Hi, welcome back, hope everyone had a great winterval and you are moving into 2019 well.

In the spirit of full disclosure, please note that I am a devout Atheist. I am not prepared to believe in stuff purely from revelation and have little faith without good scientific proof. I have no problem with other people’s faith as long as it doesn’t affect my freedoms or life. But the creationists and believers in “intelligent design” are just plain wrong and have no place in education or policy making generally. I feel the same about flat earthers (members all around the globe!) and anyone else that willfully ignores what is patently factual or true.

But this isn’t a blog just for me to bitch about false thinking; it’s a blog about art and creativity so let’s move on.

God, certainly the Christian God, is nearly always represented as an old beardy white bloke, a brief image search brings you this (link) and you can see what I mean. But if God created us in his own image then why isn’t he an African looking chap/chapess? This is part of the inherently racist view of the world that Christianity kicks up, and don’t get me started as to how “… his only begotten son” Jesus, looks more Buckinghamshire than Bethlehem in skin tone for sure.

Oops I have digressed again. Of course the Abrahamic God wasn’t the first to be represented, the Egyptians were making representations of Ra and Osiris and more around 2600 BCE and they were using gods to explain what they couldn’t explain themselves. There are few today that believe a sky beetle, Khepri, pushes the sun across the sky dome but it was a belief and became an artistic expression to enshrine that belief. Interesting to note that as well as a life giving god, Khepri was also seen as a destroyer/death god too.

My favourite (graphically speaking) pantheon is the Hindu roster of gods, as far as I can discover there is a loose belief in a single God, Brahma, who is the creator god and all the 1000s(?) of other gods are aspects of the original Brahma. There is a long history of art in Hinduism, the shrines and temples are festooned with various gods, some for single families or areas, it also lends itself to great story telling such as in Grant Morrison’s 18 days and even Marvel Comics have fished in these waters.

The representations of Buddha are pretty standard with a jolly fat guy, looking a bit monkish, here’s mine with snow on it from last year.

Image of Buddha in my garden under snow

But the Christian God and religious tales are the ones that dominate the art world. This is, I think, because that’s where the money and power is from the Renaissance onwards and also the fact that the Muslim religion forbids any iconography or attempts to represent the divine. The image above of the Sistine chapel by Michelangelo with beardy old man god reaching out to the flaccid Adam is funded by the Pope and the Vatican, (though folks of my age and cultural background might associate it with the beginning of classic ITV art series “The South Bank Show“) much of the renaissance art seems to be paid for by people trying to buy their way into heaven with art. The House of Borgia, a bunch of medieval bastards and scoundrels, commissioned some great religious art (link) and I hope it did them no good at all.

Images of Goddesses are far less prevalent in the last 1000 years but this woman trumps them all: The Goddess of Willendorf which may comes from around 30,000 years ago is the first and most symptomatic of images of deities. She is beautiful, fecund, ripe, her breasts are full of milk and she looks pregnant. She is the hope of food and offspring carved into a piece of limestone and coloured with red ochre. She has no face in a portrait sense but is representative of life (and maybe death(?)).

Other great Goddesses in the art world go back to Aphrodite and others but I think my fave is Kali, deadly, beautiful and a creator. Who is your go to goddess? And how do you give her worship?

Could any Muslim readers (or anyone else) please comment about why it is a blasphemy to represent God or his messengers graphically? Surely the deities are more powerful and benevolent that they can put up with a cartoon or two.

Here’s a great resource for comparative theology and representations within it: https://www.thoughtco.com/list-of-gods-and-goddesses-by-culture-118503

And so on to Graffiti, the most democratic and often vibrant form of art. Not the telephone number on a toilet wall or booya sucks scrawled onto concrete but anything from a well formed tag up to the sublime graffiti that is featured in the Lonely Planet book Street Art (amazon button below). More and more cities and towns are giving space and walls to artists to enrich with their imagery, while waiting for a sea plane to Vancouver recently in Nanaimo I happened across the Open Art Wall see https://humanityinart.com/ for more details.

Astrocat in Nanaimo

The doyenne of graffiti art is currently Banksy, his whole persona continues to challenge the art world. The shredding of girl with balloon in the Sotherby’s auction was a stunt of new heights. If you haven’t seen Exit through the Gift shop you really should (below) and my visit to Dismaland with my adult daughter was a great experience that I will write more about later, but his latest piece is in the town of Port Talbot and is a reaction to the pollution that is around the steel works down there. Though this is a cautionary tale as the fella that asked Banksy to do it now is having a terrible time due to the amount of visitors now coming to his garage! See here for more (link)

I would heartily suggest that you follow the #graffiti tag on instagram or the ‘urbanartchannel’ as some of the stuff on there is bloody amazing.

If I have offended any Christians in this blog then, to quote Bill Hicks, “forgive me.”

Please feel free to follow the buttons to Amazon if you would like me to get a very small fee from what you are buying, not that you have to buy what I suggest but just start shopping from my link and it will help immensely. Also if you are interested in buying quality comics and art at a reasonable price you should have a look at my eBay page https://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/gsmokeyjoe019ffg

Many thanks for reading, be well and strive for happiness, your pal, Gary B’stard

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