3.13.2012

With Poison Instead Of Blood She Filled Their Bodies

Hey hey. So I finally finished the painting I've been posting about and I'm really happy with how it came out:
Her strength is mighty, she is full of dread!

When I got the invite to be in this show I wanted to do something besides the expected Greek and Roman mythology (not that there's anything wrong with that, I actually have a long list of Greek stuff I want to paint) and knew I wanted to do something non-humanoid, just because I was in the mood to paint a creature. I finally settled on Tiamat, a Babylonian creation goddess descended from an earlier Sumerian one. I like that she's a progenitrix from the cradle of civilization, making the mythology surrounding her some of the oldest recorded mythology in the world. As the story goes Tiamat was " the primordial salt waters of chaos" who mixed with Apsu, the personification of fresh water, at the beginning of creation and gave birth to the first generation of gods, the Anunnaki.

Descriptions of Tiamat are hard to come by and though she's not very explicitly described in any of the sources I could find most agree that she is serpentine, though this might be because she gave birth to some serpent monsters (sort of reminds me of Echidna who I had also considered painting), with some qualities associated with sea creatures. In looking at other Babylonian gods and creatures I noticed most of them are chimera of some sort, hybrid creatures with features of birds, lions, scorpions, serpents, and humans so I constructed her in a similar way. This image of Marduk's battle with Anzu gives you some idea what they usually looked like.

I wanted her face to have the basic form of a human skull (it's mentioned that she has lips and a nose), mixed with a lion's skull and mouth, with a serpentine body with bird and lion features (wings, mane, talons, paws). It's also mentioned in the source text that she has "udders" which makes sense given her role as the mother of the gods which is why I gave her all the nipples

Most of the information we have about Tiamat seems to come from the story of her battle with Marduk. The story is similar in theme to the Titanomachy in which the original Greek gods were killed in battle by the new Olympians. The Enûma Eliš is a religious text with a political aim and tells the story of Marduk's battle with Tiamat and rise to supremacy as the patron god of Babylon. It's worth noting that this is one of the oldest recorded stories in human history and I have to say, it's still pretty gripping in parts. Marduk comes charging armed with everything you can possibly imagine and aided by the winds, as Tiamat furiously spawns monsters to fight by her side. Unfortunately for Tiamat, the tale is rigged and Marduk wins, piercing her belly with arrows and then slicing her body into pieces which become the heavens and the earth and the Tigris and Euphrates come from her tears.

The passage in the Enûma Eliš regarding the re purposing of her corpse by Marduk is especially graphic and detailed. You can read the whole thing here. Many people believe the tale of Marduk marks the point where Babylonian civilization shifted from matriarchal to patriarchal and if that's the case then it's an especially brutal turnaround and I mourn the loss.

The painting is such an odd shape because it was made to fit a frame I made from a clock door I got at an antique mart with my parents:
Which I fixed up, painted and added the omega to:
Here's the show card for the show this is part of where I will also, hopefully, have prints available:
On a totally completely unrelated note, last night Mike and I finally got to finish this movie that's been on our mile high stack of "movies we can't watch while we work" (all of them foreign language or movies that require a lot of looking), Dark Waters 1993 (not to be confused with Dark Water). An Italian/British/Russian coproduction filmed in the Ukraine (in the Odessa Catacombs!), filled with scary nuns, beautiful arresting nightmare imagery, Lovecraftian themes, amazing location shots of the nunnery on the cliff and tunnels filled with hundreds of candles. Not recommended for people who absolutely positively require a linear plot with lots of explanation, but if you're into dreamy beautiful looking Italian horror it's really great and underrated (or maybe just overlooked). It's really low on violence (and happily free of any sexual violence) but has some really genuinely creepy and disturbing stuff as well as a few gross outs. See it! Watch it! Maybe do a double feature with the Devils.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Those colors are killer!!!! The whole painting is' PRETTY 'Amazing. Your frame job definitely puts the painting in a whole 'nother world. Ahhh the Devils used to play that movie all the time at the old club I used to work at.