Heather Pulliam specialises in the visual culture of early medieval Britain and Ireland (sometimes described as Celtic, Insular or Anglo/Hiberno-Saxon) as well as that of the Carolingian Empire and the Celtic Revival. Recent projects include an exhibition, The Celts, at the British Museum (September 2015 - January 2016) and at the National Museum of Scotland (Spring 2016) and forthcoming articles, ‘Colour and Cognition: Animating Design in Insular Art’ An Insular Odyssey: Manuscript Culture in Early Christian Ireland and Beyond, eds. Jane Maxwell, Rachel Moss and Felicity O’Mahony (Dublin: Four Courts, 2017); ‘Painting by Numbers: The Art of the Canon Tables’ in The Lindisfarne Gospels: New Perspectives, ed. Richard Gameson (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2017); Slow Scholarship in the Digital Age, ed. Catherine Karkov (in progress).
From 2D to 4D, Ireland’s Medieval Crosses in Time, Motion and Environment
Heather’s new research project, ‘From 2D to 4D: Ireland’s Medieval Crosses in Time, Motion and Environment’ has been awarded a Philip Leverhulme prize.
Ornamented with biblical, historical and mythological figures, the monumental stone crosses of Ireland stand as rare and fragile witnesses to the beliefs and values of the people of Northern Europe, c.700-1100. They hold a critical place in the development of Christian art as little monumental sculpture survives from the so-called ‘Dark Ages’. Because a millennium of ice, wind and rain has eroded the 200+ surviving crosses, academics and institutions have concentrated on the essential task of recording, classifying and identifying imagery and sources. Consequently, the crosses have been treated as static, timeless objects isolated from the elements and seasons as well as from the human beings who viewed them. And yet, early medieval crosses were animated, performative things, epitomised by the poem carved onto the Ruthwell Cross, which speaks directly to its audience, ‘I dared not bend down . . . I was drenched with blood’.
This study aims to resituate these crosses within the living world, asking how original audiences perceived and experienced the crosses in the landscape and, conversely, to what extent the sculptures orchestrate that experience. Critically, it investigates the effects of time and motion: how changing viewpoints, scale, light, weather and distances elicit a series of encounters with a polymorphic, animated object. The study also analyses how the depth of carving, physical landscape and the gestures and glances of the sculpted figures dictate the viewer’s response. This approach—termed phenomenological due to its emphasis upon experiential, embodied perception—has proven efficacious in recent analyses of Byzantine art (B. Pentcheva; L. James), but is particularly suited to the Irish crosses. They stand up to 5.2 metres high, with every surface covered in imagery, and situated in dynamic landscapes, the viewer must approach, move around and under them. Insular literature indicates a fascination with multivalence, transformation and dramatic revelation, features identified in Celtic art and in my own investigations of Insular colour design.
Other publications by Heather Pulliam include:
Books in press:
Word and Image in the Book of Kells, 2006, Four Courts Press
Peer-reviewed articles in press:
‘Art and Avatar: Identity and Gesture in a Virtual World’ in The Lewis Chessmen: A Special Issue of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, ed. M Hall and David Caldwell, D. (Edinburgh, 2014): 83-110
‘Blood, Water and Stone: The Performative Cross’ in Making Histories, ed. J. Hawkes, (Stamford: 2013): 262-278
‘The Beasts of the Desert: Keeping and Ministering the Word in the Book of Deer’Journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology 57 (2013): 83-110
‘Eyes of Light: Colour in the Lindisfarne Gospels’ in Newcastle and Northumberland, ed. J. Ashbee and J. M. Luxford, BAA Conference Transactions XXXVI (2013): 54-72
‘Color’ in Medieval Art History Today – Critical Terms, A Special Issue of Studies in Iconography 33 (2012): 3-14
‘Looking to Byzantium: Light, Color and Cloth in Insular Art’ in Insular and Anglo-Saxon Thought in the Early Medieval Period, ed. C. Hourihane (University Park, Pennsylvania, 2011: 59-78
‘Exaltation and Humiliation: The Decorated Initials of the Corbie Psalter (Amiens MS 18)’ Gesta 49 (2011): 97-105;
‘‘The Eyes of the Handmaid’: The Corbie Psalter and the Ruthwell Cross’ in Listen O Isles unto me: Studies in Medieval Word and Image in Honour of Jennifer O'Reilly, eds. E. Mullins and D. Scully (Cork, 2011), 253-262;
‘‘Therefore do I speak to them in parables’: Meaning in the Margins of the Book of Kells’ in Making and meaning in Insular Art, ed. R. Moss (Dublin, 2007), 257-267;
‘Eloquent Ornament: Exegesis and Entanglement in the Corbie Psalter’ in Studies in the Illustration of the Psalter, eds. B. Cassidy and R. Muir Wright (Stamford, England, 2001), 242-256.
Past PhD Supervision (1st or co-supervisor)
Andrew Paterson, ‘The Earliest Christian Icons from the Collection of the Monastery of St Catherine, Sinai, and their Possible Sources’, awarded 2017.
Tasha Gefreh, ‘Place Space and Time, Iona’s Early Medieval High Crosses in the Natural and Liturgical Landscape’, awarded 2015
Emily Goetsch, ‘Extra-Apocalyptic iconography in the 10th-century Beatus Commentaries on the Apocalypse as indicators of Christian-Muslim relations in medieval Iberia’, awarded 2014
Honours and Taught PG Courses
Sinners, Saints and Seers: Scottish, Irish and English art from 600-900 (3rd year)
Eve's Children: Art and Gender 600-1400 (4th year)
Celtic Question (postgraduate)
Early Medieval Britain and Ireland; Carolingian; Celtic Revival