Ritual – Painting the Eye of Horus Tattoo
In my painting, Ritual, I borrowed several symbols from different mythologies. Most noticeably the tattoo on my model’s hip and the peridot hanging over her left shoulder. The light cast from somewhere behind her is warm, maybe as the result of a fire – the long shadows of the trees support that. The wolf is there as an easter egg – once you see it, you can’t unsee it and its enigmatic presence is meant to be questioned.
Symbolism and Religion
Using symbols in paintings of mysticism can be tricky if you’re trying to follow a set of prescribed rules set by a certain religion. But being an atheist, an outsider looking in, means that I can see how each religion has been layered across the next – the paganism in Christianity, for example. It’s freeing – I can take elements of crystal therapy, the polytheism of the ancient Egyptians, Scandanavian folklore and Greek mythology and bring them all together in one mystical, magical piece of art.
Having been brought up C of E with the gospel of Christianity thrust upon me with great force as a child, I am fascinated by the stories and fables within the bible and how they take components from previous belief systems, twisting the tales to fit the “new” agenda. Similarly, I like to take the lesser known of well known myths and give them a modern voice, like my latest mermaid painting…
While mermaids are popular at the minute, Galene remains one of the lesser known of the fifty nereids. The goddess of calm seas.
In ritual, I wanted the Eye of Horus to be a focal point, an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, power and health. The peridot slung over my model’s shoulder is also a symbol of protection for the Romans who brought us Roman Catholicism and adapted our pagan beliefs at the time so that we could ease ourselves into a new belief system. The wolf is a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty, and spirit. The wolf also appears in our fairytales as an evil character. I painted the wolf lurking in the shadows behind my model – whether as a friend or foe is up to the viewer’s interpretation.
My attraction to biblical characters and their previous incarnations allows me to explore the darker aspects of the “good book.” The tales of the Old Testament are often barbaric and shocking and there is much misremembrance of the tales of old – as with every layer of religion, each epoch takes the parts of the religious texts that best suit the agenda of the moment and reinterpret those for the modern audience. Lilith is now a videogame character, the high priestess of hell. But Lilith was originally just Adam’s first wife who was so disobedient that she refused to have sex in the missionary position, and it has been speculated that she was the embodiment of the devil himself… who didn’t exist at the time of Adam’s writing and was created as a cautionary tale many years later. So you have gender fluidity associated with evil, as well as women being vilified for being powerful and portrayed as cunning and manipulative.
I could lose myself in bible stories and become enraged by how they have been deliberately skewed from the original, brutal tales to fit an agenda that controls a lot of the West, the US in particular.
So, while I wanted to add elements of religion to Ritual, I wanted the actual cause of the ritual to be ambiguous. The Eye of Horus is a symbol of protection – Tattooing has its roots in tribalism. The model I used was in this pose, but I loved the unusual position – she’s almost contorted, her back bent like a dancer waiting in the wings, about to take flight and perform her part in the ritual.
The Magic of Nudity in Art
Funnily enough, people were more angry that my model had a tattoo than the fact that she was naked. Maybe a sign that people will decide to be bitter on the internet and I should just disengage with them completely. A sad turn of events, but I’m reaching a point of social media fatigue that makes me want to delete my accounts altogether. Which would absolutely screw my sales, but I’m so tired of the backlash. I create art because I want it to be beautiful and generate emotional responses, not drive people to be vicious and find it necessary to attack. To be honest, the nastiness baffles me every time – how can anyone take the wonder that is the human body to be anything other than amazing?
The fact that nudity still shocks and enrages people, particularly when it comes to women’s genitalia, gives it power, though. Women of old were burned as witches for dancing naked, knowing their symbols and herbs, having a strong sense of self. Dress it up how you like, we as a society are still scared of that. The reaction to nudity in art can attest to that. The fact that, even though tattoos are more common now, there’s still a vast amount of people who think women shouldn’t have them is another hangup over women being in control of their own bodies.
Here’s my tattoo. I wonder what backlash that would receive if I were to push it out to the same channels I push my art to.
There’s the rose for my love of nature, the asymmetric geometric shapes balance out the asymmetry of the art deco embellishments, and then if you look closely, you can see the sickle moons that symbolise bisexuality. The rest is just decoration – shock horror! How dare it not all have meaning.
Ritual as a success
Overall, however, Ritual is my most popular non-fetish piece. Moving away from fetish slightly and into magical realism (or imaginative realism), my audience shifts from predominantly male to female. A shift that I’m rather pleased with and tepeditious about. As a feminist, I like to support women, particularly women in the arts, but the vitriol over nudity has mainly come from older women who think it’s acceptable to message me and say horrible things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the men who treat me like a sex worker and not a high class one. Both of these negative experiences weigh on me, but in general, it is the women who support me and my artist’s journey. I’d like to think that my work, fetish or otherwise, shows strong women in positions of power and I find it so heartening to receive message that reflect that that has been understood.
Purchasing and Prints
The original Eye of Horus painting, Ritual, is available in my shop and you can also get your mitts on prints, merchandise and downloads. Saatchi is your best bet for luxury canvas and framed prints, whereas Redbubble absolutely nail merchandise like clothing, stationery and home decor, as well as more budget prints and greetings cards. You can also download hi-res, print ready versions of this piece from the shop and make your own prints in as many formats as you like.
The original painting is available on the website.
It’s also available in all kinds of printing formats and across all clothing and home decor products on Redbubble.
Luxury framed or canvas prints are available from Saatchi.