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Exploring the Ancient Kemetic world today through ideas, thoughts, art and experiences

Friday, 29 May 2015

Material Immortality

This is the story of my first complete work of 2015, Material Immortality.

Material Immortality; acrylic on linen 40" x 60"
My latest painting has taken the longest to complete of my works so far, with almost 10 months since the canvas was first prepared to when it was sealed with varnish. It has taken 3 residence changes, and gone through a name transformation.

When I was 19 or 20 I bought and read the two Her Bak volumes. The 2nd volume featured on the cover a work by Lucy Lamy that fascinated me entitled "Psychostasia". It is a Greek word that means "the weighing of souls", and featured a beautifully rendered painting of Ausar judging the deceased in the Duat. I believe that subconsciously this art has influenced Material Immortality.

This is the frontispiece of Her Bak: Egyptian Initiate, and is half the painting made by Lucy Lamy named "Psychostasia"
The featured Netjeru
There are 8 Netjeru directly depicted in the painting; all are glyphed with the exception of Nehebukau who appears as winged and two headed at the top of the sarcophagus. Nekhbet is featured twice.
The other deities are Hehu, Khepera, Set, Sopdu, Sopdet and Sokar.  The lion lid represents multiple male lion Netjeru - Nefertum, Apademak, Maahes, Shezmu, and Hutchaiui.

Description of the artwork
The piece centres on two primary figures: The Great Netjer Khepera - Netjer of existence, transformation and change - administering transformational energy to a sarcophagus. The lion lidded sarcophagus represents the physical form of a being, and the enshrined mummiform entities depicted on the side are the other 8 "bodies" comprising the living entity. I discuss this aspect of the painting in greater detail in "Kemetic Soul Anatomy" further on.

Detail of sarcophagus in Material Immortality
The lid also features an effigy of The Great Goddess Nekhbet in a position of protection. Nekhbet also oversees the process from the top left corner. The image of the lion effigy protected by Nekhbet is taken directly from the Temple of Seti I in Abydos, and the sarcophagus echoes the alabaster one that this pharaoh was originally buried in, now in the John Soanes Museum in London.

The alabaster coffin that Seti I was buried in, now in the John Soane's Museum in London
The Netjer of eternity, Hehu, sits between the wings of Khepera.

Detail of the Netjer Hehu
The Netjeru Sopdet and Sopdu - the Sothic star energy (which is visible with the ankhs in the divine beam coming from Khepera's ankh below them) are represented with Sutekh: immortal Netjer and Great of Magick.

Detail of the Netjeru Sutekh, Sopdu and Sopdet
Sokar sits below the piece as Netjer of the underworld and representing the hidden processes of the alchemy that the painting reveals. These latter 4 Netjeru are wearing garments of contraction as the process is realized in material form.

Detail of the Netjer Sokar
The two plant (papyrus and lotus) emblems of Ancient Kemet are represented in the background in a fashion I began with a work from last year, Mer Wer, and again reflected in the emblem at the bottom corner of Khepera's throne.

Kemetic Soul Anatomy and Physical Immortality
Physical Immortality is a subject that has occupied me for some time (see this post, and this one). I believe that the direct way to fully realize this state is by understanding soul anatomy, and believe that the ancients knew this at some point in their long civilization along with other technology that now eludes us.

This work is an artistic rendering of soul anatomy as expressed through Ancient Kemetic texts, and represents my current understanding of this complex subject. I had conceived a painting about Soul Anatomy some time ago, but the subject eluded me much and the concept for the painting evolved too many times for it to be rendered physically in art or intellectualized in further blog posts: I never followed up with further blogs on the matter, as the painting itself has done that.

Various researchers and Egyptologists put the soul anatomy component toll at differing figures: 5, 7 and 8 are common. I suggest 9 with my painting, and that includes the physical body (represented by the coffin lid entity)  and the "energy" sekhem (featured as one of the 8 shrine bodies).

As mentioned previously, the soul components are represented by mummiform beings inside open shrines, another inspiration form the coffin of Seti I, which also featured bright blue hieroglyphs on the then white alabaster when it was first discovered.

The soul parts from left to right top first are:
Akh
Sekhem
Ba
Sahu
Ka
Khaibit
Ab
Ren
The Khat itself is represented by the lion headed lid and is designated so just under Nekhbet's wing. A simple understanding of the meanings of each can be found in the aforementioned blog post

The Hieroglyphs
Again, I commissioned Tamara Siuda to render the texts I wanted for the painting into Ancient Kemetic, as well as to check that I had the orientation of the texts correctly on the piece, and the Netjeru's names and the soul names correct.

