In the year of my Dad’s 60th birthday my Mum had decided that what she really wanted to get him for his birthday present was a painting done specifically for him by his daughter, whom as he is my dad thought I was the most talented artist in the world ever and also had complete faith in my studies leading me into a world where I would be famous and my paintings famous and worth a fortune… I laugh. Ha de har har. But it was nice to have my work thought of like this and so my mum approached me and asked if I could paint a painting for him based on his favourite passage from the bible.
Here is the passage, it is Joshua 24:15:
15And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Anyway, being that I love my father very much and my mother too, and being that I love painting very much also, and being that it would give me the opportunity to work on a personal piece of art and give me experience in fulfilling commisioned work I took up the challenge.
Now it was actually really scary for me because this work was for my parents and had the potential to expose to them my changing beliefs. And believe me at that time my beliefs were changing, or perhaps not changing so much as developing, and getting tested, trialled, and becoming faiths that I had come to rather than what I assumed to know.
I had just come out of a difficult relationship whereby I ended up doing things I never thought I would ever do, and went through things I could never have imagined I would have to do, and I had left home and the safety net of the reach of my parents too. I had found some form of freedom and I was exploring what that freedom meant to me.
This particular passage is actually very revealing for me at that time and I took the passage as having the potential to expose my lack of innocence to my parents for the first time and to have the potential to reveal myself. While I wanted to unabashedly use this art work to display myself, I also wanted to use it in a more objective way, showing the meaning of the statement and how difficult what it is asking you can be.
The image of the girl (although my dad tells me that it is me) is actually taken from a famous photograph (I can’t think what the name of the photo is right now but it is in a book called photography now) of a girl in a field, carrying flowers, she has removed the hat from her head and carries it in a symbol of her innocence and naiivity being removed and her ability to see clearly and make decisions for herself; basically indicating her movement from child to adult who can think and decide for themselves based on their found and gathered knowledge of the world.
The house that she moves away from is a doll’s house representing my parent’s house. The house of shelter, protection, and a created reality. And the crosses speak of the body and blood of christ and of what is expected or “known” to be true through childhood. Something that has been told to you from day dot and accepted easily by yourself as fact. I wanted them to be large and framing because the “knowledge” you gorw up with I think you take with you throughout your life, you are always affected by it even if you move in a new direction from it. You only need to listen to people stating their points of view to hear them say “well actually I KNOW, because I grew up with this other thing, and I made the choice away from that because I know what it means to have that thing I don’t want anymore.” You know what I’m talking about. It also shows something solid, something unwavering, that “Me and MY house will serve the lord” (even if you won’t) that point you can always return to. And the extended arm of the red cross shows the girls life line, and this previously held belief running through her life.
The flowers, well they are percieved innocence of children (isn’t it true that we are all born sinners?) but it is also the innocence that we carry even when we no longer feel or are seen as innocent any longer (we all are! I like to have something hopeful or positive in my work, I don’t like things being all doom and gloom.) The jesus line drawings the girl moves towards are representative of searching, of trying out new things, testing new ideas, of the exploration of finding what you believe. But for me, they are also false idols. It’s that confusing environment of trying to find what is true, what is real. The dolls house doesn’t seem real, but again the idols themselves are not real either. Where is the truth?! The question of belief is not straight forward, it is not easy to come by.
Above the girls’ head (though this photo isn’t great) there are birds circling and attacking. These are thoughts, ideas, and other people forcing their opinions. It;s that questioning, that circling of mind, the inability to make a solid decision. The attaack of potentially evil thoughts, and making your way through these. They are hard to see also because spotting these thoughts that are inconsistent with how you see life are hard to spot.
Phew. Nearly there.
The smudgy light bits are the innate sense of what is right that EVERYONE holds. Even if they don’t think they do. everyone is born with a conscience and I believe this comes from the soul that communicates directly with god or some other spiritual force and which guides, protects, and leads you.
And last the girl looks directly to the viewer in challenge. It is her saying “you know what?! I am ready! I am searching. You can’t lead me where I don’t want to go.” it is her strength, and her challnge to you to find your way too.
Ultimately Dad loved this painting. It is oil on canvas and is just over a meter by a meter. He has it in his living room.