This month the Archivist has chosen to highlight My Thoughts, My Dreams, My Fears, painted by Allan Beveridge as a sequel to an earlier work entitled Me, Myself, I in order to depict the consequences of what the artist calls “the rush for profits and pleasures that seem to characterise humanity”.
The exclamations at the foot of the picture are clear enough pointers – as if any were needed – to the Creation and Fall narrative of the Book of Genesis, a rich and enduring source for artistic reflection. The current fashion is for this narrative in particular (containing as it does the concept of human ‘dominion’ over the land) and Christian tradition in general to be blamed for laying the foundations for human degradation of the earth. However, recent scholarship suggests more plausibly, and less comfortably, that it is the technological project of Western modernity rather than the religious worldview of pre-modernity that has brought us within sight of environmental catastrophe (see Richard Bauckham’s God and the Crisis of Freedom, 2002 and Bible and Ecology, 2010); and such appears to be Beveridge’s reading.
While My Thoughts, My Dreams, My Fears contains some visual references which are autobiographical, as a sequel to Me, Myself, I it illustrates a clear shift in preoccupation outward from the life of the mind of the artist to a (dystopian) vision of a shared future. Both perspectives have a necessary place in human subjectivity – in this respect these two paintings form a ready pair – and who can say which is the more pressing?