Trust, is assuredly ‘yes’. It aims to summarize and highlight ‘some of the figures that defined the “Visionary” idea in art’.1 Furthermore, it lays ‘the foundations for a common feeling in which, even today, in this complicated and indecipherable century, we can codify new and original visual languages’.2

The exhibition, in line with this assumption, offers a selection of works which compare the “visionary” artists of the first generation, born between the 18th and 19th centuries, with others of the 20th century. These later artists adapted the “visionary” to their particular sensitivity, without disregarding a set of enduring traits. For example, the simultaneously mystical and acerbic, critical and prophetic aura which one finds in the work of William Blake (1757-1827). A pioneer of “Visionary” art and an opponent to rationalist thought, he strove for a kind of illuminated spiritual elevation. He committed to fighting, both as a poet and a painter, against material or moral darkness and ugliness, out of which he believed the modern “machine civilization” was born. According to him, that civilization would lead to men’s suffering, misery and alienation. How can we not think about the metropolitan slums, the working-class quarters, which were prematurely soiled and blackened by coal smokes and industrial pollution? However, contemporary metropolises are not so different, and they are often burdened by the same darkened skies and threats to humanity.

Therefore, Blake sought to bring light out of darkness. And fallen fallen light renew! – as he writes in the Introduction to Songs of Experience (1789). He lets it spring from the immaterial “transparency” of his colours and lines, from the “flashes of inspiration” of his poetry and, ultimately, from an art form intended as pure spiritual and intuitive creativity.

William Blake - The Bard
Figure 1: William Blake (1757 - 1827)
The Bard
Published in 1972 for the William Blake Trust, London. A Set of 14 Sheets: 42 x 32.6cm Collotype and hand-colouring on wove paper with separately printed text on laid paper. Part of William Blake water colour designs for the Poems of Thomas Gray, published by Trianon Press for the William Blake Trust, London 1972.

This art is the only thing able to reconnect and reveal the ‘mysterious relationship with the divine and the sacred, that is with Being in his totality (nature, myth, history, past, present, future’.3

Therefore, Blake’s light had nothing to do with the other light: that of Reason. From this stemmed the Age of Enlightenment, science, and mechanised technology. This was the driving force behind industrialisation, faults and damages included.

That which these developments are responsible for is well known: brutal capitalism, expansion and exploitation of the urban proletariat, mass impoverishment, environmental decay and moral degeneration. In conclusion, all those dramatic and thorny issues that utopian socialism would initially discuss and, later, the Marxist dialectic would critically define.4 But still artists continue to reflect upon and warn against such insidious phenomena, perhaps in a state of remove, dejection or disapproval. These moods propose alternative “world views” and “others” to the technological status quo.5

Among these alternatives are nostalgic evocations of our pre-industrial and pre-modern past. This past can been historically defined as the Middle Ages, or, before that, the collective memory of a prelapsarian past. These were symbolic moments, considered to represent a time not yet spoilt by the man-machine relationship to come. Human creatures were pure, incorrupt, free and happy; they were in close contact with God and nature. Indeed, nature had not yet been affected by exploitation and loss of innocence: a theme which was particularly dear to Blake and which is developed not only in Songs of Innocence, but also in Milton’s Illustrations of Paradise Lost (1807).6 However, this type of nature is also well represented in The Bard (Fig. 1) (1797-98) and The Fatal Sisters (1797-98), whose documents are shown in the exhibition.

In these works, among other things, the “mysticism of light” and an original purity are joined together in exaltation of medieval spirituality and imagination. They transform – as always in Blake – into that inspired, “sublime” language that is so specific to otherworldly visions.7 An image may appear illusory and fantastic, but for him and the other “visionaries”, it is not at all vague and indeterminate, but just as real and even more alive and truthful than real phenomena. It gives visible and permanent form to what, in lived reality, is invisible. It reifies what is immutable and essential as the presence and energy of the Spirit.