The texts (from top left) read:

The Great Goddess Nekhbet in her glory blesses this process



The Great God Khepera activates this one with His divine transformative power


Behold my Akh
Behold my Ka
Behold my Sekhem
Behold my Khaibit 
Behold my Ba
Behold my Ab
Behold my Sahu 
Behold my Ren
Behold my Khat


Divinely activated my wings grow and I metamorphose into a starry being like Netjer
These things a million times true


The glyphs next to each of the smaller featured Netjeru say Their names:
Sutekh, Sopdu, Sopdet, Hehu, Sokar.


Jean Michel Bitar
An author from Portugal contacted me a year ago to say that he had read my blog and had written a book with very similar ideas to mine on Physical Immortality. Jean Michel Bitar had written "Material Immortality*" and sent it to me not long after I had begun rendering this painting onto the canvas; at the time it was named "Animation Of The Human Machine" . I liked his book - and the title - so much I began referencing the painting first as:
Animation Of The Human Machine (Material Immortality)
then
Animation Of The Human Machine  / Material Immortality
and finally
Material Immortality.
*Jean Michel has since renamed this book, and my strong feeling is that the name of it originally was meant to inspire me to name my painting the same

Material Immortality is acrylic on canvas 60" x 40"

Detail of the Netjer Khepera

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Jackal Gods



It interests me when people gift me Kemetic things. I am not the easiest person to buy for, so if I receive something that really floats my boat it is significant.

I received within a 4 day period in this last week 2 gifts of jackal Netjeru: a beautiful portrait of Anpu (called "Guide Dog") by my friend artist Paul Compton, and a particularly well rendered statue of Duamutef (bought from the Egyptian Museum in Turin) from a client.

"Guide Dog" by Paul Compton
Interestingly, these gifts coincide with finding and securing a new home - a process that has been long, exhausting and not terribly pleasant. I received Paul's gift on Friday (I had submitted my application to secure house), and Duamutef on Monday (I was informed I was successful in securing said house). As a primary purpose of getting this home was to have a room specifically for painting in, I can't help but feel the Netjeru's blessing in all this. (Of note also is that the place I "began" my painting in 4 years ago I felt I was led to by Wepwawet).

I first saw the Anpu portrait in Paul's exhibition in 2012 and wrote about it here. Paul and I had struck up a friendship when I frequented the art supplies store he works in and has been a solid "art" friend since. By this I mean we go to exhibitions of interest together, he guides me with arts technique and product I have no clue about, and is a supporter of my work, as I am his.

My client that gifted me Duamutef went to Italy recently for the Bienniale, and I joked that he should go to Turin - home of the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside of Egypt - and get me a gift. He had not planned on going to Turin and by a strange twist of fate ended up there with friends. They all visited the museum (I have seen the pictures and videos he took and it is AMAZING there) and he bought me the statue presented here.




Dua Anpu!
Dua Duamutef!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Trip To Ballarat Art Gallery Part 2

The author captured in the glass reflection of a work that forms the inspiration for a forthcoming painting
Radicals, Slayers and Villains
After enjoying the Eikon exhibit, I explored the rest of the gallery, including a fascinating exhibition of woodcuts, etchings and engravings called "Radicals, Slayers and Villains".

Featuring extraordinary prints from the Baillieu Library of the University of Melbourne, I was in for an unexpected surprise of themes dealing with the esoteric, macabre and dark. (Melbourne Uni library - who would have thought???)

I loved the range of ideas about death, Satan, hell, and suffering that this exhibition engendered. The liberal display of nudity (perhaps the notion of nude = evil?), other worldly beings and deities had me as engaged as the previous exhibit, but in a different way.

The following images are my personal highlights from this exhibition:

"Lycaon" by Agostino Musi 
An engraving from 1524, "Lycaon" shows the werewolf king of Arcadia about to attack Zeus!


"Eve" by Eric Gill
The sensuality of this silhouette is stunning. In many ways a simple, uncomplicated image, but it says so much. It is a wood engraving, and a brief read of Mr. Gill's background makes me think he would have been fun to meet.


"The raising of Lazarus" by Rembrandt van Rijn
This is an etching and engraving from 1632, and features my fave theme of non-death and physical resurrection. I wonder what happened after Lazarus awoke and what stories he told having been dead for so many days?

"Satan" by Lionel Lindsay
This 1922 wood engraving by Aussie artist Lionel Lindsay is quite likely what we Australians call "taking the piss" out of the Christian parable of sheep and goats where goats = the devil.

"La tentation de Saint Antoine" by Erik Desmazierres
"The temptation of St. Anthony" (St. Anthony of Egypt or St. Anthony the Great) is a complex and intriguing etching and aquatint. The Moroccan French Desmazierres has created a mutli faceted hell where all kinds of demons and torture abound. I have included a detail from it below. The figure below did remind me of a certain Netjer . . . . 

