Two Nudes

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I Have Come To Consume The World

In Chapter 11 of the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reveals himself to the warrior hero Arjuna in his full nature as the transcendent and immanent Lord of the Universe. This watercolour painting is inspired by the portion of this cosmic vision in which Arjuna describes the God’s terrifying appearance in the role of destroyer (being all things, Krishna is also the destruction of all things):

“O  Vishnu [Krishna is the avatar or embodiment of Vishnu], I can see your eyes shining; with open mouth, you glitter in an array of colours, and your body touches the sky. I look at you and my heart trembles; I have lost all courage and all peace of mind.

When I see your mouths with their fearful teeth, mouths burning like the fires at the end of time, I forget where I am and I have no place to go. O Lord, you are the support of the universe; have mercy on me!

I see all the sons of Dritarashtra; I see Bhishma, Drona, and Karna; I see our warriors and all the kings who are here to fight. All are rushing into your awful jaws; I see some of them crushed by your teeth. As rivers flow into the ocean, all the warriors of this world are passing into your fiery jaws; all creatures rush to their destruction like moths into a flame.

You lap the worlds into your burning mouths and swallow them. Filled with your terrible radiance, O Vishnu, the whole of creation bursts into flames.

Tell me who you are, O Lord of terrible form. I bow before you; have mercy! I want to know who you are, you who existed before all creation. Your nature and workings confound me.”

To this Krishna gives the hair-raising reply:

“I am time, the destroyer of all; I have come to consume the world.”

It was this declaration of Krishna’s, in a slightly different translation, that J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled having come to his mind as he and his colleagues on the Manhattan project watched the first successful detonation of a nuclear bomb: “‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”

Immediately subsequent to this cosmic manifestation of his all-encompassing power, Krishna returns to the gentle, human form in which Arjuna had always known him -although one imagines it must have taken a moment for normal conversation to resume naturally between them.

(The cited passages are from the translation of the  Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran (Nilgiri Press, 1985))

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Graphic Note Taking at YAS! 2017

This past weekend I participated in YAS! (SYMPO! in French), the Youth Art Symposium organized by the Ottawa Art Gallery. Spearheaded by the brilliant and indefatigable OAG Youth and Educational Programs Coordinator Alexis Boyle, YAS! 2017 was aimed at bringing together select young people aged 15-25 who are currently involved with cultural institutions across the province of Ontario in order to join and lead the discussion on making art more accessible to youth. I was also invited to the event, not, alas, as a youth representative, but in order to act as a “graphic note taker,” tasked with providing visual documentation of the three-day event in the form of live, on-the-spot drawings. Here are the results. The reproductions aren’t great as they are taken with my phone camera; the originals stayed in Ottawa. All told, the event appeared to me to have been a smashing success, and went a long way toward restoring my faith in the future of humanity.
Registration desk Continue reading

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Montcalm Returns to Candiac

Most of my upcoming graphic novel about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham will be coloured in neutral shades of grey and one characteristic identifying colour for each of the participant nations (Phtallo Blue for the French, Cadmium Red Deep for the British, Mineral Violet for the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), and so on). Occasionally, however, there will be full-page images in full colour to help establish atmosphere. In this picture, General Montcalm’s carriage makes it way back to the French commander’s Chateau of Candiac, in the Languedoc region of Southern France.

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Call for Candidates: Anuvad 2018 Arts Residencies

anuvadresidenciesThis year again I will be taking part in the Anuvad Festival for the Arts and Humanities, to take place in Silchar, India, this coming January. The Northeast India Company, which is organizing the event, is also sponsoring four Arts Residencies, which will take place in the two weeks leading up to the festival (Jan. 2-15, as well as for the duration of the festival itself. (Jan.16-18). The available residencies are focused on translation work (one), the performing arts (two), and film and photography (one). The deadline to apply is November 10.

For all the relevant details, click here:

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The God Abandons Antony

After suffering defeat at the hands of Octavian at the Battle of Actium (31 BCE), Antony and Cleopatra retreated to their power base of Alexandria, Egypt, where the two lovers had first met almost twenty-five years earlier. The Ancient Greek biographer Plutarch tells the story of how, one night, while besieged in Alexandria by Octavian’s forces , Antony was woken by the sounds of instruments and voices as if from a boisterous  procession making its way through the city in the direction of the city gates. The former general of Julius Caesar took this as a sign that the god Bacchus, whom he regarded as his personal protector, was now deserting him. The next day, Octavian’s soldiers entered the city and Antony committed suicide, along with Cleopatra.
The Greek poet Constantine Peter Cavafy (1863-1933), who was born in Alexandria and spent most of his life in that city, was inspired by Plutarch’s tale to write “The God Abandons Antony,” a poem celebrating human dignity in the face of loss and defeat.

The God Abandons Antony

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive –don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen –your final delectation– to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

-Constantine Cavafy (1911)

(Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

Many years later, Cavafy’s poem would inspire the lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s song “Alexandra Leaving,” in which the city of Alexandria becomes Alexandra, a former lover whom the God of Love has now swept off elsewhere on the wings of “the simplicities of pleasure”:


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“Elegy” by Leonard Cohen

A watercolour illustration inspired by “Elegy,” the opening poem in Leonard Cohen’s very first poetry collection, Let Us Compare Mythologies, from 1956.Elegy



Do not look for him
In brittle mountain streams:
They are too cold for any god;
And do not examine the angry rivers
For shreds of his soft body
Or turn the shore stones for his blood;
But in the warm salt ocean
He is descending through cliffs
Of slow green water
And the hovering coloured fish
Kiss his snow-bruised body
And build their secret nests
In his fluttering winding-sheet.

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