THE RELIEF OF THE ARK

The Ark is depicted here as a City of God on the sea – a large, square raft with wide buoyancy compartment on the four sides. Each corner of the ship has a mooring bollard. The sides of the ark slope up to a circular well in the centre around which are cabins for the crew and stalls for the animals, each with a pivoting ventilator to keep the air fresh in the overcrowded conditions below decks. Here the vents face onshore in the breeze that is bringing the Ark to land.

Two silos for storing animal feed are in the centre of the boat, next to a loading derrick for handling cargo and loading heavy animals (elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, giraffe). The International Code Flag Q (‘I require customs clearance’) flies from the masthead as the Ark approaches land after its forty-day voyage over the flood plains of Mesopotamia. Two of Noah’s sons are working the long sweep, manoeuvring the Ark in the shallows while the remainder of the crew lean out to greet the returning dove. Leaves, wheat stems and flowers (dog-rose, ash, horse chestnut, sycamore and apple) wash aboard.

Overhead, moving from right to left, are the sun and moon with their calibrated tails, and the trails of the planets in their courses which have guided the Ark on its stormy voyage. Each planet is identified by its astronomical sign. The curling lines under the Ark are waves.

The linocut dates from the mid-1960s and was made to express the happiness which is felt at sunrise and at the approach of the Spring but it can commemorate other arrivals as well – reunions after long absences, a recovery of health and sanity, the rediscovery of a lost vision after periods of darkness and disorientation.

The text is a free translation of lines from the fifth-century office hymn, sung at the morning office of Lauds:

Ortus refulget Lucifer
Praeitque solem nuntius,
Cadunt tenebrae noctium;
Lux sancta nos illuminet.

Manensque nostris sensibus
Noctem repellat saeculi
Omnique fine temporis
Purgata servet pectora.

The morning star shines clear in the sky and announces the coming of the day. The darkness of night disappears. Do you, holy light, shine on us, dwell in out thoughts, drive out the night of sin and keep our hearts purified from all that would make the night return.

Linocut. Block size 520mm x 460mm (20ins x 18ins). Printed by John Grice at the Evergreen Press.

Price £155