The Red Eminence (A Lovecraftian Reinterpretation)

Introduction 

So, astute readers (do I even have any readers in these early days?) may recall my post some days ago about the validity of painting over public domain images (specifically classical art) in order to do something new, as part of a larger discussion on the validity of collage art, found art, matte paintings, etc.

Naturally, works of this nature are strongest when they act as a commentary on the original work; a lot of erasure literature and poetry creates satirical commentaries on the work in which they transforming.

A good friend of mine told me that this form of art is “Artist Reinterpretation”, and true enough, google yields a not inconsiderable amount of artists who have done similar things, albeit they don’t usually go the horror route.

I was a tremendous fan of H.P. Lovecraft and of cosmic horror in general, so this series of projects (I already have another one done) was cosmic horror themed. Your favourite classical works of art transformed into unknowable horrors.

The Process 

Rationale: His eminenceCardinal Richelieu (“The Red Eminence”) was a figure of significant bloodshed with his participation in the European Wars of Religion (the 17th century); where he notably came down on the Protestant side of the war, to curb the power of the Spanish Habsburgs. In all fairness however, the Cardinal was a product of his time, and I actually admired him as a Statesman—however with a monicker like “The Red Eminence”, and due to his noble bearing, sheer charisma, and political acumen; one cannot help but imagine in this Prince of the Church a supernatural creature, like Count Dracula. This reinterpretation was about revealing a supernatural version of the Cardinal, as a supernatural being.

From Boreas to Fujin: The Iconographic evolution of a transcultural wind god

Introduction

Before we begin, this paper was actually written on November 29th, 2015, during my college days (I was in the Design Foundations program at the time).

I finally dug it out! I presumably have a copy on my old PC hard-drive, as I couldn’t find any in either of my Google Doc accounts. However, I actually discovered an attached copy in my FB messenger app, because I had sent one to a friend while I was writing it years ago…so, here we go.

I hope you will learn something absolutely fascinating about Buddhism, Alexander the Great’s Conquests, Wind Gods, and how Art and Religion are interwoven.

This paper actually reminded me why I was sold on the idea of starting a blog. Ask interesting questions, find interesting answers, and share them with people. What could be more fun?

Without further ado, the full transcript:


Justin Hsu

COMM1825-15F-Sec2

Mini Research Paper

From Boreas to Fujin: The Iconographic evolution of a transcultural wind god

The Japanese Buddhist Wind Deity, Fujin had his origins as the Greek Wind God Boreas. This short research paper will explore the iconographic evolution of Boreas through several different cultures, finally culminating in his final form in Japan.

It is often easy to assume that different cultures are isolated, developed separately and have no relations to one another, but this is often untrue. Indo-Europeans for example, counts amongst their descendants everything from the Irish to the Hindus. Austronesians can be found in Taiwan, New Zealand and even Hawaii. For this reason, art and culture can often transcend their boundaries. The Japanese Wind God, Fujin is but the final form of a long line of wind deities that have their origins in ancient Greece.

After Alexander the Great passed away, he left behind a sizeable Hellenistic presence in the East. In parts of what we would call Afghanistan today, his subordinates set up an ancient Kingdom known as Bactria and they became a bridge between East and West, a kingdom right alongside the silk road (Crabben 2011).

In the Indian subcontinent, the Mauryan King, Ashoka the Great rose to power and converted to Buddhism. He commissioned great missionary expeditions to spread Buddhism to all four corners of the world, and erected stupas- pillars with religious inscriptions in multiple languages that also housed the ashes of the Buddha- wherever Buddhism spread. (Szczepansk).

Eventually, the Bactrian King invaded India and created what is now known as the Indo-Greek Kingdoms “Indica served as an important source to many later writers such as Strabo and Arrian. The 1st century BC Greek historian Apollodorus, quoted by Strabo, affirms that the Bactrian Greeks, led by Demetrius I and Menander, conquered India and occupied a larger territory than the Macedonians under Alexander the Great, going beyond the Hyphasis…” (Sanujit, 2011, para.31). The Indo-Greek Kingdom was eventually divided into several kingdoms. Greeks living in India at the time were referred to as Yonas in Pali or Yavanas in Sanskrit (Simonin, 2011, para.2).

