The Greek playwright Aeschylus places the Graeae and the Gorgons on Kisthene’s dreadful plain where ‘neither does the sun with his beams look down upon them, nor ever the nightly moon’*. In fact Weird Sisters never do belong in the community. They are banished from the kingdom to deserts and wastelands; living, like so many outcasts, beyond the pale. People have always preferred to banish 'monsters' and these times are no different to any other, look at Brexiteers' views on EU Freedom of Movement or the ideology of ISIS. It's hard to find any example of modern conflict that lacks the basic (and base) desire to cleanse territories of 'foreign' influences. It’s also hard on the level of the individual human body to find any example of modern concerns that don't equate non-standard appearance with monstrousness. (see January’s Blog).
There are ways of looking at and embracing our differences, which is fortunate considering fewer lives are devastated when we're guided by tolerance and inclusivity. It is in this spirit that I have begun a series of new drawings about the Weird Sisters of the plains, imagining them as whole people rather than symbols of all that is fearful, people who might from time to time want to visit new places and try new things. What, for example, might Medusa's first kiss look like? Or the Graeae's first trip to a nightclub?
I am, however, decidedly against moving Medusa and her sisters to the city full time. Psychologically, I don't believe wildernessess are places to avoid or to fear because they are where we exist undisguised, in all our uncertain vulnerability and individual truth. Perhaps in this series, the Belles will visit the outlands while the pariahs go to the ball... I'll keep you posted!
Incidentally, I wasn’t sure why I was drawing mythic monsters until I remembered something I read years ago by James Hillman. He describes wildernessess as places where ‘we never learn, cannot help, fall back to and cry from again and again’, as an essential (if uncomfortable) landscape of human experience.**
* Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound C5th B.C.
** James Hillman, Abandoning the Child, LOOSE ENDS, Spring Pubications, 1975
In an interview accompanying the show, the artist speaks of the 'idea of landscape which is full of life...nobody knows, within a second, just by a little act of terror... it transforms.' Qureshi's work often references the political situation in Pakistan but his intention is not to make work parading brutalities, rather he seeks to name the universal presence of violence. As he explains, “...there’s a lot of violence around me in Pakistan, but then there is a lot of violence all over the world. Violence is not a strange thing or a stranger for anyone."* In Where the Shadows are so Deep, we find life as well as darkness even in the deepest shadows of The Curve. Qureshi's achievement is that he communicates so much more about the nature of violence because it is shot through with such shimmering beauty. It is an extraordinary achievement AND it's there until July 10th. Don't miss it.
* read more
The angel here highlights another requirement: beauty should exist without pride or vanity. To the long list of acceptability criteria, a girl must add modesty, natural grace and, I would suggest, a bird-like appetite - unless she is providing for the appetites of others*, to the list of qualities necessary to be a woman deserving of a happy ending.
* See August Blog The Two Faces of Eve
BP: A Walk Through British Art at Tate Britain covers 500 years of British home-grown talent. I'm not sure that I've ever felt, or wanted to feel, particularly British but, as I wandered from room to room, I was surprised to discover that I was looking for something, a common characteristic that is reflected in my own practice.
Postmodernists might well assert that their arch parodies, nihilism and pastiche subvert and shock society. I am not sure how true this is. As Richard Kearney observes,’ groundbreaking' art is often rapidly assimilated into the mainstream. 'Even the most dissident imaginations appear to be swallowed into the ideology of the simulacrum which prevails in our consumer age'.
* Quotations from THE WAKE OF IMAGINATION Richard Kearney 1988