oil on canvas 16″ x 36″
began October 2014 – completed April 12th, 2016
oil on canvas 16″ x 36″
began painting August 2016 – completed July 29th, 2017
oil on canvas 16″ x 36″
began painting August 2016 – completed July 30th, 2017
These three paintings are telling a symbolic story about creation. Each painting is expressing one of three parts of a cycle—birth, life, and death. There is a story within each painting, but there is also a dialogue between the three.
A more in-depth explanation into the symbolism of these paintings is below.
The birth painting is read from bottom to top and is moving from night to day. The centre focus is an egret. Egrets are a type of heron, a family of birds that are significant for me, but is also a bird that has links to an ancient Egyptian myth, that of the Bennu bird. The Bennu was a heron, and my original intent was for this bird to be a heron, but I changed it to an egret for symbolic reasons. This egret is modelled on the little egret, and has a black bill, black legs, and yellow feet—I chose this particular breed because of its colouring, which I find significant, and also because of its range.
I use white to represent the masculine, the Sun (along with gold and yellow), and also for spiritual, or non-material, and intellectual forces. In his beak, the egret holds a white water lily which is forming a spiral to represent the golden ratio. He is standing on two snakes, his right leg on the white snake and left leg on the red snake. The left side is feminine and right is masculine.
The white snake is representing masculine energy, it is non-physical and a force from the intellect, it is thought and an outward force. The red snake is representing feminine energy, it is physical and is instinctive, emotional, and intuitive, it is earth, blood, substance, a container. They are intertwined to show a union of these two sides and a combining of these forces to create.
In the bottom corners are two water lilies, the left is giving birth to the Moon (feminine) with two spheres to represent an egg of both the red and white snakes—a beginning. The lily on the right is giving birth to the Sun (masculine) and also has two spheres on either side. The circles and designs above the bottom lilies are to again emphasise a birth and coming together of these energies.
The two bundles (two for both sides, masculine and feminine) of three (three to represent the trinity—Sun, Moon, Earth) water lily buds are representing life about to blossom.
There is blackness without stars before the union, there are stars within the snake circle to show that substance has begun to take form. The border begins to materialise to show that structure has come into being. The border is emulating a border often used in Egyptian art and jewellery (I’ve changed it slightly). The yellow is gold, the orange is carnelian, the dark blue is lapis and the light blue is turquoise.
Above the egret to the left is a symbol for the Moon and to the right is a symbol for the Sun. Together along with the wings of the egret support a circle with four colours—this is the Earth. The four colours were inspired from the Native American medicine wheel (some tribes have different variations, meanings, and attributes), but I have adapted this to how I think the colours represent the Earth. (As a side note I have since changed the colours I use and now often replace the red with green, as I used in the life and the death painting)
The red is east and represents earth, the yellow is south and represents fire, the black is west and represents water, and the white is north and represents air. The pattern on the circle was inspired by the ribbons interlaced on a May pole.
The two lilies in the upper corners have fully bloomed. On the top left corner is a black sphere to represent the feminine, the inner and the hidden. The white sphere in the upper right corner is representing the masculine, the outer and what is seen. The top middle three spheres are symbolic of the Moon on the left, Earth in the middle, and Sun on the right (the trinity).
The life painting is read from the centre up and centre down, and also in a clockwise motion from the left of the centre. In this painting, the centre focus is on a scarab beetle. The scarab (dung beetle) was a very significant symbol used by the ancient Egyptians. On the back of the scarab is a symbol for the trinity. The wings of the scarab are straight as compared with the circular wings of the other two paintings, this is to show balance and equality. The scarab is black but the wings are white, showing a balance of two, but also showing that life here on Earth is a blend of both the masculine and feminine as one.
Above the scarab is the Sun and below is the Moon. There are twelve rays from the Sun to represent the twelve months of the year. The centre flame is three parts braided—intertwined (three for the trinity)—rising to the top to show the strength of the Sun.
Below the Scarab, the Moon holds a sphere, half white and half black. This is to represent the phases of the Moon. When the Moon is full it is white, when the Moon is new it is black. Two sides also reflect the number two, a number connected to the Moon. The Moon is also a container and reflector, and holds the seed of both masculine and feminine. There is a beam of three (three for the trinity) interwoven and moving downwards to represent the strength of the Moon.
There are six levels of branches stemming from both the beam from the Sun and from the Moon, there are twelve in total. Six above for the six months of spring and summer combined, and six below for the six months of autumn and winter. The masculine is above to represent the seen and there are green leaves on the tree to show a time of growth. The branches below have lost their leaves, they are sleeping, and are below to represent the hidden. The branches are dark-red, this is to symbolise the feminine side of Earth. There is a balance and equality between the two halves, night and day.