So where does Fujin come into all of this? Well, Boreas, the Greek wind deities were brought along with the Greeks, and found their way into Ghandara (a geographical region in Pakistan bordering the Kush Mountain range and the Himalayas). There, Ghandara artisans created incredible fusions of Greek and Hindu styled Buddhist art.

Here, the Buddha himself was given human form, modelled after Apollo. Now, these sculptures and reliefs often have decorative deities accompanying the central figure or story. Some of these included Centaurs or Tritons. One of these was the figure of Boreas, who was depicted in the classical style with a bag of wind. Eventually, this Greco-Buddhist version of Boreas became known as Wardo.

Iconographic Evolution of Fujin
Figure 1. Boreas to Wardo to Fujin. From Shizhao (2006, Wikimedia)
Did you know that the Japanese Wind God Fujin evolved from the Greek God Boreas/Aeolus? This is a case of art influencing the creation and depiction of a deity. In the Indo-Greek kingdom, Boreas became the Greco-Buddhist Wardo, was transplanted to China as Feng Bo and then to Japan as Fujin (all because of the spread of Buddhist decor and iconography). In all incarnations, he carries a bag of wind. The following images shows his iconographic evolution. Image 1. Left: Greek wind God (Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara), Hadda, 2nd century. Middle: Wind God from Kizil, Tarim Basin, 7th century. Right: Japanese Wind God Fujin, 17th century by painter Tawaraya Sotetsu. 

Wardo was transplanted to the nearby Tarim Basin in Northwestern China. He became the Taoist wind deity, Feng Po, literally, “Uncle Wind (Andrews, 2000, p.68). When Buddhism reached Japan, they brought with them Feng Po’s iconography, and he became Fujin, literally, “Wind God” (Petretta, 2014, para.3). He was adopted into Shintoism and given name and narrative. To be clear, Fujin is not a native Japanese deity that was given the iconography of Boreas, but he literally is Boreas. They are one and the same. “The Japanese wind god images do not belong to a separate tradition apart from that of their Western counter-parts but share the same origins.” (Tanabe, 2003, p.21).

In all incarnations, they have carried a bag of wind. “One of the characteristics of these Far Eastern wind god images is the wind bag held by this god with both hands, the origin of which can be traced back to the shawl or mantle worn by Boreas/ Oado.” (Tanabe, 2003 p.21).

 

And that was how Boreas made his way to Japan, carried forth by the passage of time, the syncretism of human cultures and the expansion of Buddhism.


References

1. Crabben, J. (2011, April 28). Bactria. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.ancient.eu/Bactria/

2. Szczepansk, K. (n.d.). Learn About Ashoka the Great (and Terrible). Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://asianhistory.about.com/od/india/a/ashoka.htm

3. Sanujit. (2011, February 12). Cultural links between India and the Greco-Roman world. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.ancient.eu/article/208/

4. Simonin, A. (2011, April 28). Indo-Greek. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.ancient.eu/Indo-Greek/

5. Andrews, T. (2000). Dictionary of nature myths: Legends of the earth, sea, and sky (p. 68). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

6. Petretta, D. (2014, November 22). Fujin: Origins Along The Slik Road | Global Connections. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://globalconnections.champlain.edu/2014/11/22/fujin-origins-along-the-slik-road/

7. Tanabe, K. (2003). Alexander the Great: East-West cultural contacts from Greece to Japan (p. 21). Tokyo: Tōkyō Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan.

8. Shizhao, (2006, April, 20th). WindGods.JPG [digital image].

Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/WindGods.JPG

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Jesus, a Digital Painting Study

Digital Painting of Jesus.

JesusPortraitCOMPLETEV2
Digital Painting Study of Jesus. Portrait.

A study I painted awhile back when I was just literally starting out with digital painting (I had very little idea what I was doing at the time).