"La tentation de Saint Antoine" detail

Other parts of the gallery
I include below, sans commentary, other works that captured my eye as we wandered through the impressive gallery:

"Ajax and Cassandra" by Solomon J Solomon
oil on canvas (1886)
"Beneath the arena" by Karl Theodor von Piloty
oil on canvas (1860 - 1880)

"Wake up to the stink" by ELK
spray enamel on board (2009)

"Henry F Stone and his Durham ox" by Thomas Flintoff
oil on canvas (1887)

"Tracks" by Stanislaus Rapotec
oil on composition board 1956

The 8 + 1 painting
I wouldn't finish this post without mentioning the drawing - a mezzotint in fact -that inspired me so. I drew the sketches to interpret this as a painting whilst on the plane over to the US.

The piece is called "Satan presiding at the Infernal Council" and it is a delight to behold. John Martin was famous for implying enormous scale through his grand architectural renderings. Let's hope my homage to this piece can do it justice!

"Satan presiding at the Infernal Council" by John Martin
mezzotint 1827


Friday, 20 March 2015

Milestone

Yesterday a new milestone in my painting career was reached: I had 5 of my paintings professionally photographed.

The difference this makes to how they are presented on the internet (which is currently my primary means of showing my work) is incredible.

This is the first step in getting all of my work professionally photographed for 2 upcoming exhibitions: the first one, which I am hoping to have in November or December this year here in Melbourne, and the second next year or thereabouts in the United States with Ptahmassu Nofra-Ua'a.


"The Ark Of Millions" is the first to be (re)featured. The brilliance of the colours is much more apparent, even though the gold boat and shrine can not convey the metallic paint as well as in real life. The original post at time of completing the work last year can be found here.

I will post one each of the 5 per week so you can see for yourselves, and by that time my latest work "Material Immortality" should be ready. I ask that you link back to this page when sharing the photos which you are most welcome to do.

Thanks to Christopher Sanders Photography for his great efforts.

The Ark Of Millions
48" x 72"
Acrylic on canvas
(2014)

Monday, 16 March 2015

Eye Of The Bennu



I came across this wonderful film made with shadow puppets and papyrus screens before I left for my trip to the US. I find "Eye Of The Bennu" by Solar Falcon Productions delightful, and wanted to meet the film maker and creator Paul Madariaga when I was in LA - changes to my schedule prevented that happening however.


The film is a great example of Kemeticism manifesting today, and I would have loved to have discussed this in depth with the creator. The story is set in an Ancient Egyptian fantasy world and uses Kemetic themes and concepts to tell a story essentially about overthrowing the forces of Apep. The story could come from one of the ancient manuscripts, except that this version of Luxor comes complete with a monorail (I love that!)


Described as "a classic heroes journey filmed in the style of shadow puppetry behind papyrus" it tells the story of the jackal Aketnu who is caught up in the kingdom's struggle to manifest the Neter Ra through the pharaoh, before their enemies - the Hyksos - can do the same with the evil serpent Apep.

The papyrus background is used effectively as a screen for the shadow puppets to present on, as well as being a scroll with  hieroglyphs atop and at the sides as the story unfolds.

There are wonderful and inspiring images that turned me on as an artist - such as the Set like figures, winged Set figures (amongst others) and a beautiful colorful Khepera.

video

The film is the winner of Best Action Film and Best Sound Design at the 2013 PollyGrind Film Festival in Las Vegas, NV. You can download or rent a copy by following this link. The video above is a trailer of the film.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Wendover: A Doorway To My Heart

The Bonneville salt flats in Utah; Ptahmassu can be seen in foreground

As part of my recent trip to the United States I visited Ptahmassu and his partner  in the north western corner of Nevada on the Utah border. The town is called Wendover, and the landscape there is breathtaking to the point that words really can not do it justice.

Perhaps my paintings will then. 3 have been inspred by this place, and the fire to produce them is raging inside me.

I have not yet written about my trip to the US in great detail, and do not know if I will, as the paintings that are being produced from that trip will speak volumes. However, Wendover was so magickal, and Ptahmassu has captured that magick in his latest poem so succinctly, that I wanted to share it here. I could not write better about that place myself and I will do my best to convey this in the aforementioned forthcoming paintings.


