The Messengers

My final artwork is based around Odin’s two Ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory). You will see from the photographs from my past few posts that their image is also incorporated into the shop ‘logo.’

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Huginn and Muninn collect information for Odin, flying all over the world to get it. From the Poetic Edda compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, Odin is referred to as “raven-god” due to his association with Huginn and Muninn and are described as perching on Odin’s shoulders. It is said that Odin gave Huginn and Muninn the ability to speak.

My own two ravens (I did make two, they are not cleverly Photoshop-ed) are again made from paper. I cut hundreds of tiny feathers in varying sizes which were then folded and layered to cover the body. The internal shape is made from tissue paper and masking tape. The feet are made from wire and covered with paper. The images that can be seen on the feathers are made from a selection of different things. I used silver pen to draw large scale symbols of feathers on to black paper, some of the feathers are cut from images of thick, layered black paint and some from images of graffiti on street walls. The rest are varieties of newspaper text which are layered with images of crumpled paper to represent the conveying of information. I wanted the two ravens and the cut out words to be seen as one artwork. The long strip of text is a quote from Neil Gaiman, which reads:

“Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don’t last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. But I can pretend…”   Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Volume 4 Brief Lives

This quote very much sums up my theme as a whole; the transient nature of worship, of stories, of how quickly those things which are essential to our belief systems fade into insignificance.

Here are my images:

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A word about dragons

Dragons feature throughout the legends of many cultures, with two particular variants.   The European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies, and the Chinese Dragon, with similar counterparts in East Asia.

A dragon is a mythological representation of a reptile. In antiquity, dragons were mostly envisaged as serpents, but since the Middle Ages, it has become common to depict them with legs, resembling a lizard. There is a clear distinction between the two types of dragons; the European dragon usually has wings, whereas the Chinese dragon looks more distinctively like a snake or serpent with a horse-like head.

In contemporary culture, dragons tend to be portrayed with two sets of legs like a lizard and can emit fire from its mouth.

Within Asian culture, Dragons are revered and have particular spiritual significance. It is common for them to possess some form of magic as well as supernatural strength. In some cultures, they are said to be able to talk.

Many narratives about dragons relate to their slaying by a hero, showing human’s pitting their wits against the beast’s superior size and weight. Within contemporary culture, dragons maintain a strong theme within fantasy narratives showing themselves in books/films such as ‘How to Train your Dragon’ and ‘Game of Thrones.’

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The film adaption of Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ continues this year, with ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,’ which will no doubt be another very long, as well as aesthetically stunning.

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I was read ‘The Hobbit’ at a very early age and below is the cover of the book I have. While this book gave me nightmares, I have always been drawn to the fantastical and my bookcase was filled with fantasy novels long before ‘Harry Potter’ made it ‘cool.’ It is unsurprising therefore, that the dragon has always at the back of my mind.

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In this artwork, I have created a dragon specimen which sits in a bell jar. He is made from paper around a wire frame which is covered in tissue to give him shape. The textures used for his body are from a range of images, from metal to thick or peeling paint. I deliberately wanted him to look quite industrial, with a nod to steam punk with watch cogs used for his arm joints and eyes. I spent a long time getting his face right. He needed to look inquisitive while still slightly haughty. I think I have done him justice. He is, I think, my favourite of the artworks I have created this year. He is however, slightly too big for the bell jar. When I initially measured him, I forgot to take account of the fact he would grow in size when I built out his body shape. The result is that his tail does not quite fit inside… Despite this, I think the scale (inadvertently) adds something. He slightly looks like he is about to break free at any second which I think works well. Here are some photos:

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Artist Statement

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.”

(Gaiman, 1991)

This body of work explores ideas of storytelling, and in particular the transitory nature of fairy tales, myth and early forms of religion. Artifacts representing physical manifestation of stories that have been passed down by word of mouth through the centuries have been recreated using paper-cut and paper sculpture to create detailed and layered artworks. Throughout time, stories have been formed in the guise of myths, legends and fairy tales. Some of these have been left behind, abandoned and forgotten amongst contemporary culture. Others have been embraced, adapted and incorporated into modern day storytelling.

