Saint Louis University

An exhibition of fifteen years of work by distinguished Australian abstract artist Ian Friend

Ian Friend: The Edge of Belief

Ian Friend: The Edge of Belief

paintings, sculpture, and works on paper, 1980 - 1994

May 19  - July 2, 1995
     free public opening reception for the artist
     Friday, May 19, 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
"The Edge of Belief"
a lecture by artist Ian Friend

     Saturday, May 20, 1995  6:00 p.m.
       free and open to the public
       for more information click here
In conjunction with The Edge of Belief, twelve works on paper from the series Tondo: Terragni will be exhibited at Austral Gallery, St. Louis, from May 21 - June 21, 1995.

The Edge of Belief is presented in conjunction with Festival Australia 1995 and is made possible by the Embassy of Australia, Washington, D.C.; the Australian American Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis; and Austral Gallery, St. Louis.

General Exhibition Information
Hours: Tues - Sun, 11 am - 4 pm
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Group visit information

The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) is honored to present the first American retrospective of Australian artist Ian Friend. Common concerns thread their way through the diverse works in the exhibition: a sense of awe for landscape; an appreciation for ritualistic and protective instruments (e.g., the spears from New Guinea, the Soul Catchers of Africa, and the shields of Aboriginal Australia); and a thoughtful dialogue betrween the desire to structure and order reality, and the awareness that reality's most profound moments elude this instinct to limit. This appreciation of mystery is expressed in all of Friend's work. The paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and collages all possess a contemplative spirit and seem very much at home in MOCRA's unique environment..

Ian Friend: The Edge of Belief

Ian Friend: The Edge of Belief. Installation at MOCRA, 1995 .

Five striking works occupy MOCRA's spacious central nave gallery. Collectively titled The Protestant Affliction, they are based on Hans Holbein the Younger's well-known painting The Dead Christ in the Tomb. Robyn Daw, Lecturer in Art History/Theory at the University of Tasmanaia at Launceston, Australia, wrote in 1994 about these works:

When Hans Holbein the Younger painted the Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb in 1522, a time of wars and plague, Renaissance canons of beauty held that the Son of God be portrayed as an ennobled, beatific vision of martyrdom, of one who had overcome mortal suffering and torments.

In using a corpse dragged from the river as a model, Holbein's life-size unadorned Christ shows a martyr emaciated and tortured by the events of the Crucifixion, harrowing in its representation of death, mortal and irredeemable. Confronted with this representation of Christ's human death, faith in any resurrection was thrown into doubt: could Christ ever rise again? Dostoyevsky wrote of Holbein's image centuries later in The Idiot: "That picture . . .  that picture! Why, some people may lose their faith looking at that picture!"

That picture was the impetus for Ian Friend's series of five abstract paintings which take as their physical basis the structure and scale of Holbein's painting; the title The Protestant Affliction is drawn from Julia Kristeva's essay on Holbein, "The Dead Christ in the Tomb." Friend imposes a contemporary iconoclasm which refers both to the Reformation and to the "idolomachy" that caused Holbein to flee his own country, as images representing the faith were destroyed, and links this with Modernist de Stijl iconoclasms that also devoutly eschewed images of representation in favour of minimal abstraction. In the absence of direct representation of Christ, yet with an allusion to Holbein, Friend deals again with issues as pertinent today as in 1522.

About the artist
Born in England in 1951 and educated at the Birmingham College of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art, Ian Friend began a successful career in art that he merged with his work as Assistant Curator of Prints at the Tate Gallery in London. In 1985 he was offered a teaching position for one year at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia. When he arrived in Australia, he knew that he had found a new home. He recalls, "I think it was about two weeks after I arrived in Australia that I decided I wanted to stay." He is presently a Lecturer and Coordinator of Drawing at the School of Art, University of Tasmania at Launceston, Australia. In 1994, he became an Australian citizen.

Additional information

more about Ian Friend

Holbein the Younger's The Dead Christ in the Tomb (Kunstmuseum, Basel)

Julia Kristeva's website (in French)

Wikipedia article about Julia Kristeva

Ian Friend: The Edge of Belief in the media