It was also, uh, miraculously drawn without reference (I wouldn’t recommend drawing anything without references, not unless you’re already very familiar with human anatomy as a whole— and I am not even that good— but this gamble seemed to have paid off, after some rough starts).

Of course, my visual library had a lifetime of seeing depictions of Jesus in various medias, so this wasn’t a radically different interpretation of Jesus. It’s your classical European Jesus. Why blue? Because it’s more ethereal and gets away from the race debate. And you know, some religions likes their holy figures in blue (like Krishna), so I was like, “why the heck not?”

What the tarnations is a visual library, you ask?— well, my hero, Sinix, of Sinix Design, can tell you all about it in this handy video he made.

And I also did fun stuff with this piece, for example, as an illustration of a bookcover project.

BibleBookCoverMockup_GOOD.png

Golden Mother: The 3500 year old Bronze Age Goddess still worshipped today

Xiwangmu
Han period Brick Relief depicting The Golden Mother. Xiwangmu. Queen Mother of the West. Source: Zhongguo meishu quanji bianji weiyuanhui (1993), no. 216.

The Unknown Goddess

The Golden Mother, also known as Xiwangmu (The Queen Mother of the West), The Western Mother, Golden Mother of the Nacre Lake, etc is a 3500 year old Chinese deity still widely worshipped today.


Unlike most Chinese Gods, the Golden Mother did not originate as an apotheosized human being. Her origins were mysterious, stretching back to a time before the written word, as was the case for most of the truly ancient Chinese deities.

 

“The Queen Mother of the West obtained it [Dao] and took up her seat at Shao kuang. No one knows her beginning; no one knows her end.”
— Zhuanzi (c. 3rd century BC)
Of note, the other major Chinese deity of the 2nd Millennium BC was Shang-Di (the ‘monotheistic’ universal God), who was worshipped as the primordial progenitor and supreme being during the Shang Dynasty; but the Shang Kings also paid homage to the Western Mother, who they knew of as a powerful mother goddess to the West.
Chinese Theology (this is proper term of the religion as a whole) was Monistic in origination.
Shang-Di was without doubt the “Highest Deity”, but he worked through intermediaries in the form of the Shang Kings, his Priestesses, and other numinous spirits. I shall elaborate more on Shang-Di, his evolution over time, and his relationship to the Shang Dynasty and China as a whole in a different post.

Deeply Symbolic

The Golden Mother symbolizes the Axis Mundi (the centre of the world, like Yggdrasil or Mount Meru), she is also the cosmic weaver (she wears a Sheng Headress, which is a symbol of the loom) and in primordial times was a goddess of destruction.


She has tiger characteristics and was a herald of death, slaughter, epidemics and terror, whilst simultaneously having benevolent aspects. In Medieval Times she became increasingly diluted as a more benevolent, life-giving deity (ie, the Queen Mother, as depicted in Journey to the West).


That’s actually very similar to the Egyptian Goddess Hathor/Sekhmet. In Egyptian Religion, Ra sent the normally benevolent Hathor (the Cow Goddess) to punish humans in the form of Sekhmet, the Lioness.

In Chinese Popular Media, the Golden Mother is often depicted as the wife of the Jade Emperor (who was actually multiple, successive gods of usually human origination), but these are actually based on minor accounts.

In most accounts and stories, the Golden Mother was always a single deity.


Personal Relationship

She’s a deity with whom one has personal relationships, appearing before the potentially worthy to confer immortality and dispense with her teachings.

Most of those she approaches ultimately fail to uphold her teachings and as a result could not attain immortality that she offered.

Note that Immortality could possibly refer to spiritual or transcendental immortality. If we consider that the meaning of Xian (Immortals) originally referred to saintly beings with shamanistic powers, but who were definitely not physically immortal, then the neolithic proto-Chinese cultures likely had the same conceptualizations regarding eternal life.

Of the Kings that has purportedly encountered or were disciples of the Golden Mother, the following two were successful in becoming “immortals”.

Shun and Yu were Chiefs of the Tribal Confederacy (the Huaxia) that eventually became China; established by The Yellow Emperor and the Red Emperor during the Neolithic Era. As was the norm for the succession of those times, the Rulers were not father and son, nor were they related by blood. They were considered Saints.

