Tag Archives: Art

A picture is worth 1000 words, maybe more

evans-sacred-grove-fresco-complete

The ancient Minoans were a literate society but we can’t read what they wrote. Their script, Linear A, has yet to be deciphered. So how on earth can we tell how they practiced their religion? We may not have words, but we sure have a lot of pictures.

The Minoans were consummate artists. Their art style was more naturalistic and softer than the art of their contemporaries in Egypt and Mesopotamia. One of their favorite painting methods was the fresco: The artist paints the picture directly onto wet plaster on a wall or other surface, so when the plaster dries, the paint is locked into it. Frescoes are incredibly durable, which is a good thing, because most of the Minoan ones are nearly 4000 years old!

The image at the top of this post is the Sacred Grove fresco. It’s a small piece (usually labeled as a miniature) that was found in the temple complex at Knossos. And it depicts, of all things, a ritual being performed before a large audience on the west plaza at Knossos. Those stone sidewalks you can see angling behind the priestesses? They’re still there – you can walk on them today. It’s from artwork like this that we know the Minoans put on large public rituals, possibly mystery plays, for the public in addition to the private ceremonies they conducted within the walls of the temple complex. Unfortunately, we don’t know for certain what the ritual in the Sacred Grove fresco involved beyond what we can see in the picture. But we have other sources for even more detail, like this one:

This is the Hagia Triada sarcophagus, a rectangular box that was used for burial in late Minoan times. What’s so amazing about it is that Minoan funeral activities were painted on the sides. So we know all kinds of things about this aspect of Minoan spirituality: what kinds of offerings and sacrifices were made, what the priesthood wore, how the musicians accompanied the activities. That’s a lot of information from a painted box.

From Akrotiri, a Minoan city on the island of Thera (modern name = Santorini) we have a bunch of frescoes that show the puberty coming-of-age rites for both girls and boys. Here are some of the more famous ones:

We can see the kinds of symbols and objects that were important in these rites: saffron (picking it and offering it to the goddess), the goddess with her attendant monkey and griffin. Other frescoes from this same building show that blood was an important aspect of the girls’ rites (obviously) and some kind of ritual bathing was apparently important for the boys’ rites.

So even though we can’t read what the Minoans wrote (yet – I refuse to give up hope), we still know an awful lot about how they practiced their religion. When I look at these beautiful frescoes, I feel like I could reach through and touch the living, breathing people. Maybe that’s what the Minoan artists intended, to keep their culture alive forever.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Jacqui Lovesey – Artist and Illustrator

Our featured artist this month is Jacqui Lovesey, whose work features witches (of all sizes), magical hares and an enchanting, animistic sort of reality

___________________________________________________________________________________________

I have been working as a self-employed artist for the last thirty years in many different media.  I am not ‘formally’ trained, but have drawn and painted for as far back as I can remember, starting as a child, keenly sketching birds, animals, flowers and insects… My father was passionate on nature and instilled in me that same  lifelong love of the natural world from an early age.  However, having been brought up on a 1970s estate, I also longed to grow up, leave home and find somewhere in the contemplative quiet of the countryside in which to live and work.

And so my travels began…leading quite a gypsy life, moving many times but always finding each place had something new and inspiring to offer, an excitement I was keen to pass down to the younger members of the family.

But that’s not to say that it’s all been idyllic! Working as an artist has its ups and downs, mostly the making-ends-meet part, the main, familiar problem for most self-employed creative folk!  However, for me, the ‘ups’ easily outweigh the ‘downs’. Most importantly, you’re more or less continual master of your own destiny – who knows what amazing project or idea is just around the corner?

Then there’s the ‘motivation’ question I’m often asked – where do I get if from? I always reply bills are a pretty-good motivator – and that there are never enough hours in the day!

At present I am illustrating the Matlock the Hare trilogy of books with my husband Phil, a writer.  It’s been a four-year project of blind faith and dedication, only made possible with the support and loyalty of our many ‘Saztaculous Matlock folk’ who keep us going by buying the artwork, supporting our kickstarter projects and providing endless valuable enthusiasm and encouragement.  The books feature a green-robed majickal-hare who lives high in the Derbyshire Peaks, and have been a joy to illustrate, as I can create the images totally from my imagination – always fun!  Phil and I work well together, neither of us getting in the way of the other, as we have own roles within it. Besides, I’m dyslexic, and he can barely hold a paintbrush without breaking it, so it’s probably better we stick to our own skills!

With two feature-length novels in the trilogy already published, and the third and final instalment due out in October this year, it will soon will be time to put down the brush and go out blinking into the light with our  ‘baby’  and say to the world, “Hey! Look what we’ve done. Now you can all share this too!”  As an artist this is always the hardest part, as we’re almost always happiest creating, not promoting, and this awkward transitional time leaves you wanting to pid-pad in the other direction entirely. However, it’s  a vitally important part of the process and putting on a coat of creative armour to face any critics and naysayers is a given. However, at the end of the even’up you can always go to bed knowing that, if nothing else, your brush and pen are already waiting for you to take them up again all too soon!

