I recently submitted a painting to a local art
exhibition. I usually work with a lot of colour but for a change, I tried
something more stripped back. The painting is called 'After the Fall',
and is of a tree silhouetted against a pale background. (If I ever
get a smart phone, I'll post a picture of it) Someone in my art
class suggested adding some fallen leaves but I decided not to, as I wanted the
focus to be on the tree alone.
The painting works on 2 levels. It can
be taken literally; a tree after the leaves have fallen off in autumn, but when
I painted it, I was thinking about the Genesis story of the 'tree of the
knowledge of good and evil' that stood in the Garden of Eden. So, my
painting is a representation of this.
The Genesis story has been taken as a literal
truth by the Christian church and used for centuries to malign women and
justify our treatment as second class humans. In case anyone doesn't
know, it was us temptresses and evil-doers who got the poor men kicked out of
paradise because poor dumb Adam couldn't say no (of course) when Eve tempted
him with the fruit. An insult to both men and women.
However, this interpretation has always
bothered me, not least for the reasons already stated but when you look at
it from a metaphorical point of view, you come to see that this story is
about consciousness and that 'religion' has misinterpreted it.
When Adam and Eve eat the 'fruit', they become
conscious of themselves and the world, as they now possess the
knowledge of good and evil too. They no longer need anyone to tell them
how to act or think; with consciousness, they can now think and decide for
themselves how they are going to act. They have grown up and are no
longer children who have to be told what to do. They have become
This story is telling us about our evolution
as human beings and how we grow up (in theory) and learn to think and act for
ourselves by using our knowledge, our conscience and applying it to our actions
and beliefs. Once we have become conscious, we cannot 'unsee'
reality and go back to the pre-conscious state represented by Eden which is why
we are barred from ‘paradise’ forever.
So, how do we become conscious?
In order to grow up or become
conscious, we have to challenge the things we believe in or
believe about ourselves. For example, do you believe in God and why,
or why not?
So, the tree in my painting is a
representation of this. It is asking the question, who am
I when stripped of the delusions of ego, religion,
nationality, culture and materialism. Do my actions match the beliefs
I have about myself as a human being or am I deluding or lying to myself.