The Love Reliquary II by Mark Sheeky

G868A The Love Reliquary II
Cabinet of wood, plaster, gold, with oil paintings
Feb 2014 to Feb 2017, 320x520x58 mm

Detail from The Love Reliquary II by Mark Sheeky Detail from The Love Reliquary II by Mark Sheeky Detail from The Love Reliquary II by Mark Sheeky Detail from The Love Reliquary II by Mark Sheeky

About this painting
The first Love Reliquary was Mark's first cabinet work, completed in early 2012 and a bold technical leap. After some years, and the subsequent improvement in skill, Mark decided to build a new Love Reliquary from scratch. The new cabinet housed the oil paintings from the first work, and was begun at the start of 2014. It took three years of gradual work to complete.

The cabinet is fundamentally wood, hand cut, and decorated with plaster and clay, painted and gilded with 23.5kt gold. The pure brass hinges are cut and etched, and there is an attention to detail on every aspect of the reliquary, from its concealed magnetic clips that hold the paintings in place, to the decorated oxidised plates on the base of English oak.

A reliquary is a casket for preserving holy relics. Here we have three paintings. On the left an angelic statue on an airless moon, cold alone. This is the male. On the right a fairytale tower with a hollow, heart-shaped window. This is the female. When closed we can see a jewel through the window, above an etched poem of longing.

In the central panel, the lovers entwine, like statues in a garden. Nature surrounds the couple, and they show signs of age, moss, the passing of time. The gemstones are zirconium and ruby on silver. Yet, the scene is muted, the bird upside down, the embraces imperfect in an imperfect love. Thus the cabinet is a memory, a memory of something that was perfect once but is no more, like a saintly relic.