Time Unbound is the title of my Master of Arts (Honours) thesis which I completed a short while ago. I am in the process of deciding how I will proceed with the publishing of the work. In total it is over 60,000 words long and discusses and explores the representation of eternity throughout the ages in art.
Winter Landscape with Church
The above image Winter Landscape with Church by Caspar David Friedrich (1811) is one of over 100 art works discussed throughout the thesis.
This work shoes a tiny figure leaning against a rock, his crutches left in the snow suggesting he is done with traversing the endless countryside – that it has gotten the better of him. Yet there is still hope. The rock may be seen as a place of rest, and the meticulously depicted pine trees mirror the outline of the true place of respite not far away, the church. Like many of Friedrich’s paintings, there is an inner silence and tranquillity which invite the viewer to experience the peace the figure may be feeling. The grey mist may conceal much of the landscape but it has the effect of rendering it endless, its power and vastness not only insurmountable, but also mysterious and unfathomable. Behind the church a faint glow of red could be either sunrise (a sign that salvation is never far away) or sunset (a warning to the pilgrim to not tarry for too long before the night comes).
Eternity is a place of rest here. The mist signifies its mystery and also its endlessness. It also suggests that eternity is not of this material world, but rather a different place where the spirits of both God and man co-habit.
Winter Landscape is a painting of hope and sanctuary.
In contrast, the image below is a modern work by Australian artist Louise Hearman called Untitled 835 (2000).
The quiet nightmarish world depicted in this oil painting employs dramatic contrasts and an eerie misty lighting to evoke a world of dark mystery which could be interpreted as a form of Hell.
Here a boy looks out at the viewer from behind a wall of flame like grass. Hearman’s light sometimes seems to come from within the depicted subjects themselves giving an otherworldly quality to the subjects and a dream-like aura to the works. The children in her paintings are not quite children.
The grass allude to the flames of Hell, while the boy’s otherworldly inner light suggests a soulless figure, a ghost of a person.
This is not the blatant hellish horror of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings or the violent, gory images of a modern film depicting Hell come to Earth. It is a more familiar Hell – otherworldly, but somehow near – almost under our skin.
Time Unbound also discusses the different approaches to deciphering the topic of eternity – secular, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, scientific, new age and personal. I will periodically post some of the more interesting parts of my thesis in the coming months and if anyone has any enquiries about Time Unbound then I would be more than happy to answer any of those questions.