The Ecstasy of Gold
The Ecstasy of Gold
Creating controversy is sometimes necessary in art and design in order to get a point across effectively. This illustration entitled “The Ecstasy of Gold” tackles issues which most humans either fail or choose to ignore, based on how uncomfortable the reality makes them feel. This reality is of course, the implications of human self-indulgence from the perspective of the struggling artist/designer. Using a portrait orientation the composition takes the shape of a quarter circle, which is further divided into layers. The imagery is divided into six (6) main sections horizontally, each depicting a subplot that helps to communicate a larger narrative.
The first section is of the cosmos as the reality and region, which is for the most part untraveled and unmolested by humans. It is predominantly coloured in shades of violet to signify the unknown. Violet is also the least recognizable colour to humans, due to its close proximity to the invisible ultraviolet short-wavelengths of light. The region is unknown to humans so it is for the most part depicted as smooth, clean and harmonious even though the reality is much different. It is a tumultuous region but it is naturally so. The moon is shown rather than the sun to signify a pessimistic coldness, rather than warmth which would have been conveyed by a sun. Other objects shown are galaxies, nebula, aurora and a multitude of stars and other celestial objects. In the bottom right hand corner man-made objects begin to enter the scene, such as satellites which introduce the coming chaos.
A second section follows which for the most part shows nature, prior to the rise of mankind and industry. Africa the birthplace of humans is shown on the immediate left, with Zebras and Giraffe enjoying freedom. At the near center the Himalayas and Mount Everest is shown, while whales traverse the oceans directly underneath. This section basically informs the viewer that without humans, nature lives in harmony and never takes more than what is required. The imagery is idealized in this fashion because in reality, nature does not operate in this way. Idealization becomes necessary in this case in order to effectively inspire change in the way humans think about our home and how best to respect and treat the natural environment and ecosystems.
The third section shows the rise of mankind, and the three (3) systems of industrialization which are the main source of the deterioration of natural environment. The imagery in this section is also designed to be non-racially biased whereas persons of the three main skin complexions (dark, medium and light skinned) are seen equally contributing to the environmental problems we currently face. On the left dark skinned persons kill the last surviving Grey Rhino for its Ivory Tusk, in effect destroying populations of fauna. The center shows a light skinned toddler laying an oil rig with some of that same oil dripping from its mouth. This image shows the irresponsible child-like manner which these devices are placed, and gobble up oil to be burnt all for the sake of wealth. The light-skinned young man to the baby’s right confirms this symbology, by counting money in a wardrobe of Eurocentric colours. We know from history that the industrialization of oil for economic gains, was started by persons and groups of Eurocentric mindset. The industrialization of oil is hidden behind the cloak of “necessity”, for the sake of wide scale manufacturing, exporting and transportation to name a few. On the right a lumberjack forcefully and quite enthusiastically shovels a sapling from the ground, in effect signifying the destruction of our floral habitat. A small area to the left also depicts the slavery of all creatures by mankind, in the acquisition of wealth in the form of a chest of gold coins.
The fourth section continues where the third left off, showing the oil being drilled by the infant dripping down into a container. A woman carries the burden of the heavy oil and is shown having to give up a significant portion of her wealth to the greedy oil industrialist. The same industrialist accumulates a significant amount of wealth in a large sack of cash which he hides from the starving artist to the left. The artist is given but a single coin to pay for all her labours, while the oil woman gets nothing. This scene occurs in a deep chasm conveying the sense that the lack of value placed on art has driven the artist deep underground, while hierarchy places those who control the inflow of items that do have great economic value to the top. To the right of this scene many persons poisoned by greed are seen eating gemstones to survive, while their destiny which awaits them in the form of a pile of golden skulls is seated close by. Red veins emerge to the right to transition the scene into the next section. Each section transitions downwards in relation to the main colours in a scene, in the order of tears (blue), blood (red) and sweat (dark brown).
The fifth section is blood red and signifies in horrific detail the labours artists have to endure in order to survive. Among them include a designer to the far right that is visibly confined by his patrons to continue working on projects without rest or pay, shown in the empty payment jar to the right. The persons surrounding him are all happy to get what they want out of the designer, who is treated more like a magician than another human being. The expectation of a designer as a magician is signified by the wizard hat, which crowns the young man’s head. To the left of that scene a dichotomy emerges with a puppeteer controlling two artists/designers. One is happily skipping above a lava-like substance with a hand full of money, because he is being controlled and manipulated by society and the economy. The lava signifies that if the artist attempts to change his products, he will be roasted in the inferno below. This artist’s products are likely to be highly commercialized and as a result monotonous, thus is living a lie with his fake smile because no artist can truly be comfortable doing the same thing repeatedly. The other artist who had or refused to succumb to captivity/slavery, is seen crying with a noose around his neck. No one appreciates his work and wants them free and as a result he is depressed and considers committing suicide. He dreams of the necessities being a home, food and shelter but cannot afford any because until he dies, his work won’t sell at which point the money cannot help him.
The sixth and final section is arguably the most depressing. It shows the artist already dead from all the stress and expectation of life but even then is still being raped by society. The skeletal figure is backed up against the darkness of its grave, with sex objects each signifying a different mentality such as immediacy, low costs, and modifications being the tools of rape and torture for the artist. At the end society wants to bottle artists like pills and sell them at a discount. The thing they love the most eventually becomes the source of their destruction.
What does all this so far have to do with the struggling artist? An artist feeds on the same financial resources that are gained from the industrialization of these three aspects of nature. However, designers and artists for the most part lack the respect that others have in being paid what they are worth for doing what they love. This situation of course differs based on the specific society/culture that the artist either emerged or occupy. Like all items that have economic value, that value changes based on the society in question and the importance the people place on those specific items. Nonetheless, art is important regardless of which society they belong to and must be respected as such. For societies that do not respect the arts, whether it may be design, music or others there seems to be a direct correlation between the lack of respect for art, and a lack of critical thinking. The same lack of critical thinking and also emotional intelligence may be what leads to irrational violence, thievery and other negative behaviours in society. The illustration while challenging the expectation of artists as being wizards able to do anything with a wave of the wand, is also introducing the idea of artists being wizards in another sense. The sense being proposed is the artist as an individual which safeguards cultural traditions, provides a welcome escape from reality and also inspires other persons to enhance the level of thinking and actions.
Designer: Leighton Estick
Medium: Watercolours on watercolour paper
Dimensions: 11” x 17”