Celts – A Silk Painting about Ancient Symbols and more Reflections
February 19, 2009
40″ x 13″, silk
I still cannot go back to the easel. Too many open issues which need time to be thought about. A stage of my life is finished and irrevocably gone. Time to get back to my plans and even make new ones?
Reflections upon my work seems to be a good way of cleaning up and clarifying thoughts.
I wonder what other artists think about their older work. What do YOU think about your own? Is it something that has to be disposed of? Do you keep old paintings for reference and if yes, what if the space is getting narrow – what are you going to do with them then?
When I talk about older work – well, I mean work that is 3-4 years old. But what if it is much more than that? Do you make your decision dependent on maturity of your work – let’s say – if it is too amateurish – do you likely throw it in the bin?
I have realized that I can still be partial about my work. Not without critique and seeing potential improvement – I am always my hardest critic on my own work – but I am still standing behind my work without the strong wish to burn it up. There is nothing narcistic about this feeling. The reason may be that I almost always need a long time to actually finish a piece of work.
There is a long time between the idea for a painting until I actually start with the work itself. In most cases the work itself is the shortest part but the idea, the research, the planning before take up my time. I often work through many different possibilities – I do sketches, think about colour composition and many other components. I love to prepare the materials I am going to use and normally the painting is already finished in my head before I actually start painting.
I love to work on the chosen theme virtually, do my research in the internet, reading about the theme, collecting bits and pieces. It is like working on a puzzle. And I can truly say I enjoy it.
When I started with the series of the Magic Symbols I did not know yet that it would be the beginning of a whole concept. I found ancient cultures and their symbols always extremely fascinating. As a child I loved to read the legends and sagas from all over the world and never thought that these themes would ever return to me. But now – in the age of computers and easy access to all kinds of information – it became even more fascinating because you could dig out more unusual things.
Celtic history and culture may not be such an unusual subject though when it comes to magic symbols. It may be a well researched and well known field of knowledge. But what I found extremely fascinating about the celtic culture is that specifically their ornamentation survived thousands of years. Celtic knots and patterns can still be found in our modern world. From time to time there a revival in fashion and other components of our modern life can be observed. Hollywood may have a part in it with its fantasy films. But the question is why do people feel so attracted by it?
The Gothic trend is another evidence for mostly younger people’s interest in celtic culture or at least in their ornamentation even if celtic ornaments are much older than the middle ages some people feel an affinity to. For them it is simply irrelevant when symbols from different eras are mixed together.
I am not quite sure though what the reason for this interest is. It may be that the more serious devotees admire a certain elegance in the celtic style. There is no doubt, that precious materials such as silver, velvet, laces and silks add their part. I honestly doubt that most of the youngsters who so passionately surround themselves with the ancient symbols really know much about the culture and its background. I think it is rather a sort of neo-romanticism, an affinity towards the unknown, the dark, a sometimes morbid, eroticized addiction to the esoterical significance of death, or simply the urge to be different from the rest of the world.
One of the most prominent celtic symbols is the endless knot. Whether it has a special meaning or not is open to interpretation. Little or no facts are known about the historical meaning of this ornament. Here is a website, which offers various in-site links which try to decipher the meaning of various knot styles.
What I find much more interesting is the symbol of the tree of life. It is amazing how often this symbol appears in history. Nearly in every culture in human history you find a symbol representing the tree of life in one way or another (please see larger image above).
Although each tree had a different meaning for the celts, it was the source of wisdom and hope, the connection between the upper world and the netherworld. Also it represented the seasonal change and the cycle of life.
The oak was the most revered tree for the celts, especially for the Druids it was a sacred tree. The celts had a special relationship to their trees – this emerges from their magic alphabet and their tree calendar. The celtic word Duir means oak and is probably the origin for Druid. The Celts believed that many trees were inhabited by spirits, because trees had a very strong aura. They also believed that this aura had healing effects on human beings.
And what could be a stronger magic symbol for Celts and Druids than Stonehenge? Even if it is not proven in detail whether Stonehenge has somethign to do with the Druids at all, this place is nevertheless a magic place with many secrets, which are open to many interpretations.
I was lucky to have visited this place at a time where nothing was closed off to the public and when few tourists visited this place. I could not elude the magic of this site either. Today mass tourism has taken over and entry fees which are beyond belief.