God Meets Moses on the Way to Egypt by David C. Hancock

David C. Hancock

God Meets Moses on the Way to Egypt, 2003, Watercolour on paper, N/A, © David C. Hancock, Image courtesy of the artist

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Divine Otherness, Human Wonder

Commentary by

David C. Hancock’s abstract depiction of the deity in this painting offers a jarring reminder of the absolute ‘otherness’ of God, whose nature and purposes are utterly inscrutable to humans. Here, Moses’s attacker is no anthropomorphized divine figure, but a mystifying, threatening conglomeration of geometric forms.

Dividing the canvas into two registers, the artist emphasizes God’s sublimity through contrast: the bright, colourful, sharp features of the divine assailant in the upper half of the painting are thrown into sharp relief against the dark, soft, cave-like character of the lower ‘human’ register. The piecemeal mass of angular shapes that represents God perhaps most closely resemble broken shards of glass; on one level, these sharp splinters remind the viewer of the very real threat against Moses’s life. On another level, however, these fragments also suggest that our human grasp of God is always finally ‘fragmentary’. The best we can hope to do in our quest to understand the ways of God is to assemble, shard-by-shard, what God has disclosed of God’s self through revelation. Thus, Moses’s expression captures, not only the terror, but also the wonder befitting a man faced with the terrible wrath of God: his eyes are startled wide open to behold God’s strange and terrifying revelation of God’s self.