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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Shadow of Angels

In 2010, the Brazilian artist Kim Poor emerged from a period of creative hibernation as a result of reading The Glory of Angels by her friend and mentor, Edward Lucie-Smith.

Angels, such as her Watcher of the Skies, had featured in her work previously but the exquisite classical and contemporary illustrations of the power of angels in art found in The Glory of Angels catapulted Kim back to life again. She wrote that “these powerful bridges to the unknown have been present throughout mankind’s history to help us and guide us” while, in his book, Edward Lucie-Smith explored how angels guide us by protecting and warning us of danger, healing and comforting us, and urging us to follow God′s path.

It is, therefore, appropriate that Edward has curated Kim’s current exhibition at St Stephen Walbrook, the church where I am Priest-in-charge, as the exhibition entitled The Shadow of Angels focuses exclusively on Kim’s angel paintings.

Kim Poor’s art consistently plays with veils of light and colour to evoke mystical atmospheres. This is particularly so with her diaphanist paintings which use ground glass on steel that is fired countless times until the delicate layers of opaque and transparent glass achieve depth and colour. Salvador Dali thought that to look at these paintings was as if to 'look through coloured gauze', which inspired him to coin the term 'Diaphanism' for her style.

The veiled distortions of poetic dreamscapes that she creates are perfectly suited to the depiction of angels; creatures which may or may not be there, the subjects of belief rather than of sight. Among them we find The Angel of The Hour, where time is vanishing from the clock which the angel holds. Is this an indication that the angel wishes to draw us into the timelessness of eternity or is it an indication of the speed with which we feel our days go by? These ambiguous angels represent our need for reassurance, an illusion or reality in a very unstable world, a manifestation of life and death or the true bridge to the Divine. The Good Samaritan, however, shows us unambiguously that the face of compassion is angelic.

The range of different angels depicted – the Angel of the Stigmata, The Healer, The Messenger - explores the universality of angelic mythology; iconography which is a unifying force throughout time and a connection in all religions and cultures. At the same time, these are also very English angels, whimsical and magical, drawing on the Victorian influences in Kim’s work; the Pre-Raphaelites, Ruskin, Richard Dadd and Lewis Carroll.

While there is much in these paintings that seems to depict a beautiful otherness – one of flowing curves and circling flourishes – there is nevertheless also an engagement with the shattered, splintered experiences of tragedy. Rosa de Hiroshima is an image of resilience drawn from reflection on Vinicius de Moraespoem of the same name. Here the angel representing the Rose of Hiroshima stands with an indomitable spirit. Themes of healing and guidance abound implying a world in need of both, while Indomitable finds similar strength in adversity to that of Rosa de Hiroshima in an image of a horse’s head.

Tragedy is sensed again in the installation by Sacha Molyneux and Kim Poor which greets visitors at the entrance to this exhibition. Human misunderstandings and envy lead to the Flight of Cupid from Psyche causing her to wander the earth in search of her lost love. Ultimately, as Edward Lucie-Smith notes in The Glory of Angels, angels, and these images, challenge us with ‘a degree of perfection’ that our human nature, ‘chained to the material sphere, can never fully attain.’

The Shadow of Angels, St Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN, until 29 October, weekdays 10.00am – 4.00pm (Weds, 11.00am – 3.00pm). 

The exhibition has featured as a news item on Brazil’s Globo TV -

Edward Lucie-Smith's talk can be heard at


Katya DJ - Speak The Truth.

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