And of those who failed to become Immortals:


Symbolism and Context

Max Dashu wrote a very comprehensive paper on Xiwangmu, whom he called “the shamanic goddess of China”.

In it, he details that Ancient Chinese usage of Wang-Mu (lit. King Mother) does not indicate royal women, but rather any Grandmother (even that of peasants). Paul Goldin says that Chinese usage of Wang (King) was used to refer to any numinous beings or spirits. The proper translation of Xiwangmu is actually The Spirit Mother of the West.

She’s a truly ancient god, and far more cosmic in scope than her relatively anthropomorphic presentation in the modern day.

As I said before, she was a single deity, not paired with a male god, because the “wife” part of her identity was an invention of Medieval writers who tried to tell stories about a mostly unknown mother goddess.

If anything, the Western Mother was often paired with a mysterious “Eastern Mother”. There were implications that the semi-matriarchal Shang Dynasty worshipped multiple Mother Divinities.

Max Dashu wrote:

The oldest reference to Xi Wangmu is an oracle bone inscription from the Shang dynasty, thirty-three centuries ago: “If we make offering to the Eastern Mother and Western Mother there will be approval.” The  inscription pairs her with another female, not the male partner invented for her by medieval writers—and this pairing with a goddess of the East persisted in folk religion. Suzanne Cahill, an authority on Xi Wangmu, places her as one of several ancient “mu divinities” of the directions, “mothers” who are connected to the sun and moon, or to their paths through the heavens. She notes that the widespread tiger images on Shang bronze offerings vessels may have been associated with the western mu deity, an association of tiger and west that goes back to the neolithic. [Cahill, 12-13]
And of course she had qualities akin to that of the Fates, in Indo-European Mythologies:

The sheng is usually interpreted as a symbol of the loom. The medieval Di Wang Shih Zhi connects it to “a loom mechanism” the goddess holds. Cahill says that the sheng marks Xi Wangmu as a cosmic weaver who creates and maintains the universe. She also compares its shape to ancient depictions of constellations—circles connected by lines—corresponding to the stellar powers of Xi Wangmu. She “controls immortality and the stars.” Classical sources explain the meanings of sheng as “overcoming” and “height.” [Cahill, 45; 16-18]

This sign was regarded as an auspicious symbol during the Han dynasty, and possibly earlier. People exchanged sheng tokens as gifts on stellar holidays, especially the Double Seven festival in which women’s weaving figured prominently. It was celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month, at the seventh hour, when Xi Wangmu descended among humans. Taoists considered it the most important night of the year, “the perfect night for divine meetings and ascents.” [Cahill, 16, 167-8] It was the year’s midpoint, “when the divine and human worlds touch,” and cosmic energies were in perfect balance. [Despeux / Kohn, 31]

The Shan Hai Jing goes on to say of the tigress-like Xi Wangmu: “She is controller of the Grindstone and the Five Shards constellations of the heavens.” [Cahill, 16] The Grindstone is where the axial Tree connects to heaven, the “womb point” from which creation is churned out. [Mitchell cite] In other translations of this passage, she presides over “the calamities of heaven and the five punishments.” [Strassberg, 109] For Guo Pu, this line referred to potent constellations. [Remi, 102] The goddess has destructive power—she causes epidemics, for example—but she also averts them and cures diseases. [Asian Mythology]


Many Forms

The Golden Mother is also known as the Nine Radiance, she is the Governor of the Nine Numina, and the Mother of the Nine Heavens.

This establishes her possible role as the hypostasis of Doumu, the Supreme Being and Female Counterpart to the God of Heaven (Shang-Di), representing the Big Dipper/The Great Chariot.

In Esoteric Taoism, Doumu was usually conflated with the Golden Mother and also Jiutian Xuannü (Mysterious Lady of the Nine Heavens), who is an ancient war and sex goddess. In this way, she is a “triple goddess” so to the speak.

