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These last few days have been busy with working on the three figures at the centre of the painting. I now have a fairly good idea of their appearance. Now I am trying to get deeper into their minds.
The rabbi has been further developed, with a diagram of the star of David behind him.
The Christian is seen against the background of a great rose window. I am still evolving the decorative detail in this design, but my observation has been that the characteristic decoration of three circles within, or being touched by a fourth larger circle, is a symbol of the trinitarian concept of the godhead that christianity has evolved as a result of endless church councils meeting to hammer out a doctrine that is acceptable to the roman emperor and the majority of his citizens.
The pattern behind the Arab is still being developed. You can see the tack i’m taking. The intricate pattern found throughout Islamic art reaches its zenith in the pattern inside the dome of many mosques. Many of these ceilings contain calligraphy at their centre, but mostly the clear abstract beauty of mathematics was used by these philosopher/architects to represent their concept of deep universal truths.
I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:
Researchers make ‘first discovery’ of Philistine cemetery – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-36759340
Work on the third panel is proceeding. The three figures are beginning to find their character. The Rabbi has appeared in a very rudimentary form, beneath the picture of the tower of David.
I have been looking for comparable motifs from each religious tradition that may represent their common sense of the one God, the primal and sole source of creation. I have divided the region behind the three figures into three circles where I will develop this idea. Already I have drawn the star of David, used on the Israeli flag, behind the Rabbi. There are more profound reasons for using this image than the flag. I have been loaned an interesting treatise on the ‘Caballa’, a Jewish mystical practise of great complexity that is linked to the Tarot.
I will get some more details on this interesting area and post them later.
Behind the priest I will paint a rose window with some reference to the idea of three in one as an expression of the godhead, a contradiction in terms one might think, except that the whole complex understanding is based on the subtlety of early Greek theologians (many of whom had been gnostic philosophers) in their wordplay.
Behind the mullah or ayatollah, I haven’t decided yet, I will paint the kind of pattern to be seen inside the dome of a mosque, full of abstract and complex pattern. I will refer to the rich blues of the earthenware tile with which the dome is clad.
I hope in this way to explore the transmuting conception of the same monotheistic idea through the three distinctive cultures. I like the idea also of associating the religious theme of a halo which bestows a prestige of sanctity on the figures.
I intend to introduce text into the complexity of their clothing, using hebrew, greek and arabic characters, drawing from passages that are shared by all three religions. This hebrew alone on the rabbi, greek and hebrew on the priest and arabic and hebrew on the muslin, to reflect the degree the holy texts share common derivatives. On this basis I originally thought there would be no greek on the muslim, but I find there is a lot of reference to Mary, Zachariah, Ann and Jesus in the Koran, so I suppose that reflects early Christian influence on the new religion.
It is interesting to search for commonality in the three sacred texts. The story of Genesis, the creation story of the semites, they all largely agree, although the story is not told as a narrative like the pentateuch version but referred to in many places. The story of Noah is common to all three. Moses is the most referred to character in the Koran, The enslavement in Egypt, the confrontation between Pharoah and Moses, the meeting with God on mount Sinai, the annunciation of Mary, the childhood and teachings of Jesus, are all there in common.
In some way I want the panel to reflect and explore these commonalities.
Likewise I intend to paint accompanying images which refer to these narratives. In some cases, like the story of the flood, the narratives are far older than any of the semitic traditions and can be found in multiple places (often in cuneiform tablets) dotted around mesopotamia and beyond. Wherever I can I will look for early carvings or representation of these stories, to link with their antiquity, as a reference for the image that will be portrayed in the painting.
So watch this space, it all might change………………..
This figure has transmuted into an orthodox priest, his two companions are being prepared for their new role as rabbi and mohammedan. The overall panel will examine the family links that underlie these three great faiths.
I intend to paint a panorama of Jerusalem along the top. This city has a temporal earthly manifestation together with a spiritual dream, a heavenly residence. To all three faiths Jerusalem is at the centre, it is the place where the world will end.
Above the rabbi I have sketched in a picture of the tower of david. David is said to have founded the city, a small fortress initially, where he could lead a struggle against powerful neighbours.
My reference for this frieze has been the wonderful pictures by David Roberts, which I will adapt to conform to the needs of the picture in the future.
Above the priest I have brushed in a view of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to represent the many holy sites for the Christians. Here is the tomb of Jesus.
Above the mullah, or sherif I will probably add a view of the dome of the rock, where the mohammedans believe the prophet ascended into heaven.
I will seek to find a way of painting a visionary view of this extraordinary city. The priest, as you can see is asleep, his eyelids closed. All the men will be like that, in a hall of sleepers. Jerusalem is part of the dream of these great religions. As I paint this panel I am listening to a reading of ‘Jerusalem the Biography’ by Simon Sebag Montefiore, who recounts the arrival of the Jews under David. (Joshua’s headquarters had been north of Jerusalem at Shechem) when Jerusalem was inhabited by Jebusites. The king Adonisadec (a name which suggests a priest king) was defeated, but the Jebusites were too numerous to drive out and the sons of Judah began to live beside them in the city. The beginning of a very familiar pattern.
