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By the mid-1950s recognisable symbols were appearing alongside the chance marks in Davie’s paintings. As in this painting, they did not convey specific meanings. Instead Davie considered them to be ‘primordial symbols which have many and varying meanings at different times but unknown to mankind’.

Although the central passage of this painting suggests disembowelled entrails, Davie maintains that the title was applied retrospectively. He equated sacrifice with ‘something cruel, noble, frightful, transcendent: a link between life and death, personal and universal’.

September 2004