The Big Dipper has 7 stars and 2 stars that are not visible to the naked eye (these last two are possibly Vega, a previous North Star and Polaris, the current North Star). Because of this, Doumu is the mother of the Nine Emperors, who are the Manifestations of the God of Heaven (the Nine together are the “Father of the Big Dipper”). 

Doumu is thus simultaneously the consort of God and the Mother of God.

Doumu bears similarities to Semitic goddesses like Ninlil (the consort of Enlil in Sumerian Religion), Ishtar, Ninhursag, or Asherah (the consort to El in Canaanite Religion).

In Chinese Buddhism, Doumu was conflated with Bodhisattva Marici in the Vajrayana Buddhist traditions, during the Tang Dynasty, when Buddhism (and many other foreign religions) were very popular. China had adopted deities as far away as Greece, so this was no surprise.

In Taiwan, The Golden Mother was sometimes associated with Mazu, whom I wrote about in The Goddess of Maritime China.

However, Mazuism was considered it’s own distinct religion, originating from the Fujianese Shamaness Cults in the 10th century, and Doumu and the Golden Mother should not be considered the same kind of religious entities, given their divergent evolution over time. Asia is fairly syncretic however and these different religions, cults and ancient deities are often conflated or united in new theologies.

Xiwangmu/Doumu was also worshipped as Wusheng Laomu (“Eternal Venerable Mother”) or Wuji Laomu (The Absolute Infinite Mother); the Absolute Reality (God) that was primarily the focus of millenarian salvationist sects that have been extent since the Han Dynasty.

The Golden Mother was much more than the somewhat lesser roles accorded in today’s mass media. The so-called wife of the Jade Emperor was in factuality the Chinese Godhead.

 

On the validity of collage art, found art, matte paintings, etc

So, I asked this interesting question on Reddit, mostly to assuage my own doubts and feelings of fraudulence with regards to art projects that didn’t strictly involve me painting literally every pixel (yes, I realized that many creatives have experienced the Imposter Syndrome, but this intellectual understanding didn’t necessarily help me with dealing with it in an emotional, subjective way).

Before we begin in earnest however, first, let’s get some elaboration on the arts referenced in the title.

Collage Art: Bashing different elements (that are often not made by you) together to create a composition.

Found Art: For example, a toilet turned into a fountain. Or just tipped over.

Matte Paintings: An old technique where painting is applied to film strips in order to add elements that weren’t filmed by the camera (ie, painting a Sphinx on a desert). These days, mean any kind of digital environment creation, where some artists would photo-bash a layer that they paint over, or construct a 3D model to paint over, etc. Or just slap 3D models AS the background. Whatever saves time, since this kind of painting is mostly used in applied arts where production must be timely.


My Question on Reddit:

Alright, so recently, I’ve been exploring digital paintings, and that’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been learning a lot of the foundational principles to digital paintings and am making tremendous progress.

However, I also want to explore side projects that involves transforming public domain photos and artworks into new forms. However, these kinds of project feels instinctively strange to me for many reasons, mostly because it doesn’t feel entirely like real art. I know that collage, found art, etc are considered valid art forms, and that concept artists often use matte painting techniques or incorporate 3D models and existing photos into their work…but even so, I would like the public’s opinions.

The kind of projects I want to explore: I want to take existing public domain photos and paint over them to create sci-fi/fantasy environments. I also want to take classical paintings and paint over it/modify it to create something new. And of course collage art could be very interesting.

What are your opinions about such works of art?

And the (somewhat few) folks on that particular SubReddit have this to say—

thePopefromTV:

Not all art is good, but all art is art. Even satirically creating found art is art in its own way. When I see art that really makes me question its validity as art, I quickly realize that the piece is making me think and I usually come to the conclusion that it’s certainly art simply based on that alone.

GlitterGear:

There’s someone who paints over Pokémon cards, and they’re amazing!

I’m not a visual artist, but I view it as analogous to fan fiction. With fan fiction, you’re taking someone else’s content, transforming it and making it your own. I feel like it’s similar to the art you want to explore

charlzandre:

It’s still art. Tracing another image is questionable when you’re just making a painting, but if it’s a collage I feel like the rules are out the window.


