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Howson is not just Christocentric in subject matter; his AD compositions are literally Christ-centered. In darkly dystopian, pre-conversion paintings like Death of Innocence (1989) and Age of Apathy (1992) Howson serves up featureless victims, trussed and hoisted on whipping posts, to militaristic mobs baying for blood. When the artist gave the face of Christ to these anonymous scapegoats, he found a theological focus for his preoccupation with violence and a visual pivot on which his multi-figured compositions could turn. You can see this dynamic at work in Outcast and in the pencil-on-gessoed-panel drawing Imposter (2005), where his usual assortment of knobby-headed, protruding-lipped Neanderthal figures is grouped around Jesus [see Plate 4]. Christ has become the focus of their skepticism, scorn, fear, indifference, and rage. His long-suffering face completes a tight compositional circle, becoming a fixed point of love in a vortex of hate.

PETER HOWSON (SCOTTISH B.1958) BEFORE THE FIGHT 46cm x 30.5cm (18in x12in) - Sale 431 - Lot 67 Lyon & Turnbull

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And I, by his authority, by that of his blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, and of the most holy pope granted and committed to me in these parts, do absolve thee, first, from all ecclesiastical censures, in whatever manner they have been incurred; and then from all thy sins, transgressions, and excesses, how enormous soever they may be, even from such as are reserved for the cognizance of the Holy See; and as far as the keys of the holy church extend, I remit to thee all punishment which thou deservest in purgatory on their account; and I restore thee to the holy sacraments of the church, to the unity of the faithful, and to that innocence and purity which thou possessest at baptism; so that when thou diest, the gates of punishment shall be shut, and the gates of the paradise of delight shall be opened; and if thou shalt not die at present, this grace shall remain in full force when thou art at the point of death.

SECT; PETER HOWSON (SCOTTISH B.1958) FIGURE 29CM X 21CM (11.5IN X 8.25IN) - SALE 458 - LOT 46 - LYON & TURNBULL

The artist has never been attracted to what he calls “lifeless photorealism.” He believes figurative art is energized through exaggeration. He transforms the hooligans, whores, punch-drunk prize fighters, and homeless “dossers” he encountered on the mean streets of the Gallowgate district of Glasgow, where he once kept a studio, into the physically overdeveloped types who populate his dark visual world. His compositions have the feeling of Baroque ceiling frescoes. Tightly packed figures tumble into view in a jumbled mass of arms and legs against contrived backdrops of billowing clouds, twisted trees, or sinister urban architecture. The artist delights in distorting perspective, varying scale, mixing time periods, and heightening light effects—all in the service of visual narrative. Howson’s main problem is how to keep these multi-layered constructs from toppling over into caricature.

Beach life won't conform to composition, which suggests order, significance