Tuesday 21 February 2017

Art in focus: 'The Tower'

'The Tower' is the one card in Tarot that shakes the very foundations of your life. Dismay, disaster and destruction are written in the cards and great turmoil is upon you. You must face this difficult time reassured in the knowledge that hardship, pain and fear will pass, the tower may be destroyed, but the destruction of its falsehood leaves room for a new beginning rooted in truth and strength.

Traditionally, 'The Tower' is illustrated in a very literal manner. Usually with a stony tower rising up from the earth (sometimes as if from nowhere), and its destruction is depicted full of fire and brimstone, struck down with a lightening bolt sent from the heavens, and its occupants falling foul, cursed by the Tower and falling to their doom. Most depictions maintain these key elements, with stylistic elements varying from deck to deck. 

Chronologically this was the first Tarot I started work on and the first concept I developed when I first began to seriously sketch ideas with a view to doing the series.
I had the vision of a crumbling stone tower being devoured by Hell Mouth, and that was my initial conceptual basis for 'The Tower'.
I wanted the imagery of 'The Tower' to be very dark and dismal, utterly despair inducing. When designing the tower itself, I wanted the shape and form to be quite simple. Something easily identifiable and suitably ancient looking, but I wanted it to have the appearance of having been some sort of defensive tower, a fortification that had fallen to evil and dismay. As an element in many depictions of 'The Tower' I chose to keep the lightening bolt causing the destruction of the tower, to suggest divine intervention and falling foul at the hands of an unknown force. 
Hellmouth is an ancient idea which I have been fascinated with for a number of years. It is a recurring element within my Tarot series, as a physical representation of the gate to hell.
I wanted the landscape surrounding the tower to be very bleak and harsh, so I chose to isolate the tower with jagged, hostile looking mountains and no other signs of life. 
The palette I chose is very muted and dark, it is purposely dominated by Hellmouth and the deep red sky, which symbolises death.
I wanted my interpretation to be as accessible as other depictions, with the imagery speaking for itself about what is occurring within the scene, the disaster and tragedy which is occurring, The suffering and misfortune of the unfortunate few, devoured and damned by Hellmouth, with his unblinking eye staring out; unforgiving, unresponsive and unsympathetic.

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