Thursday, 8 February 2018

Memorial I, II, and III: a triptych honouring the tomb of David Syme by Walter Butler



The paintings represent 3 dimensions of my understanding and interaction with the monument, each with its own theme, as suggested by the subtitle after each one.

Memorial I: Alternate Past


Memorial I: An Alternate Past speculates on the nature of the burial vault of the monument (which is hidden) as well as if the structure had been built post the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb which came 12 years later. It's element is the Duat.

Memorial II: Reason


Memorial II: Reason addresses the monument's function beyond what appears apparent. Its element is the Sky.

Memorial III: Legacy

Memorial III: Legacy speaks to the legacy Mr. Syme left behind and his impact on Melbourne as a city and culture.

The Memorial triptych is a reinterpretation and re-imagining of the monument designed by Walter Richmond Butler (1864 - 1949). Butler was one of Melbourne's most celebrated architects famous for his contribution to the Arts And Crafts architectural movement. His re-imagining of Trajan's Kiosk on Philae (Pilak) island in Egypt is surely one of the most spectacular Egyptianizing monuments of the modern era. The design and structure of the monument are represented across all 3 paintings featuring all 14 capitals, views from every side, above, and an imagining of the burial vault within, the only part of the monument not visible to the public.

It is also a tribute to David Syme and a salute to one of the most interesting and intriguing figures from colonial era Victoria. I could not paint such a series of works without investigation into the life and legacy of this man, and my paintings reflect this.

Significantly from my point of view as an artist concerned with the re manifestation of all things Ancient Egyptian today is the spiritual element that the monument conveys. Egyptomania had already emerged as a thing in the time that the monument was created, but it was only a trickle of the tidal wave it was bound to become a few years later. This memorial surely was - and is - a major homage to those Egyptianizing trends, as well as the information that was being uncovered about Ancient Egyptian religion and spirituality that was only just beginning to be understood thanks to the cracking of the hieroglyphic code in then recent history. As mentioned, the monument was erected some 12 years before the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb, which was when Egyptomania really came into vogue.

The artist will donate a significant portion of funds from sale of this work to having the monument  -which is heritage listed - restored.

The Memorial Triptych was completed in February 2018 in time for my debut exhibition, Neo Pharaonic.


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