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Limited edition of 95 signed fine-art prints available on museum archival card. 500mm high x 805mm wide. Unframed prints shipped FREE in NZ, $49 internationally.
Original painting Sold, flashe (acrylic vinyl) on canvas,
1260 x 1885mm (including white ornate frame), 2017
Kali is the Dark Mother of time, change and death in Hinduism. She is the goddess of the underworld, much like Hine-nui-te-po in Maori myth and Isis in Egyptian myth.
It is interesting then, that I chose to paint the lightest, whitest work of art that I’ve ever created. It is almost totally white and light grey. A total break from the high-contrast pigments that I’ve used in my works so far.
I chose the form of a deer skull because of the prevalence of deer hunting in New Zealand. I was also drawing from a scene in the Hindu holy text Mahabharata. A hunter named Jara shoots an arrow at Lord Krishna, mistaking the sleeping deity for a deer. Krishna forgives Jara and dies. The pilgrimage site of Dehotsarga marking the location of Krishna’s death, literally means the place where Krishna "gave up his body.”
From the instant I unwrapped this fresh, unpainted canvas, I had a clear vision. A bleached white deer skull carved with ornate geometric patterns, sporting massive antlers. All surrounded by the subtlest of light grey backgrounds.
Being a skull we think of death, we think of hunting animals and the cycle of life. How about the marching of time that will consume everything and everyone we know? That's a real hoot to think about. We think of the hard, lifeless, bare bones that remain when our animating essence is no longer in the body. And the fact that even those bones will be swept away eventually.
The Goddess Kali
Kali is a deity with whom devotees have a very loving and intimate bond, in spite of her fearful appearance. In this relationship, the worshipper becomes a child. Kali assumes the form of the ever-caring mother.
I think Kali is the ultimate reality check. What could be more loving than pulling your children out of their own lies and ignorance?
If we don’t confront death, talk about it, accept it and even embrace it as part of life, we spend our lives resisting that inevitable future. Many of us think and act in fear of ageing and deterioration because of this resistance. We should be able to have a personal relationship with our own mortality. I think in the West we’re doing a pretty good of a job of relegating the dirty death subject to the dark corners. By sweeping it under the rug we are messing people up psychologically. We even whisk the dead bodies of our loved ones away immediately when they pass into some unknown dimension. Then we pump weird preserving chemicals into them and plaster them with make-up. When do we get to process, in an up-close and personal way, the reality of what’s just happened? We need to be able to mourn loudly and fully. And if we do manage to come out the other side, we need to integrate that experience into our new selves.
Death doesn’t have to mean physical death of the body. Rather we might think of the skull as the underworld or the realm of everything we don’t know or understand.
We might think of small deaths of the ego that happen when someone has a better idea than us in a dialogue. Or small deaths of old fashioned culture that occur when we pass a new bill in Parliament that reflects our updated values in society.
There are three main recurring characters across Maori, Hindu and pretty much all global stories. There is an individual, a hero, who lives within the order of father culture, which is nested within the chaos of mother nature.
The positive aspects to the cultural realm is that it is light-filled and we understand it, it provides us with safety, direction and order. Just look at the incredible amount of organisation across countless people that it takes to harness electricity. To run the infrastructure that enables the lights in your house to turn on with astounding reliability. The trouble is that over time, culture, which was created by generations of people who are literally dead, is blind. It can become corrupted or overly-judgemental.
Father culture sits within the unknown chaos of mother nature. She can be the benevolent, abundant, unconditionally loving fairy godmother. Or she can be a dark, unpredictable, catastrophic force. The goddess Kali is a bit of both. She is everything unknown to us. She is danger, death and also the source of all creativity and potential.
The idea is to surrender and face the dragon of chaos voluntarily, despite her fearsome appearance. If you do she might reveal the gold she has been guarding. You might learn something valuable that you can bring back with you.
The hero is essentially all of us. We are the children of father culture and mother nature. We are alive and imbued with vision. The best way for the hero to live, according to almost all of these stories, is to venture voluntarily into the realm of darkness. This is where the dragon of chaos lives. If you survive, bring back new creations and improved ideas that can update the old behemoth of father culture.
Culture will resist change, but it absolutely needs it in every generation. If you tear the whole of culture down you do so at your own peril. If there's no structure left, there will be nothing to protect you from total indiscriminate chaos. Far better to battle and update specific corrupt elements of society.
The message of this piece is to overcome resistance to the unknown. The realm of death, destruction and chaos is illuminated in this work.
Kali is being brought back into the light of the known, the realm of our culture. It is time in the West that we reinstate death and chaos into our dialogue, education and waking consciousness.
Sofia Minson Paintings | New Zealand Artwork