May 17, 2014

Ouroboros

        The ouroboros is a symbol  showing a serpent eating its own tail, and representing eternal cycles.  It isn’t really a mythical creature, because despite the prevalence of the image and concept in various cultures and philosophies (especially alchemy), it doesn’t appear that anyone thought it represented a real species or individual animal.  I, however, have been having fun imagining some of these symbolic creatures as if they were real (see the mushussu), and the chief thing that struck me about the ouroboros is how bored it must be, poor thing.  You can see in the traditional representations that it might be able to have fun 
rolling about like a hoop snake, but for the most part wouldn’t enjoy much variety in its life.  So, what if there was an ouroboros with the soul of an artist?  An ouroboros with imagination?  That’s how I came up with the idea of letting my ouroboros form, instead of a simple circle, a more interesting endless knot, also a symbol in cultures around the world, and also representing eternity.
        As for the carving of this piece, my original design had the body simply patterned with lines for the scales, as in this first state rough draft.  I decided to give it a little more interest by make a stripe of white scales run its length, so I carved some more.  Alas, I think that may have been a mistake.  I think the knot is clearer and the whole image cleaner-looking without the extra white, so perhaps I should have left well enough alone.  But you can’t know ’til you’ve tried!  So now, here he (or she) is: the ouroboros with the heart of a poet.

[Pictures: Ouroboros, wood block print from Abraham Eleazar's Uraltes Chymisches Werk, 1760;
The device of Barthélemy Aneau, wood block print from Picta poesis, 1552 (Image from Glasgow University);
First state test print by AEGN, 2014;
Ouroboros Makes a Poem, rubber block print by AEGN, 2014.]


NOTICE:  Last Open Studio show before autumn: Dedham Open Studios, Sunday, May 18, 11:00-5:00.

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