Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Egyptian Book of the Dead Exhibition

Just been out to see the exhibition of the Egyptian Book of the Dead at the British Museum before it closes in a few days time.

Really busy in the exhibition, slowly queuing to look at the work in the first few rooms, rather tired when I got to the final room, which was a shame because there were not many people there.

It was a moving and intense experience, I am always cagey about exhibitions involving spiritual practise and human burials. I think that remains like mummies should not be on display and returned to their homeland. There was one such mummified body as part of the exhibition, but the main features were the texts of the Egyptian rituals surrounding death.

Some beautifully illustrated texts that took my breath away, something about the power of such painting as part of a ritual and religious context that lead the work to have a power of communication. Visitors there were really paying attention to the texts and reading all the notes and small bits of translation.

Going through the rooms, the images started to add up, the patterns of the symbols repeated. I made quick sketches of some of the birds as I went round.

I started to have more of a sense of the connection between these Egyptian rituals and Buddhist rituals and even thought about the surviving Christian rituals of confession and the Last Rites, but generally here we have lost the rituals surrounding death. Glad I did make the exhibition though, I can see some of the symbols becoming part of my work.

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