Decadent Martyrdom


Pencil and Charcoal on paper 125 cm X 150 cm

It’s hard to tell when a drawing is finished, or if I have just come to a halt.
Is it finished? I can’t be 100% sure, but it felt like the right time to stop.
I had been to and fro working on this piece since October 2021 and had to stop for a couple of months due to having Covid.
It’s the first time I had made a large piece for several years and a long time since I worked at this scale in charcoal.
The piece was formed after the small series of pen drawings I began making during lockdown and while it made a more obvious return to anatomy and the body, it was far more ambiguous than previous work. The inspiration was not just from the Surrealist and Symbolist movements that came to haunt me during the pandemic. The work directly referenced the painting The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by Jusepe de Ribera in 1618. I saw this painting at the Ribera: Art of Violence exhibition in Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2018 and it was clear he must have observed human dissections. The abundance of flesh seemed to make sense as part of the martyrdom.
The drawing paid homage to many anatomical drawing references and images from dissections.
After a gap of a couple of months I returned to complete the work in a few weeks, inspired by the music, literature and art from the Decadent era.