Therefore: ‘He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and a stronger and better light, than his perishing mortal eye can see, does not imagine at all.’8 In other words, he is blind. On the other hand, whoever seems to be blinded, if not distorted and made insane, by the glow of his own vision, is the one whose vision excels beyond all others.

This is the viaticum that Blake, who died in 1827, passed on to artists of the next generation and specifically to the Pre-Raphaelites. Without him, there would not have been Dante Gabriele Rossetti (1828-1882), born one year later, who shared with Blake an infatuation with Dante and the Divine Comedy, their common source of inspiration.9 Without Rossetti – founder of the Brotherhood in 1848 – there would have been neither Millais nor Burne-Jones. Thus, if ‘most of Rossetti’s inspiration originates from William Blake [...] whose works the Songs of Innocence he particularly loved’,10 he introduced ‘also the others [...] to the sinuous lines, the convulsive whirlpools, the androgynous figures of Blake’.11

And again, without the poet of Songs of Innocence, there would have been neither Allen Ginsberg and the beat generation poets, nor London’s underground scene in the 1960s.12 Either way, this will be explored in more detail later.

As for the Pre-Raphaelites, their stylistic vocabulary is exemplified in Study for Saint Joachim, by Rossetti, and with Lorenzo and Isabella, a watercolour by John Everett Millais (1829-1896).

Like Blake and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, Millais was inspired by an Italian work of medieval literature: the famous novella of Lisabetta da Messina, in which Boccaccio told the tragic story of two poor lovers (Decameron, day 4, story 5). Although the artist sought ‘an almost philological reconstruction’13, he succeeded in his attempt to return the psychology to his characters. These latter are plunged into ‘a suspended and dreamy atmosphere’14, which goes beyond the historical setting of the event.

Incidentally, the same judgement could be applied to an artist of almost the same age as Millais: John Gilbert (1817-1897). The exhibition houses one of his works: an extended watercolour painting entitled The Enchanted Forest. He was a prolific illustrator of the classics of English literature – from W. Shakespeare to W. Scott – and took part in the revivalist effort of the Pre-Raphaelites. He was an original interpreter of chivalric romance and its rich iconographic history, creating pages of visionary evocations. And so, in the dark and mysterious atmosphere of the forest, the light explodes in ‘a swarm of elves, cupids and winged figures’,15 who surround the two knights. It’s easy to guess that they represent ‘the theme of good and evil [...]: the silver knight abandons the right path [...], advancing into the thick of the forest where, as if bubbling forth, demonic figures and goblins come forward’.16

Returning to Rosetti, his watercolour is part of a series of sketches for the final version of The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1848-49). Since this is one of his first large paintings, it represents a kind of anticipatory “manifesto” of the whole movement. This “manifesto” would set out their aims and clarify their thematic choices.

The religious subject, as part of a more general project of Christian rebirth and medieval revivalism, is set in opposition against the secularization and materialism of their time. This period was sadly marked by spiritual impoverishment, immorality, a disparate social climate and the degradation of men and the products of their work.

John Ruskin sought respite from that deplorable condition by arguing against the industrialisation of society. He offered an alternative ethical and aesthetic model in line with the “cathedrals civilization” and, more pragmatically, the medieval workshop. From here comes the emulation of the so-called “Primitives” – mainly Italian artists – who lived and worked “before” Raphael and were not accustomed to classical formalism. A formalism that, by favouring the search for Beauty, would sacrifice the Truth.

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones - St Dorothy
Figure 2: Sir Edward Coley Burne- Jones, Bt., A.R.A., R.W.S. (1833-1898)
St Dorothy
Signed and inscribed 'EBJ to RH' (lower left) and 'Sa Dorothea' (upper right), and further inscribed 'Saint Dorothy given to Rosalind Howard by E.B. Jones' (on an old label on the reverse); Pencil,black and redc halk, watercolour and body colour with gum arabic, heightened with gold. 311⁄2 x 151⁄2 in. (80 x 39.4 cm.)

