Saturday, May 14, 2016

Silk Paintings - Mesopotamia

This is another piece from the Magic Symbols series, a series about the icons and secrets of ancient cultures. The silk painting was called Mesopotamia:

40" x 13"
silk, stitched

Ancient cultures are tremendously fascinating, specifically when they keep their secrets, when no-one has been able yet to decipher them. This leaves enough space for speculation and theories. The less is really known about an ancient culture the more it incites curiosity of course, especially when precious treasures might be involved which could be very attractive for public and media and thus a valid argument to fork out new research grants.

Now we are talking about Mesopotamia – the land between Tigris and the Euphrates river. A while ago we heard something about the axis of evil, now we hear about the axis of chaos. The land between the Tigris and the Euphrates yet was also the axis of human culture from where civilization was brought into the adjacent regions. The ancient empire of Mesopotamia even once included parts of the Mediterranean sea, conquered by King Sargon who founded the city of Akkad. Doesn’t it seem a bit paradox that we are talking about the very same countries here which are now called Irak and Iran?

More than 5000 years ago, the southern part of the land between the rivers was only marsh land. No rock, no metal, nor hard woods for constructions could be found there, but nevertheless here was the cradle of the earliest advanced culture: the land of Sumer. Sumerian cities and temples were embellished with gold, silver and precious stones which were organized through long-distance trade.

Sumerian culture was a mix of foreign and local elements. The Sumerians were highly innovative people, creative in their response to the natural challenges of the two rivers and their immense flooding each year. Many of the great Sumerian legacies, such as writing, irrigation, the wheel, astronomy and literature, can be seen as adaptive responses to the great rivers. And now, today?

These formerly highly developed countries disappear in clouds of utter poverty of the population due to religious power plays. How is it possible that civilizations with greatly evolved societies fall back into medieval habits? Shouldn’t this be a warning for any civilization which starts to neglect freedom and tolerance?

 (image source:
“The Sumerians were the first people known to have devised a scheme of written representation as a means of communication. From the earliest writings, which were pictograms (simplified pictures on clay tablets), the Sumerians gradually created cuneiform–a way of arranging impressions stamped on clay by the wedge-like section of a chopped-off reed. The use of combinations of the same basic wedge shape to stand for phonetic, and possibly for syllabic, elements provided more flexible communication than the pictogram. Through writing, the Sumerians were able to pass on complex agricultural techniques to successive generations; this led to marked improvements in agricultural production.
Another important Sumerian legacy was the recording of literature. The most famous Sumerian epic and the one that has survived in the most nearly complete form is the epic of Gilgamesh. The story of Gilgamesh, who actually was king of the city-state of Uruk in approximately 2700 B.C., is a moving story of the ruler’s deep sorrow at the death of his friend and of his consequent search for immortality. Other central themes of the story are a devastating flood and the tenuous nature of man’s existence. Laden with complex abstractions and emotional expressions, the epic of Gilgamesh reflects the intellectual sophistication of the Sumerians, and it has served as the prototype for all Near Eastern inundation stories.” (Excerpted from Iraq: A Country Study. Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 1988).
This may explain why the name of “Mesopotamia” seems to be connected with so many myths and secrets as well as with the Bible. Kings such as Nebukadnezar and Sanherib, cities such as Ur, Ninive, Assur and Babylon are all to be found in Mesopotamia.
But the Bible tells only a tiny part of Mesopotamia’s history and soon the people of Sumer sank into oblivion, until the oldest tablets (dating from ca. 3500 bc) were found in Kisch (see map). The typical cuneiform was developed much later, around 2700 BC.
It took another 4500 years until the tablets could be deciphered by a German philologist in 1802, by Georg Friedrich Grotefend..

But Mesopotamia possessed even more superlatives. It was probably the land with the oldest tree-of-life symbols. Since nearly 5000 years and in probably every society the tree was the symbol for life itself. The tree did not only deliver construction material for houses and all kinds of containers, but it was also needed for the supply of food, for transportation and many other requirements. All bigger civilizations such as Sumerians, Assyrian, Egyptians and Chinese, Greeks and Romans would not have developed without their forests!

The tree as a symbol for life had an additional meaning: in every country on this world the tree was always the link between heaven and earth. While its roots went deep into the soil and its branches reached high into the sky humans considered this as the tie between the two plains. All the known myths are talking about this and so it even seems to be the band that all humans are connected through.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Silk Paintings - Machu Picchu

Quite a while ago, before I started this painting,  I saw a great documentary on TV about the ancient city of Machu Picchu. It was fascinating but at the same time I was shocked to hear that this spiritual place had become an object of mass tourism!!

While I fully understood that a poor country such as Peru needs the income from tourism badly it was again frustrating to hear how this is achieved. It was the same problem as everywhere in the world where survival of people clashes with the requirements for protecting the assets of a country as its natural environment and cultural heritage.
Machu Picchu was inscribed to the status of Worlds Heritage by the UNESCO in 1983. Being in danger to be trampelled down by tourists the UNESCO org now requires now that the daily visitors should be constraint to 500 people. The ministry of tourism in Peru though planned to admit a number of 10.000 people per day which would be even a higher risk to the sacred place than currently, where the culmination is 4.000 visitors per day – as you can imagine. A huge dilemma.
From the website of the World Heritage Center:
“To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage.”
One of these criteria currently says and which may apply to Machu Picchu:
“to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared” (read more)
The tragedy is that the income from tourism probably will not make any difference on the poverty of the people in general, only a few will have jobs and benefit from this income. And additionally there is a huge cultural discrimination between the visitors and the native people: it was mentioned in an interview with the locals that the indigenous people may visit their sacred places only once a month for free – paying the entry fees would be unattainable for them.

It will probably not be likely for myself to see Machu Picchu in reality for various reasons although I wished I could. So for me the only alternative is to look at pictures and videos about this magical place. And I have something other people might not have – the urge to paint this place as I see it in my dreams and talk about it. This at least will not add to the damage of this ancient site. The first result was a silk painting – Machu Picchu as part of the Magical Symbols series.
I painted this in warm colours – just the right thing to warm up your room when the temperatures start to go down again in the winter season.

Machu Picchu is truly a magical place, an archeological site which still holds many secrets. Although the trip may not be as exhausting as 20 years ago it is still not easy to reach this place as it is hidden high in the mountains of the Andes which is good for the place. The plans of the Peruvian government though may change this dramatically. As I already said above the site is in danger to be simply trampelled down by thousands of tourists.
“Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World.
The Incas started building the estate around AD 1400 but it was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Since it was not plundered by the Spanish when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place.” (from wikipedia)”
Whatever might turn out to be the real purpose of Machu Picchu – there is no doubt that this is a place full of magic and an incredible aura. Until today artefacts are found at this site and may lead to new discoveries.

“Machu Picchu”
40″ x 13″
 silk, stitched

.The golden ornaments that I included in this painting/collage certainly add a special touch to the historical city and the dreams about the lost treasures of the Inca people. And although much has been written about Machu Picchu the spell and mystic aura of this place is not lost yet and the cultural objects and symbols, the textile art and ceramics that have been found are a huge treasure and inspiration for our dreams and fantasies.

Here are some details of this painting....

And again I have added a virtual example how this painting could look like framed i.e. even as Fine Art print it will give you the impression of a treasure...

Btw - the Fine Art prints of these stitched silk paintings look awesome due to the excellent print shop I have as a supplier. These prints are done on heavy cotton canvas and show every little detail you can see on the original - even the stitching. And as I use to re-work the prints with metallic pigments after the printing the shimmer of the metal is emphasized...

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