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Reform Magazine | September 26, 2020

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Art in focus: November 2019

Art in focus: November 2019

Kevin and the Blackbird
Clive Hicks-Jenkins, screen print

Let me introduce you to Kevin. His Irish name is Caoimhín (or possibly Cóemgen) and he was the founder and first abbot of the monastic settlement in Glendalough, County Wicklow, in the sixth century. Little is known of him save for the story depicted here. Kevin lived the life of a hermit, his only companions the animals and birds. His cell was so small that when he prayed, his arms stuck out of the window. One day, a blackbird landed on his arm and started to build a nest in his upturned palm. Kevin continued to pray while she laid her eggs and they hatched into chicks. Not till the baby birds had flown away did Kevin lower his arm.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ Kevin has a more contemporary look. In this print, produced in collaboration with Penfold Press, Kevin and the blackbird are concentrating on each other – almost having a conversation. A glow illuminates the eggs and flowers in the space between them. Kevin is willing to give his whole concentration to the creature that entrusted him with her life and family. The story speaks of love and care for the natural world. But the poet Seamus Heaney takes it to a deeper level (see bit.ly/SHkevin). In his remarkable poem, based on the story, Heaney describes Kevin’s outstretched arm as ‘stiff / As a crossbeam’.

Art in focus is curated by Meryl Doney

Image: ©Clive Hicks-Jenkins

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This article was published in the November 2019 edition of Reform

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