The Vessel by Terry Duffy
Read chapter one here
'The Vessel': an inspiring, thought-provoking, unpredictable narrative with over 70 colour images of unique artworks as you follow Terry Duffy's incredible career as an international artist experiencing art, life, people and places. It is a must-read for artists, art students, art lovers and those in search of creative inspiration. Duffy is an independent artist with a reputation for unique, challenging work. He has ploughed his own furrow from Liverpool through London, Paris, Berlin, Cape Town, Venice, Dresden, New York and more. Duffy's conviction propels the story, as he responds to the world around him, sometimes angry, sometimes contemplative, using whichever medium the situation requires. The book is rich with events and insights, showing the artist's experience and creativity as he confronts inequality, victimhood and personal spiritual freedom through his artwork.
- 60+ Colour Images
- Size: 7 x 10 inches
- Print length : 300 pages
- Customer reviews:
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 ratings
Dr. M. Goepfert
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Very Worthwhile Art Book"
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 May 2021
The Vessel by Terry Duffy (2021)
Initially I was apprehensive about this book – at first glance too many names being dropped, too many different scenarios and an artist who clearly believes in himself. At the same time I found myself increasingly drawn in, more and more engaged, there was beneath this shiny self-presentation a depth which got me. This was in the writing – the writing, while sometimes lacking a clear focus is very creative and easy to go along with, I got never bored. But the depth was also in much of the pictures of the artwork in that book. There are too many details to reflect in a review, 35 chapters all covering individual scenarios from a very full and intensely lived life full of art, thought and depth of feeling. They span 60 years of an art career as painter and teacher. He has worked in many different places and on several continents. Some of his most impressive works are of a religious nature. Despite his global reach, his base remains Merseyside where he is well established and known. This is his strength. I was particularly struck by three of his works:
1) “Victims, no resurrection”: The picture was created after the shock caused by the Liverpool riots. Duffy talks of the ‘horror of this social convulsion’ and its ‘intractability’, but also the ‘helplessness of the ‘ecclesiastical authorities’. This is a monumental work, which was exhibited in New York and eventually returned to the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, to then go on a journey of the ’stations of the cross’. The bishop of New York needed reassurance that this was an artist who painted this out of an inner belief and spirituality. He did not want a man who did not believe in the resurrection. So Duffy got drawn into the multiple layers of the meaning of the cross and was very clear in his answer about the emphasis being on the victim and the impossibility of ‘resurrection’ in human life. He wanted to use the cross as symbol of victimhood – this resonated strongly with me when reading about all this, as I also recently had read Mitri Raheb’s book on the cross as a symbol of suffering and redemption in Palestine; but also James Carroll’s ‘Constantine’s Sword’. As part of a very carefully and expertly (the author is a former Roman-catholic priest) collated history of Christianity it presents, as part of this painstakingly detailed work, the usually ignored aspect of the cross as an anti-Semitic symbol of on-going victimization of Jews as alleged perpetrators of Christ’s murder. Here Duffy has created the cross as an image of universal human suffering – I liked that very much, it is a forward-looking image and very much in line with a progressive Christian spirit.
2) The description of the painful nature and essence of the refugee existence in contemporary Britain entitled ‘Personal Pollution 1 & 2’ results in two absolutely excellent art performances which Duffy wrote while on sabbatical in Budapest. I have shared these two brief pieces with several of my friends and they invariably were deeply impressed. It is a brilliant piece of work deserving much more publicity. Just those two pages with those two pieces of writing make the book worth its price.
3) The ‘Cope’ paintings are impressive installations, first in Dresden then in Coventry, then various other, a total of 10. Duffy says they were getting progressively darker. It is an example of how his stories become more important for the understanding of his art, almost, then the art itself. In Dresden, instead of going to a celebration dinner with the dignitaries including the German president, he talks to ultra-right-wing demonstrators on the streets, trying to understand their views and their pain. Yet the picture is wonderfully impressive in its blue, hanging over the altar of the restored church.