It is for this reason that some modern art historians – particularly Italian scholars – have judged them so severely. According to them, the Pre- Raphaelites, by projecting themselves in the past, struggled to find ‘the new form able to express the new sensibility and ideals: what was essential to put oneself on the same level as the medieval masters’.17

However, it must be said that the English did not support initially them either, at least not until Ruskin defended them.18

We believe this judgment ought to be reconsidered. Even though their “visions” were idealistic and utopian, they underlined the connection between art and reality. They stressed it by examining the present and, ultimately, restoring certain forms of contemporary life, including the use of materials and everyday objects.

Since the mid-1950’s, Rossetti started collaborating closely with Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. This partnership would become a theoretical and practical basis for the Arts and Crafts foundation, a movement that would generate radical reform for the first time in the field of applied arts and industrial design.

Two works by Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898) are on display, which were developed from the stained-glass cartoons for the All Saints Church, Cambridge: St.Dorothy (Fig. 2)and St.Agnes (c.1866). The two imposing, hieratic figures translate the concept of “constant art”, developed by Ruskin, into both concrete and symbolic images. Ruskin entrusted the visual formalization of this concept to Burne-Jones, his protected artist. This is because Burne-Jones, during the improvement of his artistic experience, ‘shows an ever-decreasing attention to the nature’s observation and a tendency to deep introspection and intimism’,19 together with the wealth of specifically decorative elements.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these works is, above all, their close relationship with the stained-glass window. By its very nature permeable to light, Gothic glass has the same dematerializing and transfiguring function as early Christian mosaic. In both cases, the artistic artefact acquires an “anagogical” value of elevation and reunion with the divine essence, a pure, luminous epiphany.

The artists from the lost “Age of the Masters” also worked in the wake of this symbolist tradition of the light. According to Ruskin, during that age, they wanted ‘only to make everything dainty, delightful and perfect’.20 The Pre-Raphaelites thought that this refined and perfectly decorated path would also lead to the revival of artistic craftsmanship. After a few years, the style of this craftsmanship would develop into Art Nouveau, the first authentically modern style of the 19th century.

Before talking about the 20th century and the artists selected to represent a somehow “visionary” outlook, we should turn our attention to John Constable (1776-1837). Generally, one would think about him as a sort of anti-Turner, or the Turner we see in his mature, “golden visions”, painted – according to Constable – with “coloured steam”. In front of his alpine scenes and his extended marine landscapes, with their powerful and unstable weather conditions, we are fascinated by terror, an essential element of the “sublime” in nature; his depiction of nature reflects an unremitting primordial chaos, constantly energetic and unceasing.

In Constable, on the other hand, chaos seems to have calmed down and, at last, seems to have been harnessed in men’s labour.

Therefore, his nature shows elevated gothic cathedrals, cottages and windmills which are small dots in the English rural landscapes. Above all, he portrays Suffolk, his place of birth, with broadleaf forests and grazing animals, waterways and canals which cut the cultivated fields of the humble farmers with their hay wagons. In his works there is no feeling of panic and upheaval: there are bright, placid views in which a “visionary” appeal seems completely absent. However, there is an aspect that goes beyond the sensory experience of nature and the present: the concept of memory and affectivity. By interacting with the empirical and visible data, they convert pure sensuality into sensibility, if not over-sensibility.

In short, even Constable ends up “seeing” – like any other visionary – with a sort of internally upside down “third eye”. Thus, the painting, illuminated with an explosive energy, becomes a mirror and a projection screen, not so much of the external reality, but of its own soul and its own intimate feeling. A perfect example is the marvellous Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows of the Guildhall Art Gallery. It is a preparatory study for the final version, now at Tate Britain. The painting, with its grey sky above the cathedral, ‘ [...] may also be regarded as an expression of the anxieties and emotional turmoil, precisely in those years, which gripped the painter’s thoughts’.21

Due to the “spot” technique and the romantic element of his paintings, an artist like Geoffrey Fletcher (1923-2004) can be compared to Constable, even though he does not belong to the same generation. His watercolour painting, Ruin in Norfolk, shows an ancient crumbling church, submerged in the pale moonlight and besieged by a bushy mass of dark and fair trees. Therefore, the initial “picturesque” view becomes a vision poetically absorbed by the feeling of “sublime”. This suggests that romantic and “visionary” poetics outlived the 19th century and remained active even during the 20th century, re-emerging just like the waters of a karst river, buried under layers of hard and dry rock, only to resurface with all its natural freshness and purity.