This was happening (1200 BC) at the time of the attacks of the people of the sea (possibly Achaean Greeks and tribes like them being displaced on mainland Greece by the Dorian tribes from the north. The Philistines, who crop up in the old testament may have been such people, Goliath may have been apparelled in similar armour to Achilles when he was felled by David.
The whole region was thrown into flux by these restless invasions. We get an inkling of the warrior sailor adventurer’s life from the pages of Homer. Viking raider-like they caused turmoil in the region, coming from the Aegean into the eastern mediterranean. Reports of unrest crop up in the delta of Egypt. The Pharaoh raided Canaan to restore order and when he returns home to Egypt he inscribed a plack on the temple in Thebes declaring that he had defeated the sea people, recaptured Ashkelon and massacred a people who appear for the first time: ‘Israel is laid waste and his seed is not’.
Not so, it appears. A rough association of Jewish tribes in the hills of Judah, each lead by a priestly chief finally coalesced under the kingship of David in order to take on the sophisticated warriors of the sea people. His success led to the founding of the Jewish holy city, when the arc of the covenant was moved into the city to find a permanent home.
This drawing of a Liverpool Docker was made a few years ago.
Here is a rough sketch of a possible layout of the next panel.
The fused painting of the rabbai the priest and the mullah are the heart of the picture, with a surrounding border of images that make the 12’x6′ panel to fill bay 2. There is a window protrusion in this bay for the design to accommodate, chopping off a length of the bottom border.
I’m currently thinking of a panorama of Jerusalem along the top border, with the wailing wall, the church of the holy sepulchre and the dome of the rock above the appropriate figure.
To the left some abstract motifs, to the right maybe some stories they share.
The calligraphy, Hebrew Greek and Arabic will feature in the decoration on the figures.
The third panel to be painted is intended to follow the gobekli type mythic dreamer that is already in place above the entrance, following a loose chronology.
Like the previous painting the central section of this painting will be based on a fusion painting, where two 4′ by 4′ paintings have been fused by cutting both paintings on the same grid and gradually swopping parts to produce a single 8’x4′ panel. In this new panel a third figure has been inserted to make a group of three figures.
I have mounted this new composite image on a wall prior to development in the same bay as the last picture.
My intention is to add border panels around this new fusion to produce an image that explores the world view of the semitic religions.
I intend to adapt these three figures to represent a rabbi, a monk and a mullah and will explore the family relationship between these three religions.
All three figures have been derived from a single original image, and that came from a drawing made a few years ago.
The process of fusing the images has introduced an interesting variety to the faces that I will exploit in the final picture.
And the rabbai.
I must leave this panel alone and live with it awhile. The sleeping figure in the centre, holding his box of tricks, is beginning to look a little like Freud. Perhaps Neitzsche should be woven into the complex mass, Wagner too, Marx. Dreams of the superman pervaded the last century. Destiny was all.
Yesterday I cleared a space for the next project, which will continue a loose theme for the panels on the ceiling. Each figure is a dreamer, a mythic dreamer, dreaming the myths of their different cultures. The first panel is the mythic dreamer of Gubekli Tepe, and the last has been exploring the dreams of the 20th century.
I have in mind to explore the semitic, monotheistic doctrinaire mythic dreamers, so that the rabbi, the monk and the mullah will appear together, surrounded by their convergent texts and transmuting images and pattern. Like the previous painting I have a base to work on, using a fusion painting created earlier.
I have been enjoying adding the slightly symbolic objects into appropriate places, and some gory, charnell house-like images in the lower right border.
A sort of lineal sequence has returned with a start in the top left below the display of ostentatious wealth.
The busy throng is reversed and all the men are marching downwards into the hell of mechanical warfare.
Along the bottom of the painting the concentration of military power discharges in the muzzle of a great cannon, into the inferno and subsequent charnel house, to the right of the painting.
Here, as I said, I have been working today, introducing with a rolling brush and fluid paint, a multitude of figures, human forms, lying in discarded heaps. This early brushing in will be enhanced with highlights when it is dry.
Further up the right side of the picture I have been working of a transition, a sort of revival, in fact a huge population explosion that occurred in spite of the great wars. Ladders appear, huge crowds can be seen ascending, modern transport systems make an appearance, there is a glimpse of high buildings. The procession of people becomes serious, regimental.
On the top line I have enjoyed painting the lips, the wine glass and bottle, the super rich gentleman with the cigar, the block of bank buildings, the piles of money and the mucky factories. So far so good.
I think I may add a Rolls Royce, a street riot or two and have been thinking about putting the Grenfell Tower into the top right, but actually that leaves the remit of the painting, unless we include ‘modern times’.