These comments actually do help assuage my doubts, and I had expected comments along these lines; mostly because these comments are what would have said if I had to respond to my own question.

On a related note, a lot of folks often claimed that digital art or digital painting don’t constitute “real” art, when in fact digital paintings are exactly like perfectly ordinary physical paintings in terms of the actual painting process (differing for medium).

This article talked about this bias, but it also pointed out something quite interesting: We digital painters also like to accuse artists who practices photo-bashing and collage art of doing “fake art”. Hmmmm. I admit, I do often see it as a “lesser” art form, even though the difficulty of doing collage art well is beyond me, generally. And of course, found art/erasure art gets accused of this as well, along with things like blackout poetry/found poetry.


Now, below is an example of something I did, to experiment with my idea to transform classical paintings into a different form:

Cardinal de Richelieu (1642) by Philippe de Champaignecardinal_de_richelieu_mg_0053

And my experimental transformation of it. Painted over by me.

experiment_bloodcardinal-2

The rationale here was that Cardinal Richelieu (“The Red Eminence”) was a figure that had caused significant bloodshed with his participation and role in the European Wars of Religion (the 17th century). In all fairness he was a product of his time, and I actually admire him as a Statesman, however with a monicker like “The Red Eminence”, and due to his noble bearing, sheer charisma, and political acumen; I have always though of him as a kind of supernatural creature (like Count Dracula). Therefore, this transformative work was about revealing a supernatural version of the Cardinal. 


This is nowhere close to the level of detail I wished to create, but would you consider something like the above to be valid art?

Comment below!

PS: Yes, I missed a day of the Daily Logo Challenge. Don’t you worry, I’ll make up for it.

 

DLC — Day 14, “Cloud Computing Logo”

artboard-1-3logofolio-1_justinhsu-1

Day 14 of the Daily Logo Challenge. Phew, still have 36 to go (to be fair, that’s not a lot left).

Anyway, this one was pretty interesting. Awhile back, I read an article on MacRumors by Jordon Golson that the iCloud Icon was made using the Golden Ratio and that was why every design thereafter looked similar because there was only so many ways you could design a cloud logo while retaining appealing circular shapes.

So I decided to try to do something similar, incorporating the golden ratios into this design — well, to deliberately include it, since I strongly suspect that anything I do that looks good was probably because it has the golden ratio in it somewhere; we all intuitively try to include it in our art and design, because it’s encoded into nature’s perception of beauty and ideal forms,

I constructed rectangles for a Fibonacci Spiral (I didn’t actually put in the spiral), and derived circles from that. And I used that as building blocks to design something interesting. I learned how to build one thanks to this video by Mohamed Achraf.

But are these circles truly ideal? Because I ended up altering the perfect circles I had derived. The final design dropped 2 of the smallest circles and resized some of the circles. I can use all the rules and guidelines there are, but at the end of the day, I break the rules because I think it makes sense (my college teachers are well aware of this tendency of mine, ignoring instructions that is. But I usually justify it via my rationales, and get good marks for it— something I couldn’t have gotten away with in elementary school for sure).

Logo design process work, the First 11 Days— Daily Logo Challenge 2019

Process work for the first 11 days of my Daily Logo Challenge. For those curious, Harris Robert’s Daily Logo Challenge are email prompts you can subscribe to that is automatically sent to your inbox everyday for 50 days straight. Those prompts inspire you to create logos, push boundaries, and improve yourself— and I have found this practice invaluable. I’ve been out of practice since graduating college, and can already see tremendous improvements in my logo design process.

Here are the process work for the first 11 days, I make it a point to show my work whenever possible so people can learn from it.

I’ll upload the completed logos for those 11 days in another post.

You can follow my progress day by day on My Instagram, @justonky.

Thumbnails for my new logo

So I’ve been doodling up some ideas for a new logo. Hopefully something will come of it.

Actually, I’ve already started on some vector thumbnails. Still unsure if I need one per se, but it would make for a fun branding project.