Ceiling paintings

In all three of these Semitic religions there is a smell of sulphur in the air as well as perfume. All three believe in an end time characterised by violence, rapine, war, famine. Each of these family branches anticipate a violent future. Some of them look forward to a violent future, for for them it was the moment of rapture,

In this part of the painting I am representing a common thread in all three in welcoming a  rapturous event when the ‘good’ are caught up to God.

At the same time the bad and the damned are cast down into darkness.

Listening to the news this last week has been good stimulus for these armageddon paintings.

What began as a medieval chasm into which the tormented souls were cast, I find myself painting towers burning and collapsing, and everywhere there are falling people.

I was once invited to a meeting of evangelical christians to hear a converted Jewess from the cathartic movement in Israel speak about her take on the world. She described the end of the world as occurring during a nuclear exchange. It was a chilly thing to hear.

On the other hand i’ve always enjoyed painting dramatic events. I remember engulfing Barmouth in a simultaneous tsunami and mud slide, probably  in a period of pique. I am reminded of the paintings by ‘mad John Martin’ who specialised in extravogent (they have to be) paints of the apocalypse, one of which was in the news recently after being restored from a terrible flood.

I was brought up on these eschatological predictions, and mingled with extreme believers in my formative years. When most of my peers were listening to pop music I was singing hymns, and jolly good ones they were/ are.

Hell fire was almost casually preached at all our meetings. When you are in a world of believers, it is easy to believe in anything provided everyone else does. It is  like a form of mesmerism.

Some research for the painting

Ceiling paintings

All three religions have an eschatological myth involving the end of all things. In each there is a prophesy of terrible war, mass death and the return of one who puts a stop to it. There is to be division between the righteous, who will exist in a sort of paradise, and the wicked and unbelievers who will suffer a variety of hideous tortures, for evermore. Therefore I have begun to sketch out the structure, dividing the panel into two long verticals, paradise to the left and gehenna to the right.
Of the three faiths, the Jewish view that the world will continue and prosper, with them at the helm, is the most benign. The book of Revelations is the most extreme. Its all very fascinating.

The painting is becoming, as do all of these ceiling paintings, a research document made in oil paint. I seem to take a long time assembling the fragments, each a separate idea, into a comprehensive overview of its subject. Then these finally become arranged into a satisfactory arrangement.

It is from this point that the painting will really get going. I need an overview, and that can only be obtained when the design is complete.

Even  the design is not set in stone, but from now on other factors start to become important, to do with texture, aesthetics, and visual techniques. My inclination is always to break the prosaic norm into structures and panels, even to single points. I am paying brush service (that is an artist’s lip service) to a universe of events invisible and unknown that fills that scene. I use the passage of elementary particles at the speed of light as a cable on which to hang the scenery of everyday life. I use shadow to suggest a change of plane, of dimension, in a world of facets and reflection. Everyone’s time is different.

I have been discussing, with my friend Avon, who knows a lot about a mystical branch of Judaism the possibility of making a short video where he tells us a little of what he knows about the way this mystical sect might symbolize the divine being. He describes it as Hermetic philosophy which emerged from Egypt, they were enslaved there in the time of Moses. Hermes is the Roman name for Mercury, so here we seem to have a connection between Greek, roman, Egyptian and Jewish thought.

For anyone with an interest in these subjects I will publish both of Avon’s replies to by communication with him, setting up the interview, because they contain a lot of insight into his point of view, and illumination of an obscure and esoteric world.


email from Avon, opening out the subject somewhat:

I am happy to go along with whatever approach is useful and helpful. It is probably a good idea to have an informal talk soon to discuss where this can and needs to go.

For myself, life is one big project and process of discovery into which I try to integrate smaller projects.

A question that has always been central in my mind and has recently come into sharp focus is: What has gone wrong in the modern world and what ideas and actions are needed for rectification or the best possible outcome? What can people do? Obvious symptoms of the malaise include social inequality, the damage being done by humanity to its natural environment, and geopolitical conflict.

