This painting was finished recently for an upcoming group exhibition, The Enchanted Brush Exhibition VIII: Mysterious Fathoms. It was the perfect opportunity to paint The Kraken. It’s something that really is underlying in much of my work already. Not the Kraken itself, but unknowns and the fear of the unknown, which is essentially what the Kraken represents. In recent years, I’ve found my work has been gravitating towards focusing on the unknown and the abstract interpretation of how that might appear if fear and the emotional states related to it were tangible. Many of the paintings in my Liminal Beings solo show were examples of that. You can read more about those here.
For this piece, I painted a bit more of an abstract interpretation of The Kraken, and chose to interpret the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson titled The Kraken because of its abstract nature. It’s a powerful depiction of the great unknown, taking form as an ominous, enigmatic creature that lurks in the depths of the unfamiliar. Here is the poem:
Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
The fear of the unknown has been dissected and described in many ways, and it’s retained a mysterious quality too. I’ve found it a fascinating subject because of the abstract nature of what fear is. That it’s in our minds, and intangible. There are things or places that stir it, past experiences that trigger it, but it’s our brain that forms the fear. This is more the type of facet of fear of the unknown that I’ve been motivated to create imagery based on. In terms of giving that facet some sort of form, it’s also been a good challenge, and that’s also why I am motivated to tackle the subject.
I find that there’s a beauty and intrigue in what we don’t know and can’t quite describe, about how our brains work with our perception of things, forming comparisons to what we already know and are familiar with. And how, by seeking it out and putting ourselves in a position to become familiar with unknown places, situations, people, and different ways of thinking, we can make the unfamiliar familiar, and so potentially conquer the fear of it. But the fear itself is also a motivator, it’s built into us for good reason too. I’m also fascinated by this in its place in neuroscience and neuroplasticity, and am frequently digging into new discoveries with that. It’s another facet that is integral to a great deal of where my paintings and my process come from. I’ve shared a few other posts here on Muddy Colors that are along these lines as well, if you’d like to check those out too, such as Through Art We Harvest The Unknown and There Is No Darkness But Ignorance .
“To me art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risk.” -Mark Rothko
Enchanted Brush Exhibition VIII: Mysterious Fathoms / hosted by the University of Findlay and the Mazza Museum at the Lea Gallery / curated by Dan Chudzinski / June 6 – August 5, 2022.