A Doorway To My Heart

by Ptahmassu Nofra-U'aa
Natural cave-like formations in West Wendover, Nevada/ Photo by the author


Alone in a desert land
Not abandoned
Not left for dead
Yet finding solitude
In a barren land

Tucked high in the bosom
Of ruddy cliffs
Piercing the flank
Of a turquoise sky
Cloudless
The sky drifts by
My eyes
Drinking, drinking
Drinking deeply
Of the turquoise fountain
Flowing above my head

Security waits
Even in lonely valleys
Where rams rut
And bleached bones
Tell a tale of life's fragile struggle

I find a purpose
For life to continue
Far outside the temporary veil
Of mortal existence

This is a doorway to my heart
Worn into the ancient rock
Where my ancient memories
Wait
Clad in the ages
Of lives lived before
This body came into
My mother's womb

My real mother is above
Stretched out in Her turquoise body
Kissed by the shards of sharp sunlight
Tumbling down
Over the empty landscape

There is a doorway to my heart
Where one finds a portal
Into the spectral world
A ladder to heaven
The doors of the sky
Sheltered by monoliths
Raising the hot earth
Skyward
Up and into the etheric vastness

You cannot help
But make pilgrimage here
To the place where my heart
Has hallowed a shrine
To the near-forgotten Gods
But Their voices linger
Here where the one gives way
To the Ones who went before him
Their spirit lights
Calling down lightning
Given from a bare sky

Heaven calls from above
Earth makes love to my feet
And open up
Before me
At the doorway to my heart

I leave behind
All I thought I knew
And give way to
The company of spirits
Who, in silence, bestow
The Wisdom of millions of years

My real father is below
My feet firm planted
In his sacral history
His battles
His deaths
His resurrection
I gather up his bones
And call him to my counsel
At the doorway to my heart
Where the Ancestors
Make quiet pilgrimage
To speak without language
To initiate without action

Gratefully I receive
The spectral lights
Emerging from darkness
Where every seed grows
Before it flourishes
In the Light

And I too came from darkness
Into the world of light
From between my sacred mother's thighs
Like the sun
In the rosy mantle
Of the dawn sky 
Renewed beyond death

If you travel here
To meet me
You must give up
All that you thought you knew
To enter the sacred portal
Burrowed deep
In the desert shrine
Where the Ancestors
traverse
To make communion
With their kin

Hear the drum
The awesome heights
Of my heart
Secreted in the ruddy mountains
Where a trail of light
Moves like quicksilver
Through a lens of spirit
Cutting through flesh

This is where I meet you
Again
This is where
You pick up the pieces
And love again
This is where
We begin again
Here at the doorway to my heart


Ptahmassu's poetry blog is here.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Trip to Ballarat Art Gallery Part 1

I took a trip to Ballarat (a city located 1.5 hours outside of Melbourne) a week before my recent trip to the United States to catch the last day of an exhibition called "Eikon: Icons of The Orthodox Christian World".

I wanted to document it here so that it did not get lost amongst the enormity that my US trip became. Besides providing much inspiration for future work, I was surprised to find other points of inspiration within the vastness of this rather spectacular gallery, one item of which is the + 1 of the 8 + 1 paintings that will form my Netjeru In America series (revealed in Part 2 of this blog).



Eikon: Icons Of The Orthodox Christian World
The practice of creating and maintaining sacred images as a means of communing with the divine is of course of great interest to me.

This exhibition featured the Greek and Russian Orthodox Christian icons from around the 9th to around the 18th century. I am particularly interested in identifying relationships between this work and that of Ancient Egypt, and that relationship does exist.

Some of the icons were beautiful, but I found many to be sombre and at times depressing.  

I display below some of the main points from the exhibition entrance plaque (and invite the reader to consider in relation to my own artworks):

  • the primary function of icons is devotional
  • they are governed by strict artistic conventions 
  • they must be 2 dimensional
  • the personages depicted must be readily identifiable
  • icons are not intended to reflect the personality of the artist "writing" them
  • they do not have to be visually pleasing
  • they do not have to introduce new concepts
  • viewers who accept these images on the images own terms will be moved by their spiritual power

I feature below four of the paintings that struck chords for me:


"The Fiery Ascent of Elijah", Russia, 17th century
Elijah is one of 3 Christian figures reported to have have escaped death, and this fascinates me more than words can convey; this icon speaks to me on a level hard to articulate.

"Mother of God Of the Burning Bush", Russia, circa 1800
An icon revealing the incarnation of Jesus, with references to Moses and the Burning Bush.

"The Dormition Of The Mother Of God", Northern Greece, 16th Century
Mary the mother of Jesus was one of the 3 that I mentioned above who in Christian lore did not die; this icon tells us that she "went to sleep", different to the Catholic story I was brought up with where she ascended (celebrated as The Assumption), but still claiming she did not die. I am particularly fascinated by the "six winged seriph" centre top, and wonder if this is in fact representative of Mary's soul anatomy beginning a transformation process? Her akh perhaps?

"The Transfiguration", Russia, 17th Century
I have considered this icon before thanks to the work and research of William Henry; does this image represent the complex knowledge of soul antomy as understood in Ancient Egypt, rendered in a work that we can comprehend?

I was also impressed by the way that this exhibition was curated. Rather than subject these images to the standard white walls of so many exhibits, the icons were displayed across rooms each with a colour that enhanced the experience of viewing. The lighting of same also showed some consideration in creating a place for contemplation.