This seems an appropriate point, amidst such metaphorical imagery, to introduce the artists of the “Mezzanine”, the second and final part of the exhibition. It begins with another John, John Latham (1921-2006), who was almost the same age as Fletcher. However, contrary to Fletcher, he develops a radically innovative and conceptual art style. He is the one who invigorated London’s underground scene during the legendary “sixties”.

John Latham - NO IT
Figure 3: John Latham (1921–2006)
NO IT, 1967
76 x 50.5 cm Screen print on metallic foil. Copyright the Estate of the Artist. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.

Throughout his career he was a versatile and multifaceted artist, experimenting with a plurality of unconventional artistic means and languages – from experience to performance, to installation – or recoded the traditional ones. This is demonstrated, for example, by NO IT (Fig. 3) (1967), a screen printing on metal foil. As for technical innovation, it is therefore a remarkable work. However, the gap between the work as an object and the work as a concept – or “idea” – is more significant,22 and something that requires analysis and reflection on an aesthetic, philosophical and ethical level. Latham asks himself about the connection between truth and falsehood by considering questions of freedom, equality and racial discrimination. In the socio-political debate of the period, they were burning topics; it was difficult to give an ‘appropriate visual style’23 to that age.

John Latham - Glass/Book Sculpture
Figure 4: John Latham (1921–2006)
Glass/Book Sculpture, 1990
20.5 x 42.5 cm Glass fragment with cut and painted book Copyright the Estate of the Artist. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery.

Anyway, he achieves an effective synthesis that goes straight to the heart of the matter. Compared to the first and fundamental one, Latham is aware that the risk is that the “true” ends up upsetting and turning into “false”.24 This risk is also due to the hasty processes of the media and of social standardization. Hence, the inscription “TRUE FALSE TRUE FALSE” rushes and continues to appear in the lower register of the foil, the bottom of which shows the concise motto “black is the same as white”. As if it reiterated that, beyond any cultural dialectic and any philosophical relativism, the principle of human equality is not negotiable and must remain an ontologically fundamental point.

In an age in which men perilously are ready to fall in the abyss, it will be a guiding light that will continue to steer humanity. This is what the mysterious, dark silhouette - which appears from the upper register - seems to tell us. This silhouette is surrounded by an intense light, as it were a holy vision. Moreover, the spiritual connotation is reinforced by blue colour, associated with sacredness and spirituality. One need only think about the mosaic vestments of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, in Ravenna, a Byzantine place of worship at the time, or about the starry sky of Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel, in medieval Padua, or perhaps too the The Last Judgement, in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. However, even when western culture is secularised, the blue colour expresses the same meaning.25 Therefore, we are convinced that Blake would have approved, since Latham has much in common with him.26 One of these common aspects is precisely the “dialectic of light”, which is “maieutical”, but does not easily reveal the truth, either through the combination of elementary, rhythmic background paintings with achromatic backgrounds27 or through the transparency of a glassy material or even the authentic and revealing meaning of poetry and books, especially if they are sacred.

For this reason, the mediums of glass, text and books are the leitmotif of Latham’s most mature research. From the Skoob Towers (1964-68) – the “towers of books” which were burned in public places – to the God is Great series (1990-2005),28 to the two Glass/Book Sculptures (Fig. 4) (1990 and 1994), which are sampled in this exhibition. Technically, they are an assemblage of glass fragments and books, which have been conveniently cut and glued so that they seem to be expelled from the glass itself.

