Photograph by Keith Hunter, courtesy of Tramway, Glasgow.

 

 

 

In 1606 AD Agostino Agazzari composed the operatic interlude Eumelio (subtitled ‘dramma pastorale’), which models its story on the Greek myth Eurydice. Composed for the students of an all male seminary in Rome, Eumelio replaces Orpheus with Apollo, and Eurydice with Eumelio: they are mentor and ward rather than husband and wife. Eumelio is not penetrated by a serpent’s tooth, but instead encounters demons in the woods who trick and tempt him, dragging him to the underworld. Apollo ventures in to plead with Pluto, the god of death, for Eumelio’s return. Pluto agrees, and sets no conditions; mentor and ward embrace and walk out together, to live happily, Eumelio having learned his lesson.

Pastoral Drama stages the narratives of Eumelio and Eurydice on two parallel monitors at the centre of the loose spiral of the gallery. These narratives were filmed chronologically over the course of nine months in my studio, using small drawings, speckled clay, weeping ink, encrusted plasticine, and agglomerations of glitter and lichen. Techniques and skills develop gradually, scene by scene, and so the work illustrates an arc of learning. It is also a story of progress, of strident journeys in and out of the underworld with prizes claimed. At the end of each narrative, however, things go awry; Eurydice disappears and her monitor goes blank, and Eumelio and his comrades live beyond the happy conclusion of their story, peopling improvised scenes which escalate into nonsense and disaster.