The Netjeru In New York City

The Netjeru In New York City
60" x 30"
Acrylic, 23 carat gold leaf, sterling silver on linen
A long term vision, an inspired trip, Lawren Harris and echoes of previous paintings 

The idea for The Netjeru In New York City has been gestating for some time. The process required another trip to NYC at the beginning of last year to complete the vision and pull the concept together.

The third and final New York related piece of The Netjeru In America series, the painting has been my most challenging and intricate to date, combining large scale and minute detail with the new process of gilding that I have been learning in the last 12 months.

The painting is a rendering of the New York Cityscape, with various Netjeru appearing on, in or above the buildings and landmarks that characterise New York City. The buildings also include 4 of the principal shrines of Ancient Kemet blended into the cityscape.

I have chosen buildings that resonate with my idea for the piece, and also include iconic landmarks that had an impression on me for one reason or another during my visit(s) to the city so far. There are 21 in total. From left to right:

  • The apartment building that sits at the west entrance of Central Park and was featured in the film Ghostbusters
  • Commercial building
  • Woolworth building
  • Westin Hotel
  • Shrine of Pe
  • WTC waterfront building
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral
  • The Guggenheim Museum Of Art
  • Waldorf
  • Anonymous building
  • Shrine of Buto
  • Anonymous building 2
  • Empire State
  • Apartments in Chelsea
  • Shrine of Hierokonpolis
  • WTC waterfront building 2
  • Statue of liberty
  • WTC building 3
  • WTC waterfront 4
  • Shrine of Nekhen
  • World Trade Centre
  • Chrysler Building (Central Park)

The Netjeru
There are 32 Netjeru featured in the piece: 28 are depicted in anthropomorphic form, 1 in abstract form, 1 in animal form, and 2 in hieroglyphic form only. Every Netjer has Their hieroglyphic designation in an enclosing band (a device I have used from my earliest paintings), in this case a neon one.

The Netjeru along building tops and in the sky from left to right:
  • Ptah
  • Nut
  • Khepera
  • Heru
  • Khonsu
  • Nehebukau 
  • Astoret
  • Sutekh

The Netjeru inside the "Netjer boxes" from left to right, start top and go down and return to top:
  • Renenutet
  • MehUrt
  • Wepwawet
  • Wadjet
  • Anpu
  • Hehu
  • Atum
  • Shu (name in hieroglyphs in Atum's hand)
  • Tefnut (name in hieroglyphs in Atum's hand)
  • NebtHt
  • Ausar
  • Auset
  • Amon Ra
  • Mut
  • Sokar
  • Maat
  • Nekhbet
  • Sobek
  • Djehuti
  • Bastet
  • Nefertum
  • Sekhmet
  • Geb

Artistic elements: Lawren Harris and 2 of my earlier works
The skyscape in this painting was one of the earliest elements to dominate the artistic process. In fact, it was the first colour element to go on the canvas once the initial drawings were laid on.

I had experimented with different forms of layering and texture (including moulding paste) but felt like these were stepping too far away from the style I am developing with my paintings. A post on Instagram about the Boston Museum Of Fine Arts holding an exhibition of Lawren Harris paintings was the beginning of my resolving just how the sky would be detailed in the work.
I was able to get the precise layering of colours by measuring syringe loads of cerulean blue with degrees of titanium white (thank you Golden Paints new liquid format acrylics!)

The Netjer boxes
How would I render the boxes that some of the Netjeru are featured in? I had a clear idea that the pattern would correspond with the skyscape, but I was stumped for the colour almost the entire way through. It wasn't until I pondered why one of my former art works, The Ark Of Millions was repeatedly popping into my head that I began to take a closer look as to intuitively, why.
The distinctive colour that makes up the background to that work is an unusual one found in the tombs of Kings Horemheb and Ramses I, and I was able to mimic it by using a smalt hue / titanium white mix. By using a similar process of gradation that I used for the sky I then found my colour schema for the boxes.

The hieroglyphs are rendered in a similar way to those featured in Ark Of Millions, and I thought initially that this was why it had been on my mind; but it was only the neon glow aspect that I was borrowing from that work. I could not figure out the colour fill for the glyphs until Material Immortality began appearing in my minds eye in a similar way. This painting was actually hanging up in my studio at the time, so it was very present in my everyday world. Again, the background colour was the beckoning element and so a cobalt green / titanium white mix is the colour that fills the glyphs in The Netjeru In New York City..

I have been studying traditional iconography for well over a year now, and in fact viewed a rather extraordinary exhibition of icons here in Melbourne the week I left for the aforementioned trip to the United States. The traditional form of guiding I have learned has been applied for the first time in one of my own works with this painting.

The Ancient Kemetic And How It Manifests Today
Out of all of my paintings to date, I feel that this work encapsulates the fullstop (I am aware that I have not included one) at the end of the sentence written above.
NYC is one of the world's most sophisticated cities, an icon of the modern and perhaps a representative of what civilisation has become; to juxtapose this man made behemoth with the divine understandings of a culture long past seems at once pointless and intriguing concomittanlty. Can the divine be found in the extreme of civilisation that we have created? And how will it be / look when we find it?

The Netjeru - but not nature - is what my painting reveals. The one tiny slither of Central Park - the focus of last year's This Has All Happened Before And This Will All Happen Again - is almost unnoticeable in my representation here.

If we can not find the divine in nature any more, then how will we find it?

I do believe that Whitley Strieber has devoted a large portion of his life exploring this. Most notably, Super Natural suggests what can happen when mechanics and materialism have cemented over our deeper understanding of being connected with nature and the wonders of what went before.

It was a fun process bringing this painting into being, and extremely intense. A much earlier idea to do separate little portraits of each Netjer has been realised in this piece, somehow without my consciously addressing the paradox of modern and ancient, before and after. Somehow this piece evolved that idea all on its own.

Original sketch for The Netjeru In New York City
February 2015
One of my favourite photos from the 2015 US trip
The Divine Goddess Sekhmet and me
Brooklyn Museum, February 2015

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