Glass encompasses Latham’s thoughts about time and the cosmos, whose basic components should not be material and tangible, but immaterial. In this case, “event points” – or, in his own words, “least events”29 – in the space-time continuum. According to the artist, its inside also shows the evolution of man with the book-writing that made them become a part of history. Incidentally, it seems possible to perceive a premonitory echo of a very recent scientific theory. According to this theory, there is another universe, parallel to the real one and made of antimatter. In this cosmos, time flows backwards and finally it ends in an infinitesimal flash of energy.30

Grayson Perry - At Woodbury Park
Figure 5: Grayson Perry (1960-)
At Woodbury Park
30 x 20.5 cm. Watercolour, Ink and Collage. Private Collection.

By contrast, a micro-history is the subject of At Woodbury Park (Fig. 5) (2011), a watercolour painting and collage by Grayson Perry (b. 1960). Its small images, huddled around the elderly female character, illustrate – with a good dose of humour and irony – a typically bourgeois scene, with respective tastes and clichés. These are things the author is well attuned to; he also deals with applied arts – ceramics, tapestries, fashion – and social phenomena.

The study of the connection between writing and history – and of history’s clichés – plays a central role in the scientific and artistic research of the “Age of Future” team. The personalities who represent this team – Passeri, the leader Pecchioli and Trenti, who passed away not long ago – ideally link the final sequence of the exhibition with the opening one. Since they are all Italian and supporters – for various and documented reasons – of an unconventional and actualizing interpretation of the Middle Ages,31 they agree with Blake, Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites and their revivalist instances. Even though they do not oppose machines, technology and progress, they believe that a path to the future could be catastrophic if we do not restore vitality and value to structures of thought, memories, and “visions of the world” that now seem relegated in the distant past – such as the spiritualist or the humanist vision.

Thus, Time Capsule – by Massimo Trenti (1959-2018) – can also be read as ‘a semantic junction between the remote past and our scientific and technological future’.32 However, this suitcase box, which looks like a reliquary and contains incomplete formulas and photos of Einstein, Feynman, and atomic and nano-technologies, also pays tribute to Latham. It especially pays homage to his works and theories on the impossibility to “encapsulate” space-time in the formulations of the most orthodox physics.

The work by Marcello Pecchioli (b.1954) can still be placed on the edge of the scientific “heresy” and the dyschronic/dystopian paradoxes: another reliquary, which, this time, comes from a hypothetical post-apocalyptic retro-future. It contains the Alien Priest icon on a small lead window pane, but it could even be the Pantocrator of a “new age” religion, which supposedly spread across the earth after a devastating atomic catastrophe.33

Leonardo Passeri - Down to Earth
Figure 6: Leonardo Passeri (1982-)
Down to Earth - Homage to The Magic Flute, 2018
42 x 30 X 3.5 cm. Acrylic, shaped wood reliefs and enamel on panel.

Therefore, it is obvious to consider this work as the final shot of the long prophetic and visionary series that starts with the “bard” Blake and passes through the revival and underground movements. It reaches the present also in the form of that post-modern and/or cybergoth image that shows its adequate and updated version in the two unpublished panels by Leonardo Passeri (b. 1982): Down to Earth (Fig. 6) and Osservatory F, which date back to 2018. In the first one, the author pays homage to Mozart’s The Magic Flute and to the set design studio for one of his stagings. The studio was created in 1815 by K. F. Schinkel, a German architect. Apropos of the multiple esoteric meanings of the plot, based on the transition from the darkness of ignorance and superstition to the light of truth and wisdom, Passeri develops, once more, those themes which are familiar and dear to him. It is understood that they focus mostly on future visions which open post- apocalyptic and post-human scenarios. Nevertheless, they leave a gap open to escape the abyss, finally bringing us back to the rebirth of a new, more evolved and humanized world.

This possibility is announced and materialized in the second panel: Observatory F – F for Future. There emerges an anthropomorphic figure who carries the “great eye” of knowledge and divinity on their forehead (once more a suggestion from Blake). This new and at the same time very ancient creature can therefore perceive invisible and superior realities beyond the narrow, dark confines of the visible and conventional, including those indecipherable things still bound by the same limitations today.


