"[The Angels] are intended to represent an idea of hope - that we will live through these times and that there is continuity to the patterns of our lives and, all being well, still good times ahead.” – Anne Desmet.
The angels were rather an intuitive response to the Covid-19 lockdown. Anne had taken the photographs that were her source material back in 2014 in the 'Sensing Spaces' architecture exhibition at the Royal Academy. One exhibit was a tower structure that you could climb until you were eye to eye with these angels, high up on the walls, which she’d never even noticed were there until then. Anne took the photos with no particular aim in mind but, during Lockdown, she suddenly found herself thinking about the original plaster angels in that Gallery which would be quietly and perpetually ‘guarding’ the space, even with nobody in it, while the RA too was locked down. “Additionally, my wonderful mother died in March so I think I also made them in memory of and in tribute to her. They are an unexpected subject for me but, though I’m not religious, they are intended to represent an idea of hope - that we will live through these times and that there is continuity to the patterns of our lives and, all being well, still good times ahead.” – Anne Desmet.
The angel with the face mask is the most obvious reference to this specific moment in time and is the most divergent of the six from the original source material. She holds a Turkish-style paper lantern as a direct reference to Florence Nightingale - the first nurse described as a “Guardian Angel” - the bicentenary of whose birth also happens to be this year. “I hope that viewers will find something contemplative, calming, reassuring and uplifting in these angels - akin to the experience I have had when viewing early Renaissance frescoes by Giotto, Fra Angelico and others.” – Anne Desmet.
When Anne makes a wood engraving or a collage, her aim is to draw a viewer into an (often miniature) world that may represent an aspect of the real world - London, Italy or Greece perhaps, depending on where her travels and her sketching have taken her. But it may equally well represent an imagined space, an alternative reality, a suggestion of a timeless or out-of-time place or space that might hint at our memories of places we’ve been and experiences we’ve had, or it might suggest a future place with some fantastical tower, perhaps, that has never yet existed. Towers in themselves seem to suggest ideas of possibility, of aspiration, ambition, imagination but also the danger of hubris. It feels important to Anne that there should be intense detail and light and shade in her
images so that they feel as intensely ‘real’ as possible and so that the viewer can be drawn into the world of the image - even on the tiniest scale - just as one is drawn into the luminous jewel-like world of the “Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441) in London’s National Gallery, one of the most wonderful and constantly inspiring paintings ever made.