GENESIS - the Five Patriarchs - Artist's notes:
The story of the first days as told
in the Book of Genesis is extolled in similar form in most of the texts
sacred to the various 'tribes' of mankind. I portray in this work five
major Patriarchs of the Old Testament, in a post and lintel format.
This strong and ancient supportive building convention derives in a
real sense from the megalithic stone circles of antiquity. I will elaborate
on this later when I describe the meaning of the piles of stones that
appear in this artwork.
The hand of God marks the act of creation. I feel that what made Adam, the first Patriarch very different from all life forms created before, was his human DNA. I have exercised some artistic licence here to combine the classical Serpent, which is inseparable from Adam, with the helical spiral form of DNA and I sometimes wonder whether the age-old depictions of entwined serpents, did not perhaps reflect this. Adam's column also has engraved on it a Flame, similar to the flames on the Menorah. Adam carried within him the Light and Life of God, the Creator and each of the Patriarchs displays the same Flame.
Noah, the second patriarch, was appointed by God to be the saviour of all species of life and is featured here with the Ark and some of his charges. He released a raven and a dove. Both returned to the ark. Later he released a dove, which did bring back a leaf and finally, did not return at all. When the lands started to dry out after the flood had ended, Noah planted a vineyard. I do believe that there is some archaeological evidence that the first cultivated crops to have appeared in the post flood world, did originate from the region of Mount Ararat, and were indeed vines.
Abraham, the third Patriarch, was saved by the timely appearance of the Angel Gabriel, from sacrificing his son, and offers the ram caught in the thicket in his place. The papyruses at Abraham's feet tell of his Mesopotamian origin. The following information is not portrayed in the mural but I find it interesting - British Museum records, translated from Sumerian cuneiform tablets record that Terah, Abram's father was a priest from Nippur. A priest in Sumerian is Tirhu. Abram was transferred to Ur and later to Harran, from which, some years later, God sent him, his family and Lot to Canaan. The Sumerian word for Nippur apparently is NI.IBRU, which would make Terah's family people of IBRU. ('Hebrew' perhaps?) The Sumerian calendar, which originated in a city called Nippur in 3760 B.C., may be the origin of the Jewish calendar used today.
The fourth patriarch I have chosen to be Jacob, who is featured here with his wife Rachel. His story is to my mind interesting and somewhat complex. Jacob's sons, who were the precursors of the twelve tribes of Israel, appear in the engraved frieze above his head on the lintel and also in the chain of hearts that rises out a pile of stones. It is to these stones that I referred earlier. To me they have three layers of meaning. The first refers to a huge circle of megalithic stones discovered by the Israeli army after the six-day war, on the newly captured territory of the Golan Heights. Archaeologists feel that the ruler Og may have built them, and they apparently are similar to Stonehenge in that they may have been used for astronomical observations. Secondly, in the time of the Patriarchs, after Jacob had left Harran with his eleven sons and daughter Dinah and returned to Canaan with his father-in-law Laban in pursuit, he and Laban met in the vicinity of Mount Gilead and had a hostile encounter, a territorial dispute over grazing rights. (Benjamin, Jacob's twelfth son was born to Rachel in Bethlehem some time later.) An agreement was reached between Jacob and Laban and a witnessing pillar of stones was erected on the site of the concord - the 'stone heap of the witnessing'. Jacob as recorded in the Bible also described the site as Mizpah, which may well refer to an observatory. He renamed the site from Gilad to Galed. (Perhaps from 'the everlasting stone heap' to the 'stone heap of witnessing') I have placed the eye on the top stone in the pile as witness to this pact, which in a way I personally feel might be the first occasion on which the Hebrews formerly laid claim to the territory of Israel, a precursor to God's behest, as later conveyed by Moses and manifested finally by Joshua.
Joshua, after crossing the Jordan and leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, erected a stone memorial of gratitude. This event marks the third incident relating to the stones. This could well have been at the same site, since Moses before Joshua's descent into Israel, looked down from the plains of Moab onto Gilead.
Moses, the fifth Patriarch, has at his feet the sacred Menorah, and holds in his arms one of the stone tablets on which was inscribed the Ten Commandments. Also at his feet are the rolling waves of the parted Red Sea. Finally, the characters of the Sofer Torah script form a curtain or backdrop, reflecting the blueprint on which the Creation was based.
I am not an academic or a historian, but I find magic in this history and I have attempted to impart that magic to a work of art. Note that I have used in this mural only verifiable artefacts that may be found in the scriptures.
Raymond Andrews 2009