NOTE ON CONTRIBUTOR

Livio Billo is a professor of literature with a specialisation in History of Contemporary Art, which he has been teaching at the University of Padua for the past ten years.

He has written extensively and edited publications and books on historical, scientific and cultural aspects of fashion.

FOOTNOTES

  1. E. Scott, Acknowledgments, in exh. cat. Visions and Visionaries: Visions and Imaginings in Blake, Burne-Jones, Allen Ginsberg, John Latham and other masters, The Burlington, London (The Guildhall Art Gallery) 2018, p. 5.
  2. Preface to exh. cat. Visions..., cit. (note 1), p. 10.
  3. G. C. Argan, L’arte moderna: Dall’illuminismo ai movimenti contemporanei, Florence 19882, p. 27 (our trans).
  4. See K. Marx, Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, trans. M. Mulligan, Moscow 1959. In the first manuscript, Marx explains the theory of “alienation” of wage-workers. The final consequence would be the “estrangement of man from man”; the worker would risk being turned into a “machine”, or worse, into something monstrous, animal-like.
  5. It is telling that William Blake, in London, a poem from Songs of Experience, became the spokesperson for “alienation”. The poem shows some of the most important aspects of Marxist criticism: urban decay, the hardness of work, militarism and prostitution.
  6. We believe that one of the reasons why Blake was interested in Milton’s work is represented by the original clash between divine Light and satanic Darkness, therefore between absolute Good and Evil.
  7. The feeling of “sublime” and the sense of “picturesque” are the two main poetic standards for Romanticism. The first was theorised by Edmund Burke (Philosophical Enquiry into the origin of our ideas of Beauty and Sublime, 1756). The second was created by Alexander Cozens (A new method of assisting the invention in drawing original composition in Landscape, 1785). The sense of “picturesque” tends to regulate the form and the precision of spatial relations in the inaccurate and changing perception of phenomena and natural environments. By constrast, the feeling of “sublime” underlines their great and mysterious aspect that instils in the soul a “delightful horror”. This latter can also kidnap and raise someone to the vision of what is infinite and supernatural.
  8. The Writings of William Blake (by G. Keines), Oxford University Press 1966, vol. III, p. 108.
  9. In his last years of life, Blake made 102 drawings and illustrations taken from Dante’s poem, ranging from dark images of suffering in Hell to light-filled visions of Paradise. Among the most recent and documented publications of this work, it is worth mentioning: S. De Sanctis, Blake & Dante: A study of William Blake’s Illustrations of “The Divine Comedy”, Rome 2017. A propos of Rossetti, many of his masterpieces are figurative translations of the Divine Comedy or La Vita Nuova: from Paolo and Francesca (1855) to Dantis Amor (1959) and Beata Beatrix (1864), Tate Gallery, to First anniversary of Beatrice’s death (1853), Oxford, to Salutation of Beatrice (1880-82), Toledo.
  10. D. M. Reynolds, The Nineteenth Century, Cambridge University Press 1985; it. ed. L’Ottocento, Milan 1989, p. 103 (our trans.). See also C. Wood, The Pre-Raphaelites, London 1981 and T. Hilton, I Preraffaelliti, Milan 1981.
  11. Reynolds, op. cit. (note 10), p. 103 (our trans).
  12. G. Bell-Jones, John Latham, Jeff Nuttal and the 1960's British Underground, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit. (note 1), pp. 26-35.
  13. F. Gonzales, John Everett Millais: Lorenzo and Isabella, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit. (note1), p. 154.
  14. Ibid.
  15. F. Gonzales, Sir John Gilbert: The Enchanted Forest, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit. (note 1), p. 146.
  16. Ibid., p. 148.
  17. L. Venturi, Romanticismo e Medioevo, in Storia della critica d’arte, Turin 1964, p. 173. Giovanni Previtali, one of the most acute and authoritative scholars of “primitivism” (see La Fortuna dei Primitivi, Turin 1964), thinks that the Pre- Raphaelites «stand out for their cold, perfect realism, [...] total camouflage, scrupulous ad nauseam» (our trans.). See Primitivismo, in Arte 2/I (Encyclopedia Feltrinelli Fischer by G. Previtali), Milan 1971, p. 460.
