‘The divine Lord’. Shiva – a Hindu god known for his extremely juxtaposed attributes; he is commonly known for expressing both anger and calm, love and hate, the portrayer of both destruction and creation. However, it wasn’t exactly these things that – quite literally – drew me to him, it was his other namesake ‘The Lord of the Dance’ that sparked my imagination.
Aside from having a penchant for all things mystical, there is something that is so deeply engrossing about the aesthetics of Hindu deities: long flowing hair, cherubic faces, meaningful symbology, ornamental finesse and meticulously hand crafted symmetry.
The usual set up for a god depiction will include weapons, pets and relics that symbolise the values the concerning god held true to them. Alongside telling the stories of these figures, each devotional picture serves as a reminder to the viewer of what exactly they are praying for when they chant their respective mantras.
As someone who is devoted to listening to music, it only seemed natural to accentuate the features of the most important god in Hindu mythology and create a modern, albeit sacred piece of artwork. This was a back-breaker of a piece. I am going to be honest and say I am not totally confident in drawing proportions, faces and hands. I enjoy symmetry but it takes a bloody long time to do by hand, and out of an act of pure pride I wanted to create the biggest piece of artwork I have ever done. Add that on top of being a piece constructed by tiny dots and you’ve got a recipe for sore hands, sore eyes and what felt like an eternity of endurance.
Firstly, the overall theme for this piece was ‘timeless, but modern’; something that can hold up in today’s world but has an air of nostalgia to it. There is an era of music, film and culture that really staples those two things together, and that is the 1980’s. Not just the 80’s, but what the 80’s vision was like of the future: robo-cop, tron and blade runner came to mind amidst a heap of synth-wave and electronic music. There is something quite challenging about portraying what would have been ‘the most neon era in mankind’ in a black and white illustration, but it was all made possible with merging the cosmic, tron-esque linear elements with what would be deemed as ‘way too much facepaint for anyone to wear in 2019’.
Music is the main portrayal of this piece; to create something that the modern musician or enthusiast can put at the end of their altar and pray to before a night out. However, it wouldn’t be truly inspired by devotional Hindu iconography without lacing it with a few cryptic symbols of my own.
The Third Eye
The third eye is depicted a lot in ancient art. Known as the point of your body that represents intuition and wisdom, it is referred to as the gate that leads to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. I have included this imagery into the piece not only due to it’s mystical history, but the third eye is something in my life that I have had personal experiences with. It only felt natural to place it on Shiva’s forehead. This specific third eye is inspired by the art of Alex Grey, a visionary artist and – in my opinion – saintly figure who is known for his deeply immersive paintings surrounding the subject matter of awakening and the psychedelic experience.
There are only four hands, so it was important to make each one count. The microphone was nestled in there as a personal hat-tip; I used to be the frontman of a death metal band – I know, right! – don’t even ask what the name was because it’s just embarrassing. As time went on I realised that I enjoyed beatboxing, I’m not great at it by any stretch but it is great fun. The mouth is an incredible instrument and is worthy of being represented through this tool.
The cobra behind Shiva’s head is a reoccurring symbol – there are many reasons why this particular snake is placed around his neck: It is meant to represent the endless cycle of life and death, it is a sign of Shiva’s courage to wear a feared animal with a calm demeanour amongst a troupe of other reasons interpreted by the viewer. The two snakes around his arms, however, are my two pet snakes aptly named Yin and Yang. They are baby Boas and are the cutest thing since sliced bread. They have in fact been implemented for no other reason but to self-indulgently show them off to the world.
There is no one thing that I can say that will correctly talk myself out of this one. I could go on forever about how I’ve never actually played vinyl, or how every reference photo I used was doctored. Heck, I could even make up some phoney excuse about how Shiva is a selfless god and therefore is offering the music to you. But as I’m sure you might be aware – I did a silly. A boo boo. An uh-oh, if you will. The Vinyl player is upside bloody down. But this is the thing that had to be processed; I am human. We are humans, we make silly mistakes, we misinterpret information and completely get the wrong end of the stick sometimes. We leave the house for work with our slippers on, we drive up one way streets the wrong way, we might even sometimes pee ourselves in the middle of the night.
Heck, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t annoying to spend 60 hours on a piece to then take a step back and realise an error but learning to embrace Shiva, the Lord of the Dance with all his quirks has been quite a liberating process. In fact, art is made to be subjective, to make the viewer pense upon what the artist meant when he was creating it. Now that it is out in the world, there is no wrong reason as to why it looks this way. He could well be a selfless creator, giving you the vinyl player to play yourself, much unlike when Jesus Took The Wheel. He could be such an awesome god that he’s learnt to play upside down. Or, rather mischievously, he could just be tampering with someone’s setup whilst they’ve gone to the loo.
So here it is, Shiva in all his modernistic glory – fresh off the press with all of his mortal errors entangled within. Take a look at both of the ways you can get your hands on this incredibly limited edition artwork at the Openmind Shop here.