Who knows what’s next? That’s always the most exciting part!

___________________________________________________________________________________________

 

You can see more of Jacqui’s work and discover more about the ‘saztaculous’ world of Matlock the Hare at www.matlockthehare.com

Or, please follow her Instagram account for latest progress on her current artworks, exhibitions and forthcoming publication days at

https://www.instagram.com/jacquilovesey/

 

Poverty as an art form

Here in the UK tax on goods is about to go up, and duty on fuel has risen as well. Duty on fuel puts up the price of pretty much everything, and the VAT hike will make that even more pronounced. At the same time wages are being frozen. People are going to have a lot less money to play with, and for many that’s going to be a frightening prospect. I’m going to intersperse cheap living blogs with my other content. Living cheaply often also means living greener.

Those thrown into poverty for the first time in their lives are often disorientated and upset, by the loss of insulation money brings, the loss of choice and the huge insecurity. Posts written by a friend who has recently been forced onto benefits reminded me of this. The fear of poverty makes the experience of it worse.

I didn’t grow up with a great deal of money. For various reasons I’ve lived in austerity for all of my adult life. (Long story, for another day.) I can say with absolute confidence that not having much money to play with does not automatically equate to misery, degradation and abysmal quality of life. It limits you, certainly. But it’s also a great educator. You have to prioritise carefully, work out what is essential and what isn’t. We’re taught to want far more than we need in a culture that is very much about making us buy stuff. Stepping away from that can be liberating, and if you go into it with a view to being freed from the tyranny of objects, then it becomes an entirely different process.

Attitude is in fact key. How you relate to tightening the belt will inform how you experience it. Go in anticipating misery and you’ll find it. If you can relate to it as a creative challenge, then it’s far less painful. Look back at the make do and mend attitude of the second world war. Take it as an opportunity to reduce waste – which is fantastically green. Reducing waste saves money, but you don’t have to relate to it as some kind of desperation, it’s you doing your bit to help save the planet.

Going green to save money – walking rather than taking the car, doesn’t have to look like poverty to anyone else. Cycle to work rather than take the train? It’s part of your new, healthier lifestyle choice. And at the same time while you’re walking and cycling to get about, you don’t need that gym membership, and on it goes. You can be green and healthy, keep your dignity and lighten the load on your wallet all in one go.

By the looks of it, the way things are going most of us are going to have to figure out how to get by with a lot less. Coming to that as bards, druids and pagans, we should accept the possibilities it brings us rather than letting what we can’t change make us unhappy. Some things cannot be fought to good effect, and the pain dished out by governments is all too often on that list. But, going in with the intention of living well, greenly, healthily and on a tighter budget is a good place to start. There is an art to being poor without being miserable. It comes from releasing the need to own, letting go of desires to be fashionable and up to date, and embracing a quieter, more down to earth lifestyle, one that is in many ways far more compatible with paganism than affluent consumerism is.

Financial poverty is not any other kind of poverty. There are a great many other ways in which we can be rich indeed, and these are, I find, far more rewarding.

Art and Craft Politics

If it has a use, it is a craft item. If it doesn’t, it’s art.

This is a definition that holds up in high school art classes, galleries, auction houses and all kinds of other places too. I once held an ashtray made by Picasso. Had it been a tiny painting, it would have been under lock and key, and hugely valuable, but an ashtray isn’t art. It was, however, beautiful.

Now, take a moment and consider these questions. Who produces art? Who makes craft items? Who chooses what to spend the money on?

Art is made to be sold to an art market. That’s its sole purpose. At the top end, it’s made to be sold to galleries, companies, wealthy individuals, or it is commissioned for public spaces. Its function is to be decorative, impressive, inspiring, and/or to be a show of wealth and power. The vast majority of famous artists are and were men. There’s an aura of exclusivity about Art, and most of us ‘ordinary’ people couldn’t afford to own any. We buy the poster versions.

Craft items are made to be used. We’re talking Shaker boxes, painted pots, baskets, blankets, rugs, clothing, pottery, decorated furniture… the fine art of using ordinary materials to make your home beautiful. Crafts belong very much to poorer people, to indigenous people, folk traditions. Crafts are often the domain of women.

Every now and then some group of indigenous people, or a folk movement (Shakers for example) become unexpectedly sexy and then collectors want a piece of it, but on the whole, things made for use are treated as secondary to things made purely for decoration. I do not believe this has anything to do with skill, or quality of work (I’ve been in modern art galleries….) and everything to do with class and gender politics.

There is an important green issue to raise here too. Things that are made purely to be things, art for art’s sake is, from a certain perspective, just stuff and clutter. And on the flip side, just because a thing has a function, that’s no excuse for making it ugly and depressing. (Can I mention car parks?) There’s so much fair traded house clutter out there, and that seems to defeat the object of green living in so many ways. Beautiful things made to serve a purpose, are inherently useful and lovely to live with. We have finite resources. Many of us have finite spending power as well, and finite amounts of space to put things on and in. Given the choice, I’d rather have a thing that is both beautiful and useful.