  18. Against Household’s, Dickens’ and the Times’ fierce criticism, in 1851 he wrote Pre-Raphaelitism, a pamphlet, and some letters to the newspaper itself, the first of which was dated 13 March 1852.
  19. Reynolds, op. cit. (note 10), pp. 103-104.
  20. Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones: St Dorothy, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit. (note1), p. 127.
  21. Gonzales, John Constable: Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit. (note1), p. 140.
  22. In the same year, the American artist Sol Le Witt formulated the main principles of Conceptualism, including the first of them: “art as idea as idea”. See S. Le Witt, “Paragraphes on Conceptual Art”, in Artforum, V/10, Summer 1967.
  23. Farey, John Latham: NO IT, 1967, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit. (note 1), p. 166.
  24. «In a world that is really upside down, the true is a moment of the false». See G.-E. Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, trans. The Anarchist Library 2009 (anarchistlibrary.org), p. 11. It should be noted that Debord was co-founder of the “Situationist International”, a movement with which Latham also sympathized. See Bell-Jones, John Latham, Jeff Nuttal..., cit. (note 12), p. 30.
  25. Thus, for W. Kandinsky, leader and theorist of the modern abstract art, the blue colour «beckons man into the infinite, arousing a longing for purity and the supersensuous. [...] Blue is the typical heavenly colour». See Id, On the Spiritual in Art, trans. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York 1964, p. 64.
  26. See Farey, Divining reality: visions and imagining in Blake, Burne-Jones and Latham, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit., p. 54.
  27. See Untitled (1980), the painting shown in the exhibition. In our opinion, it reformulates, with its formal and technical essentiality, the abstract concept of Black Square on White Square (1915) by the “suprematist” Malevič.
  28. These works use copies of the three sacred books – the Bible, the Quran and the Talmud – on which the three great monotheist religions of the “revealed word” are based. However, they also confirm what the artist believes: all forms of religious education share the same origins in the human psyche, as a unitary category of the spirit.
  29. Latham thought that the basic unit of reality was the “least event” and not the sub-atomic particle. Therefore, the time and duration of everything can be measured under the terms of this “least event”, which is the shortest departure from a state of nothing. See Id, Event Structure, Calgary 1981 and Farey, II. Latham’s religion, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit. (notes 1, 26), pp. 49-55.
  30. The theory was proposed by a group of Canadian physicists, who came from the Perimeter Institute and were coordinated by Neil Turok. See L. Boyle, K. Finn and N. Turok, “CPT - Symmetric Universe”, in Phisical Review Letters, 121 - December 2018.
  31. In 2004, Marcello Pecchioli founded the “Age of Future” Association in Bologna, with the mission of studying and reading the Middle Ages in technological terms. Thus, the revivalist legacy of this period has bumped – as in Latham – into a conceptualist attitude that explores the possibilities of mediation among the most diverse artistic languages, traditional and not. These latter range from the iconic to aniconic ones, to multimedia ones, up to involve theater, dance, music, fashion and design. See the dedicated website: https://www.ageoffuture.com.
  32. Massimo Trenti: Time Capsule, in Visions and Visionaries, cat. cit. (note 1), p. 194.
  33. The author was inspired by the science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) by Walter M. Miller. It takes place in the third millennium AD and focuses on the figure of a monk (Leibowitz himself) and of the order he founded. They recover and preserve the fragments of that past scientific knowledge – ours – which caused the catastrophe, as it was misused. Just like in the Middle Ages, it is up to them to transmit the “word”, waiting for better scientists to act for the good of humanity again. See M. Pecchioli, Towards Techno Medioevo, in Id, exh. cat. TechnoMedioevo. Age of Future Reloaded, London (Museum of the Order of St John) 2018, pp. 32-33.