Be Here Dragon , Acrylic on Canvas, 2015, 12″ x 16″
I hate contemporary dragon paintings. Do a Google search for dragons, and invariably you will find a long supply of awful images. Everything looks like it came out of a Hollywood CGI studio circa 1998. Perched on some rocky precipice looking down with eyes full of reptilian wisdom.
These paintings tend to be technically superb, but the idea of a dragon, the feeling of a dragon seems so dead and boring under it all. Realism seems to lessen the impact of these creatures, reducing them to something understandable and explainable. The technical chops of these kinds of paintings start to feel like watching some weightlifter flex their muscles. I mean, yeah, it’s impressive that you can do that, but it is actually kind of gross, and why do you want to do it anyway?
Dragons as mythological, magical creatures however are really fascinating. Dragons are often presented as guardians and protectors of various areas, objects, or treasures – so this appeals to me quite a bit. They also often bear good luck, knowledge, or other auspicious powers.I like the idea of made up animals that serve psychological and symbolic functions in our life, and they are often depicted as having control over various elements such as fire or weather.
These ideas of dragons gives us a lot of space to imagine the world and how we fit into it. They answer to imagination and mythical possibility. A lot of ancient dragon art, whether Mayan, Chinese, or from elsewhere seem to exist in this symbolic space. Unlike the kind of pseudo-realist work that seems so popular on the web, these ancient paintings don’t try to fix dragons into something biological, real, and understandable from a material perspective.
Instead the more ancient works create dragons that are more ambiguous. These dragons can exist without a definable biology, they stay more otherworldly and of the imagination. Although these dragon images may in some sense have an animalian form we understand as a snake or turtle(for example), they also remain more illusory, made of components that float in our mind. Not like a creature that can be outrun (or not) but as something that exists as much inside us as without. A truly spiritual being.
There is something of this symbolic nature of painting dragons, mythological creatures, and imagined guardian imagery that I bring into my own work. Somewhere between abstraction and recognizable forms, I find something closer to what exists in my mind. Certainly not the dragons and creatures of TV, film, or fantasy art. Something I feel more elusive in form, more situated in the mind, and inevitably more unknowable.