The book is an impressive collection of stories, and of Terry Duffy’s art work. It is a splendid document charting one artist’s story over a period of 60 years.
5.0 out of 5 stars "Compelling and Enthralling"
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 June 2021
‘The Vessel’ is Terry Duffy’s autobiographical memoir of his life and work as an international contemporary artist; a journey that has taken him from Liverpool, London and New York, to Cape Town, Budapest and Berlin. The chapters unfold in a loosely chronological structure, and they are mostly written in a conversational style; Duffy’s idiosyncratic ‘voice’ shines throughout, which delivers a compelling intimacy that draws you in and carries you along with it.
We learn that, at the age of 13, Duffy won a scholarship to study art and his story begins here. The opening chapter, ‘The Room’, has Duffy as a boy, standing with hushed, breathless, reticence outside the unused front room of his parents’ home, reverential, unsure, and uncertain about entering. With detail keenly observed (as you might expect from an artist) Duffy conjures precise and evocative imagery and, with onomatopoeic brilliance, sets the scene for the recurrent symbolism throughout his story.
At times, his anecdotes are labyrinthine but, like a jazz musician exploring elaborate riffs, he always comes back to the main subject of a chapter; some passages even have the alliterative quality of poetry rather than prose. Duffy not only draws upon remembered factual developments, which describe some of the tumultuous events that formed the backdrop to his life, he also enters into imaginings and ‘dream-states’ to make a point creatively. And his points are invariably ethical, inspiring, and ‘spiritual’ in nature, so they are worthy of our attention.
The final breath-taking denouement sees Duffy some six decades later at the door of his current studio, as silent and as reticent as the young boy outside his parents’ front room in the opening chapter. Here he alludes to a notion that throughout the progression of one’s life, details may change but there can be an underlying structure, pattern, and integrity, that remain. Duffy’s standing and reputation as a contemporary visual artist are well-established and respected. He may now justifiably add ‘writer’ to his illustrious career, as he is a particularly good one. This is a beautifully designed book, and it is sumptuously illustrated, so not only is it superbly written, it looks and feels good too. ‘The Vessel’ is a must-read for anyone interested in art or in what inspires an artist; quite simply, it is among the best art books I have read. I’ll eat my hat if it doesn’t win an award!
5.0 out of 5 stars "beautiful art"
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 April 2021
this is a fascinating story and the numerous illustrations of his artwork reveal a rich vein of creativity which stretches over many decades . his collaborations reflect a deep spirituality and through his work we can see the ebb and flow of political events in Liverpool to Cape Town , New York and beyond . Its great that Terry remains inspired by his hometown of Liverpool and his art is well worth exploring
5.0 out of 5 stars "A fascinating read. Full of wisdom, spiritual and artistic depth"
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 May 2021
Terry's book is a fascinating read. Never have I met someone with such wisdom, spiritual, artistic depth and contemplative reflection of life. There is evidence of this in this book as Terry takes you on an adventure depicting his life experiences, spirituality and works of arts.
5.0 out of 5 stars "Revealing account by an important artist"
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 May 2021
Surprisingly readable art book with a truly personal account of his life and work. I would recommend this to anyone interested in art and wanting to know what it means to be an artist.
5.0 out of 5 stars "Fascinating and inspiring book about an important artist"
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 August 2021
I love this book. It's a personal and deep book describing the creative life of Duffy's work in all its richness and complexity. Wonderful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The life & work of a gifted artist"
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 April 2021
This book by an internationally renowned artist well known for his challenging art is a call to remember key moments in history like Windrush, Concentration Camps & others and to see the art works he made as ‚monuments‘ to them. He tells the stories that led to these works and although I am not an artist I loved reading the stories and learning about his life such as how he went to art college at the age of 13 as a gifted child in Liverpool. He tells of the people he met on his journeys and gives an overview of his life and his special interest in creating religious art that has been exhibited across the world. This book will appeal to those interested in the stories behind the paintings & to see some of his work.