What is the Purpose?

Why illustrate creation myths? What is the point if it’s been done so many times? What could there be to it that we don’t already know?

It is truly a challenging task to redefine something anew which has been defined and redefined so many times before – mythologies have been used as a source of inspiration for lots of world famous motion pictures as well as, and especially, books and entire series; by infusing their work with a measured amount of established myth and legend, people like Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis create entire worlds, just as real as (and often based on) the Heaven we so often hear about, or Asgard, or Hades and so many other realms from different mythologies. And yet, we’re not talking about mythology as a whole, this exploration is of the roots of the cultural phenomenon, of Myths of Creation.

“In the enjoyment of a great myth we come nearest to experiencing as a concrete what can otherwise be understood only as an abstraction.” said C. S. Lewis in his essay Myth Became Fact. “Myth is the mountain whence all the different streams arise which become truths down here in the valley; in hac valle abstractionist (5) Or, if you prefer, myth is the isthmus which connects the peninsular world of thought with that vast continent we really belong to. It is not, like truth, abstract; nor is it, like direct experience, bound to the particular.” The ending to his essay is perhaps the most captivating (and relevant to my own studies) part of it, “God is more than a god, not less; Christ is more than Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about “parallels” and “pagan Christs”: they ought to be there-it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. […] For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: perfect myth and perfect fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.”

It is what I want to bring out to the public – a manifested personal experience of that which is only existent in the mind and soul. Even a trace of that scale of awareness of the world, not at a personal, familial, communal or national level, beyond even a planetary level can hint at our insignificance and through it unify us. When one is taken back to the beginning of time and space, one cannot help but experience something. And it is that something (which can most closely be regarded as a sense of awe), which is the same in everyone, which is the physical manifestation of a mutual connection, an understanding of a higher level, a unifying factor if you will between all of us on earth. Perspective, Empathy, those words become amplified by their own resonance – your viewpoint is exalted, you observe a creator in action, THE Creator in action… when one has transcended the barrier of mundane thought, of the opaque fog that is the material world and the “normalities” of day-to-day life, that is when one truly starts becoming aware of the world they are a part of… together, side by side with everyone and everything else. By putting things in perspective, we may come to realize that our personal problems become insignificant in the wake of wars, destruction and terrorism fuelled by the greed, blind hatred and petty differences of a certain few. It is the larger part of humanity that craves a peaceful life of love and cooperation, and to get there I hope my work to be a peaceful catalyst.
One People. One Planet. One Life. One Love.

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Why Illustration?

Why illustration? Why not just art? What is the difference? Isn’t illustration an aspect of Art and Design?

There’s a lot of ways to communicate, some more universal than others. When proposing and sharing ideas, we can write them all out, but they would be limited to the language used to write them; music is another language, more universal than words – the emotion of a melody can be understood by anyone regardless background or nationality. And then there is illustration.

There’s a reason why the expression is “to illustrate ideas”, rather than just draw or visualise. There’s a certain power to an image which speaks to the viewer without the additional help of tons of theory and conceptual justification. Illustration is the language which speaks to everyone who comes across it, and it’s up to the illustrators to convey the right message through the work that they produce.

Illustration is more than just pretty pictures in books, as people seem to think most often. Illustration can educate, it can comfort the individual, it can inspire the masses, and it can fuel a fire of revolution – what could be a reason behind the shooting of Charlie Hebdo’s satirical political illustrators… it is the most inconspicuous art form as people don’t necessarily see it as ‘real art’ (what we come across in the exclusivity of a gallery space) and so it is viewed in a completely different light. In a way it’s like we take the understanding of visual symbols for granted – we don’t even realise how often we grasp concepts and ideas from illustrated images, and this right there is the hidden power of illustration.

An illustration has the power to evoke responses, emotional as well as physical, unexpected as well as predictable. We may laugh at the funny little caricature collage of David Cameron riding a pig (UK) but we won’t be laughing when we see an urban landscape of destruction where the street has turned into a river of blood (Syria)… and at the same time, illustrations can make mentally healthy people understand what it could feel like to have depression or heavy anxiety, they can evoke empathy towards others and explain what cannot be said otherwise.

Mythologies have been illustrated since the dawn of art and craft – there are caves dotted around the world with drawings made tens of thousands of years ago; narrative after narrative on the tomb and temple walls of ancient Egypt; we see entire tales drawn over ceramic pots and vases in ancient Greece; stories carved in doors and their frames from Celtic and Slavic origins; the carved stones of Incas, Aztecs and Mayans…  And let’s only mention the entire Renaissance, where classical myth was deeply intertwined even within a highly Christian environment. And why? Is it because myths just present pretty narratives or because they may hold existential information and universal truths about the human experience? Why illustrate myths? Perhaps because with each new image, we find a new way of understanding the ‘same old concepts’, because with each new image we can redefine what we’re already familiar with not for ourselves, but for the world, in the context of our experience of life today. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an illustration can be worth millions. Because one illustration, if it’s the right one, in the right context, in the right place at the right time, can potentially change the course of history…

Why Creation Myth?

Mythology is fascinating. I’ve believed that my whole life without anyone having to push me towards it. There is something so interesting about how people used to explain the workings of the world, and how each culture had its own set of tales, passed down generation after generation. Those stories are so different from one another despite the fact they address similar, if not the same, topics of life, death, love, war, parenting, kinship…

So why choose such a vast subject? The truth is I’m not. Despite the differences there is one thing that all cultures and mythologies have in common – stories with similar narrative and identical purpose – Creation myths. No matter which mythology I choose to explore, there will always be a story to explain how the world came to be.

With time, our cultures have changed, moulded by the influence of other cultures. When you look at our world nowadays there’s barely a trace of the ancient world, all we have is the great ruins and archaeological sites to remind us. But it’s not just that – ancient philosophers and mathematicians and poets, and their ideas and knowledge have become the earliest basis for scientific discovery, and even though science as an autonomous subject had a slow and rough start because of the austere nature of religion and its influence over the population, it has gone as far as the edges of space and time. Faith, what we believe in, is one of the most integral building blocks of us as individuals and as a collective and yet religion has somehow always been a dividing factor. Why is that? If all religions teach us to love one another and cooperate, then at some point we must’ve gone off by quite the margin in our understanding of them. Let’s not falsely convince ourselves that it’s human nature to be in conflict, we’ve gone way past the age of battling for territorial influence by sending armies to slaughter each other, we are in the 21st century, a time of supposed intelligence and scientific/technological advancement beyond that of every previous age. And still there is mistrust, hatred and petty differences which lead up to intense cultural and political conflicts – the atrocities in Syria being just another drop in the glass which is full to the brim.

Can we claim that we’ve been conditioned by our cultures to be hostile towards those who are different? Led to believe that this is how things are, and there’s nothing we can do about it? Well, if there is one thing which is universally true, it’s that we can question everything. And I am questioning the lessons our institutionalised faiths have groomed us into over countless generations.

I’m going back to the very start, to the point where faith was about understanding rather than judging. When people told stories about how their world was created, in an attempt to understand it better. Because it was at that point, that we weren’t focusing on cultural specificities and how we should live our lives. Because it is those stories which best depict the human psyche and how it works – can anyone explain why creation myths are so similar to one another? Could it be that we’re not that different after all? And if so… why is there so much conflict, hatred, cruelty and destruction in the world?