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 adults.
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.