John Philip Murray




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Narciss & Goldmund

Oil on cotton 102x76cm. 2007

Many of the novels of Hermann Hesse are built around psychological examinations of human nature, especially its contradictory elements. In "Steppenwolf" for example, he treats us to the examination of our wild side as expressed by the "wolf of the plains". I last re-read Narciss and Goldmund more than twenty years ago and time has blunted the specifics, but the central characters are the worldly Goldmund, who has his adventures, travels, romances out in the world, but periodically is compelled to return to his lifelong friend, Narciss for refreshment of his spirit. Narciss is a monk in a remote monastery whose life is one of severe asceticism. They are two sides of the one coin, opposites, yet conjoined. Hesse acknowledges our own contradictory nature. My painting treats the worldly Goldmund as a dark silhouette facing into a bright plain with a hill on the horizon, the sky is still bright, but evening approaches, so impending darkness bodes. Above, Narciss is depicted beneath the imposing shadow of a church building, in the gloom of pre-dawn, his monk's cowl shielding him from the chill air; he is in procession from night prayer with other cowled shapes. Though the sky is dark, there is the anticipation of daybreak. To the left of this panel is a much larger square of flat, deep green, below which sits a similarly-sized square of deep slatey blue/grey.