The border is completely formed and encircles the whole painting, this painting is showing life on Earth and its structure. The border was inspired by ancient Egyptian art and jewellery, the yellow is gold, the orange is carnelian, the dark blue is lapis, and the light blue is turquoise.
The green circle to the left of the scarab contains the astrological symbol for Aries. When the Sun enters Aries, it is the beginning of spring, the spring equinox (in the northern hemisphere). The green is symbolising the east and the element of earth. The upper left quadrant is for spring, in the corner is a hawthorn branch.
The yellow circle on the top contains the astrological symbol for Cancer. When the Sun enters Cancer, it is the beginning of summer and the longest day of the year, the summer solstice (in the northern hemisphere). Yellow is symbolising the south and the element of fire. The circle just below is a combination of the astrological symbols for the Sun and Earth. Here the cross of the Earth is green. The upper right quadrant is for summer, the corner contains three oak leaves and three acorns.
The black circle to the right of the scarab contains the astrological symbol for Libra. When the Sun enters Libra, it is the autumn equinox, and the first day of autumn (in the northern hemisphere). The black is symbolising the west and the element of water. The bottom right quadrant is for autumn, in the corner are leaves and keys (seeds) from the ash tree.
The white circle on the bottom contains the astrological symbol for Capricorn. When the Sun enters Capricorn, it is the shortest day of the year, and the Winter Solstice (in the northern hemisphere). White is symbolising the north and the element of air. Just above is a combination of the two astrological symbols for the Moon and Earth. In this combination, the Earth is dark-red reflecting the feminine and the blood within. The lower left quadrant is winter, in the corner is a branch from a yew tree with ten berries.
The death painting is read from bottom to top, moving from day to night. The centre focus is on a raven, a bird with a great number of myths and stories, and another bird that is very meaningful to me. Black is representing the feminine, the unknown, the inner. In her beak, she is holding a shaft of wheat—the harvest has been reaped. She is standing on a sphere to represent the Earth. The four colours each represent one of the four cardinal directions, four elements and the four fixed signs of the zodiac.
The green is east, earth, and Taurus
The yellow is south, fire, and Leo
The black is west, water, and Scorpio
The white is north, air, and Aquarius
(There is also a connection to the four evangelists in Christianity. Matthew is symbolised by a man/angel: Aquarius, Mark is symbolised by a lion: Leo, Luke is symbolised by a bull: Taurus, and John is symbolised by an eagle: Scorpio—the symbols of a scorpion and eagle are both connected to Scorpio)
The Earth is supported by the tails of the two snakes and the symbols for the Moon (on the left) and the Sun (on the right). The two snakes are becoming untwined and separating.
The dark-red snake is the feminine, representing substance, material, instinct, intuition, blood, earth. The white snake is masculine, representing thought, non-material, spiritual, consciousness.
In the mouths of the two snakes are water lilies. The water lily is white to symbolise the non-material, the green outer to represent the material (and to be more accurate of an actual water lily). It can be seen either that the snakes are eating the lilies or the lilies are emerging from the insides of the snakes. My intent was that the lilies are blossoming from the depths inside the snakes, they are giving birth, creating the beauty of the flower, the water lily is emerging from the depths deep inside from the hidden—just as a water lily rises to the surface of the water from the hidden bottom below. The water lilies are being ‘released’. (This image was also created with my logo in mind)
In the bottom-left corner is a black sphere representing the feminine, the hidden, the unknown. The white sphere in the bottom right corner is representing the masculine, the conscious, the seen. In the centre on the bottom is a dark red square containing the symbol for the trinity in green with a white circle connecting them—the material and non-material are connected. Dark-red and green are both colours I use to represent the Earth.
The border was inspired by ancient Egyptian art and jewellery, the yellow is gold, the orange is carnelian, the dark blue is lapis, and the light blue is turquoise. The border is separating and dissolving, burning away, splitting—in a way reminiscent of DNA. One half of each of these reconnects to form a symbol similar to a caduceus spiralling down to a galaxy (modelled on how our Milky Way may appear).
The essence of life has transformed and returns to a state of beginning. The centre of the galaxy is symbolic of an ovum—egg, and the start once again of a new life. This is also shown by the ouroboros (the snake eating its own tail), this represents infinity, there is no beginning and there is no end. The cycle begins once again.
The three paintings together are read from left to right. The birth painting is on the left and the egret is looking to the right, the right side being the masculine. The death painting is on the right and the raven is looking to the left, the left being the feminine. Both birds are looking up and facing towards the centre, the life painting. The scarab with its straight wings is also showing balance between both birth and death on either side. The life painting is in-between—life cannot exist without both birth and death.
The border placed on the birth painting is reflected in the death painting, but placed on the bottom. The border (substance) is formed in the birth painting, the border is full in the life painting, and the border (substance) loses its structured form in the death painting. The Earth, Sun, and Moon are positioned on the top of the birth painting, but they are positioned on the bottom of the death painting.