Michael Petry’s latest book, In League with Devils, beautifully weaves together his multidisciplinary practice, showcasing a collection of installations and artworks spanning his career and projects since 2012. Within the pages of the captivating book, Petry delves into his fascination with gods and worship, inviting readers to a thought-provoking exploration.
One such installation, “At the Foot of the Gods’ captures the essence of Petry’s inquiry. Here, moulded and cast feet and toes in bronze are arranged on the cloister floor, reminiscent of ancient ruins. The verdant patina of these toes serves as a reminder of the passage of time and the countless footsteps that have crossed these sacred spaces before us.
This installation draws attention to the contemporary issue: the damage or loss incurred by classical sculptures of heroes and deities during their journey from their initial discovery to their eventual placement in museums. Once relocated to foreign shores in the name of exploration, empire and later education, objects of worship are transformed into objects of wonder.
The absence of the complete figures to which these toes might belong further entices contemplation. It beckoned me to delve into the rituals surrounding feet within various cultures, from the Hindu tradition of seeking blessings and conveying respect by touching the feet of elders to Jesus humbly washing the feet of his disciples as an act of service. This singular installation, much like Petry’s artistic practice, has multiple layers of meaning waiting to be discovered.
Another compelling piece, “Joshua D’s Wall’ presents a collection of glass rocks laid upon the ground, reminiscent of the remnants of a wall. This installation draws inspiration from the biblical. Story of Joshua, guided by his god and instructed to cross the river Jordan with a promise of land in return. Then he is commanded to kill all land inhabitants as an act of devotion to his god – a command he dutifully fulfils. Through Petry’s installation, viewers are compelled to reflect on their allegiances, the actions undertaken in the name of divinity or worship, and the intrinsic human desire to belong to a community or society. These contemplations bring forth the poignant title of the book, “ In League with Devils” – a phrase often used to describe those who venture beyond the confines of societal norms.
In League with Devils, Michael Petry masterfully merges multiple artistic disciplines offering readers an immersive experience. Through his thought-provoking installations and artworks, he explores the complexities of gods, worship, societal allegiances, and the human condition. This beautiful book brings together Petry’s art, which invites us to embark on a profound introspection, challenging us to question the beliefs and conventions that shape our lives.
Words Gita Joshi Photos Courtesy The Artist