These artworks represent objects from stories which have been lost, and then found again. One of the snow bees from Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Snow Queen’ sits on dusty shelves alongside the Norse Goddess Freyja’s feathered cloak. A butterfly representing the Northern European notion that dreams are the result of the soul wandering through different worlds sits trapped in a specimen box. Designed to be placed in an environment which resembles an apothecary or antique shop, these remnants from early religion, childhood tales and myths can be found to buy. These objects, like the figures of worship they used to belong to, have become disused, abandoned and discarded where they were once of pivotal importance. Highlighting how the contemporary world has moved on,  a reverence for technology now often replaces more traditional forms of worship. Through creating ephemera that represent times past, a loss of innocence is demonstrated, highlighting the changes in priorities in our culture, towards a throwaway society.

Each artwork is created using layered sections of paper that has been printed with various textures in keeping with the themes presented by the object, or the object’s owner. A label is attached indicating the objects origin and within a commercial context, offers an opportunity for the ‘shopper’ to haggle to establish the cost and the associated worth of objects which once would have been considered priceless. Paper becomes an appropriate medium to re-create these objects, reinforcing a link with the written word and with the notion that over many generations, stories have become increasingly accessible through print. Each object is delicately layered, offering links with the multiple layers or readings each story offers.

Gaiman, N (1991) The Sandman, Volume 3: Dream Country, London : Titan Books.

The Red Shoes

These shoes are based around the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, ‘The Red Shoes.’ This tells Karen’s story who grows up vain and persuades her blind adoptive mother to buy extravagant red shoes which she subsequently wears to church. She is eventually cursed by a man who appears as a soldier to dance continually and is unable to remove the shoes. This gruesome story eventually leads to Karen cutting off her own feet, before growing repentant and doing good deeds for the church. She is eventually forgiven by an angel and she is so grateful, she dies! It is a particularly unpleasant story reminding us primarily of the power of the church, but also of the dangers of pride and vanity. These shoes are made entirely of paper. Tissue paper and watered glue were used to red base which is surprisingly solid and textured printed paper is used for the hand it paper-cut sections. I incorporated the flower narcissus flower which symbolises self-esteem and vanity into the design. Four separate sections are added to the initial red base which are then folded into shape and glued into place. They are a size seven and are wearable, although it is unlikely the heels would bear human weight!

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Butterfly

This artwork is based around the concept that Northern Europeans believed that dreams were the result of the soul butterfly’s wandering through different worlds. I used maps printed onto tracing paper to reference the butterflies journey. The image which is cut out of the top layer relates to the story of Peter Pan where the pirate ship can be seen flying through the clouds; also referencing the quote,

The place between sleep and waking, where you can still remember dreaming.”

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Nightingale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This artwork is based around ‘The Nightingale’ a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Anderson (1943). It tells the story of an emperor who prefers the tinkling of a bejeweled mechanical bird to the song of a real nightingale. When the Emperor is near death, the nightingale’s song restores his health. My version of the nightingale is make out of hundreds of tiny feathers cut out of printed paper. Various colours and textures are used which have been layered in Photoshop to incorporate various images and types of rust. The aim was to create an artwork which was delicate and aesthetically pleasing while the images themselves are designed out of decaying metal; a reminder that like the Emperor, one should not be deceived by appearances.  

 

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Some quotes

Two quotes I found today by Neil Gaiman which relate to my overall theme I am exploring this year. The notion of storytelling, or ‘story-ing’ is that the nature of stories ensure that they are constantly morphing, changing, growing through time. Whether they are read under the blankets, repeated in a whisper or to send young children to sleep, the alternative realities and imagined worlds that stories offer provide alternatively threats as well as escape. Stories of long ago hold remnants of power, becoming interwoven through time into contemporary culture. Stories offer us hope, faith and memories, hints of the past and warnings of the future.    

 

Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds’ eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on the air, composed of sounds and ideas-abstract, invisible, gone once they’ve been spoken-and what could be more frail than that? But some stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters, have outlasted all the people who told them, and some of them have outlasted the lands in which they were created.” (Gaiman, 2006)

 

“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.” (Gaiman, 2009)

 

Gaiman, N. (2006) Fragile Things, London: Headline Publishing Group. 

Gaiman, N. (2009) M is for Magic, New York: HarperCollins.