My thinking is that it can be understood at a fundamental level in terms of the struggles and dialectical processes involved in the evolution of human social structures: that we are around a point where cooperation and respect for the natural environment must supersede competition and exploitation — if we are to continue and prosper as a civilization.

These are of course not new ideas in themselves but what some people have already said or are saying. The more I study and learn about the work of others who have tried to understand the problems of humanity and the world and worked out potential solutions, the more I realize that the world does not work in the way one is led to believe, and that powerful forces seem to work is clandestine ways to oppose any change in direction towards a better way of being.

For example, the studies documented in a book called “The Limits of Growth” in the early 1970s concluded that humanity would be in trouble by the mid 21st century unless appropriate measures were taken. Little known follow-up studies have shown the worrying predictions of the original study to be surprisingly accurate. A similar theme presents itself in more recent times as concern about the environment and global warming as if these problems had only become known in the 1990s.

An irrefutable truth that should be confronted (by the economists, politicians and industrialists) and discussed more in the mainstream media is that the consumption of fossil fuels for energy and plastics is fundamental to modern societal infrastructure and is also a common denominator to the various harms being inflicted on the earth by human civilization. That is a key problem we must solve on a practical level to stop the march towards inevitable self-destruction. Perhaps we should entertain a variation of the journalist’s favourite question (cui bono?): “Who’s power would be diminished?”

But what does any of this have to do with a conversation that is supposed to be relevant to the painting you are working on? There is a line of thinking in the alternative and truth communities that the dominant power of the church and priesthood (basically the elite) gradually reinvested itself into what became, over the course of the centuries between the time of Galileo and the 20th century, the scientific priesthood and its “religion” of scientism.

One can assume that Jesus was deeply concerned with what people needed to do to bring about a better world and way of being. Only later under the Roman empire did a selection of his teachings become institutionalized into the church and its dogma which would inflict evils upon humanity (the Crusades, the Inquisition, persecution of the Cathars and suppression of early scientists) which was surely the opposite of what Christ was about.

Similarly, from being primarily a method of enquiry into natural phenomena, science seems to have been taken up as a powerful means of dominating nature, suppressing dissent, and inflicting all manners of evil upon the world (atom bomb, hi-tech weaponry, dominance of oil and pharmaceutical industries etc.) to the point now where artificial intelligence and transhumanism are becoming or may soon become central features of our reality. Just as monotheism was in the beginning a tool for good which later became institutionalized and corrupted into a formidable power of evil, so it seems to be with science. Nevertheless, religion and science still have their proper and good use. Religion seems to be about bringing people together (synthesis) whereas science excels in the opposite: taking things apart (analysis).

This pattern/process of long duration and multiple iterations does not seem to find any particularly satisfying explanation within the framework of the inductive and deductive logic used in the sciences. The religious explanation that it is evil or the work of the devil seems too simplistic to be an effective countermeasure for the modern mind. The scientific explanation of nihilism or human nature is no more helpful. A method of thinking that might lead to a deeper understanding is that of the Hegelian dialectic which, I have recently realized, is similar to the use of the binary and the ternary in hermetic thinking (the tarot) which we can probably trace back at least to Pythagoras who studied the metaphysical properties of numbers.

Let me know a few days in advance when you would like to conduct the first talk. I can do informal talks without preparation. As I have not done much public speaking, I would need some idea of questions or issues before a formal or public discussion. Any day other than Monday or Friday is good but I can still do those if necessary with advance notice.

Best regards, Avon.

Mount Sinai

Ceiling paintings

Mount Sinai has appeared beyond the tower of David. I have placed 2 tablets of stones at the top, just below the burning bush.

I am interested in finding the stories each of these religions share. They all agree about the connection with Moses, many of the stories of the creation.


The abstract God,

Ceiling paintings, Fusion paintings

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.

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The Three Semites

Ceiling paintings, Fusion paintings

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………………..

Work has begun on the Christian priest

Ceiling paintings, Fusion paintings

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.