Forgiveness – Michael Ryan

Forgiveness is a common theme in the religious art world.  We very often see paintings depicting a scene where a sinner prays for forgiveness in the eyes of god, or on their death bed.  Rembrandt painted about then return of the prodigal son and the father that forgave him unconditionally because he sort forgiveness. 

Michael Ryan sets apart his image of forgiveness, in his oil painting which was commissioned for Strange Horizons magazine.  Ryan’s work is rich and symbolic on many levels, giving a glimpse in to “the human condition, society and the world which surrounds him”.   

On first view of this painting, the viewer is presented to a grimy background, the focal point drawn to the naked women, a beam of light shines from the dirty sky, almost as a salvation.

The women herself appears to be opening her chest, she is naked and riding what could be mistaken as a tree, but in closer inspection is a fish, she is cushioned by dead bodies as the fish journeys through a dark river, which is the distance appears to turn fiery.  She is framed by a bone on the left hand side, almost as a reminder of her fate.  On the right hand side a lost soul lurks in the lower corner, as the light cuts through a scene reminiscent of grave yard with mausoleums, dark whispy spirits penetrate the view.

The beam of light is the pinnical of this painting, giving the audience hope from the dower setting.  The light grazes the girls face and bathes her chest in a yellow hue as she opens her chest and bares her soul.  Her face is downcast and unassuming and her naked body shows an openness as she is unabashed by it.  While the women is fairly innocent in the work, she gives highly erotic undertones with her sexual prowess visible. The shape of the tear in her chest symbolic and possibly an allegory for love and lust which is entwined.  The viewer does however get a feeling of purity from the women, as, where her skin is peeled back we are shown a white glow, symbolising purity.

There is another portal of light above the women’s head, and while I don’t know the artists reasoning for this, to me this is her request for forgiveness being answered and she is about to receive atonement.

Ryan gives so much in his work to look at which in first glance can be overlooked.  His bold style mixed with the subtleness of  the subject matter creates an otherworldly feel.

You can see more of Ryan’s work here.

Why not let me know what feelings this evoked in you in the comments?   


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