dragon
Krishna & Kaliya Revised Version

Balkishan Jhumat

Myths, fantasy, and legends, have always fascinated me. I’ve been reading about them since childhood, and continue to do so. The passion I have for mythological stories has not dimmed. Of all the ‘world myths’ in existence, I have to say that my favourites originate from ancient Greece and Asia. The mythologies of ancient Greece, dominated by a pantheon of gods and goddesses, deities, heroes, and monsters; seem to mirror the mythologies of Asia. These ‘divine beings’ interconnect and weave their way into the daily lives of ‘mortals’. Sometimes the gods provide guidance and aid, whilst in other ways, intervene for the greater good; undoing all forms of evil. This evil and wickedness is orchestrated by monsters and mortals; be they king, emperor, prophet, priest, or dictator. All are eventually overwhelmed by the wrath of the gods.

The invisible realms of gods and monsters, in an eternal battle of good versus evil, has been explored by mankind for millennia. Cave paintings, rock art, and sculptures, dating thousands of years; seem to have one thing in common. It is evident, for man to ‘visualise the supernatural’ as experienced through dreams, or powerful memories; into an application of ‘mark making’, or as we now associate, as ‘art’. The need to create art, and then infuse it with a meaning, is the fundamental basics of ‘storytelling’. This is ubiquitous no matter what continent on earth you happen to be. One of the first scholars to realise this was Joseph Campbell, whose dedication and research into the world’s mythologies, culminated in a book entitled: ‘the Hero with a Thousand Faces’.  

 As, an artist and published author, I felt compelled to re-create my version of these stories, in a single volume of creative writing and original art. After a number of years spent in the creation of a series of large drawings, I began the process of writing about the mythologies/historical aspects that each drawing represented; and an explanation of my working methods, and ‘evolution’ of the artwork. My efforts and dedication resulted in a book entitled: ‘Mythologies’: Stories Captured in Graphite. The book, containing sixteen chapters, is illustrated with unique and dynamic art. The combination of creative writing and powerful artwork, is my honest and genuine contribution, to the ancient tradition of storytelling; and the importance, even necessity, in the continuation of myths and legends, for future generations to admire and achieve wisdom.

I have always been fascinated with Dragons. In western civilisations the dragon represents a fire breathing, malevolent monster. This beast is a hoarder of immense wealth, as well as being knowledgeable. Oriental dragons are by comparison, benevolent, helpful, trusting and wise. Oriental dragons are commonly depicted as being wingless, as they appear to swim and glide through the skies effortlessly. They are also heralds of thunder and guardians of the moon. In Chinese beliefs, when a dragon is shown in close proximity to a pearl, this signifies the role of the dragon as Guardian of the Moon, ‘Pearl of Heaven’. The dragon is said to swallow the moon, causing an eclipse, and then regurgitating to bring back the light.

When two dragons are seen fighting in the skies, pearls begin to fall from heaven in a shower. Pearls, in Chinese mythology symbolise a ‘wish fulfilled’. If a dragon is seen with a ‘flaming pearl ball’, this emphasises their role as the ‘Lords of Thunder’, as well as rivers and lakes. If a dragon comes into contact with water it bursts into flames. A five clawed dragon is always associated with Chinese Emperors.

My composition shows two dragons, of differing styles, fighting. One of the dragons has caught a pearl in its claw. The pearls falling through the cloudy atmosphere, produce trails of water vapour. My dragons are inspired by both Chinese and Japanese styles. One of my favourite oriental ‘master artists’ is Katsushika Hokusai. In my opinion he is the greatest of the Japanese masters. He is an artist of immense vision and artistic creativity. His originality and technical skills are unsurpassed. He excelled in all the major disciplines of painting, drawing and printmaking. Such an artist as Hokusai can be mirrored by the works of Durer, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Rembrandt.

I have made my drawing as technically challenging as possible. This was for my own benefit initially, as I learn ‘mark making’. Also, I wanted the viewer to engage in the work and appreciate it. By doing this I hope the viewer is pleased, and the effort I made is rewarded. I always aim to create original art, unique in its nature. I named it, ‘Pearls of Wisdom’.

In the Indian sub-continent, originates an epic twelve volume text entitled: The Bhagavata Purana, or ‘Ancient Tales of the follower of the Lord’. The volume explores the life of the Hindu God Krishna. I chose to illustrate a part of this huge volume of ancient writings, by focusing on Krishna battling a demon serpent. Kaliya was a hundred headed serpent that dwelled in the ancient Yamuna River. The waters bubbled and boiled with poison, which prevented the local inhabitants from entering it. Krishna, hearing about the suffering of the people, ventures to the river’s edge and dives to the murky depths. Upon seeing the demon serpent, Krishna battles with it and wins. The demon serpent Kaliya’s life is spared, due to his wives pleas of mercy, and banished. Krishna restores the equilibrium of the universe.

Read more:MYTHOLOGIES: Stories Captured in Graphite

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