The portrayal of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian has been a continual fascination. This show was an attempt to move forward from the hackneyed and formulaic images of the past.The Oxford Dictionary of Saints catalogues his life by
“Sebastian was a soldier who enlisted c.283 at Rome, strengthened the confessors mark and marcellian in prison, and was created a captain of the Pretorian Guards by Diocletian, who did not know he was a Christian. After Sebastian had sustained other martyrs, Diocletian reproached him with ingratitude and ordered him to be shot to death with arrows. Sebastian recovered, confronted the emperor for his cruelty, and was beaten to death with clubs”.
Early depictions showed him as an elderly man holding a crown. However, the later and more familiar Renaissance images depict a young man pierced with arrows. One of the best illustrations of this is by Guido Reni, which Oscar Wilde cited as one of his favourite paintings.The most influential painting on this body of work comes from “The Body of St. Sebastian thrown into the Cloaca Massima” by Ludovico Carracci with its depiction of the beaten corpse being thrown into the sewer.
The body was supposedly recovered by a Christian matron, Eurina, from one of drains – the Euripus Agrippae Channel – and buried it in the Catacombs.The contrast between the familiar portrayal of Sebastian as a near naked and beautiful young man in the throws of agony, and this image of a pale, pathetic corpse being treated with contempt by the Roman soldiers, proved intriguing.For this reason, the majority of this Show deals with depictions of the fall and descent through water of a modern Sebastian.
The visual references are concerned with fashion photography and contemporary renderings of male beauty rather than a Renaissance aesthetic. The use of photography and digital based media has extended a continuing enjoyment of textile printing to encompass digital printing.The ceramic vessels, with the obvious connotations of Egyptian canopic jars, are shown juxtaposed with drawings of various male figures. These are all “Irishmen”. Whether they are native to Ireland and living abroad, nationalised citizens or residents of this country.
The work attempts to begin to investigate the portrayal of male beauty in contemporary culture. Models range in age from fifty somethings to twenty somethings.The title of the Show is an indication that the strands or themes of the exhibition can be viewed as supplementary materials to future work.