Symbolism In The Hodler

The Hodler, oil and wax on canvas, 105 x 140 cm

I’ve decided to create NFTs from some of the paintings from my 2018 exhibition Crypto Disruption beginning with ‘The Hodler’. Below is a little information about my creative process with regards to narrative and the use of symbolism in my work.

Symbolism in Art

Symbolism can play a very powerful role in a painting and through this artistic device an artwork can have many different meanings to many different people, but this is also the beauty of introducing symbols. One person’s interpretation of symbolic representation won’t necessarily align with the person next to them. The Hodler is a good example of this in that someone who is involved with cryptocurrency will respond to this image in an entirely different way to someone who knows nothing of blockchain technology or crypto investment. Furthermore, since I began working with augmented reality, I’ve enjoyed exploring how video can add to the narrative of my paintings; however, with a move into NFTs I’ve been able to develop my artwork ‘stories’ and meaning on deeper levels, layering the work even further with animation and additional symbolism.

The Hodler is now made up of three very distinct creative components, each adding to the overall symbolic meaning of the work of art.

Firstly, there’s the large painting (105 x 140 cm), created almost entirely with blue and gold oil paint, which consist of a lone figure sitting on a bench near a lake. Viewers of the painting may ask themselves, “Who is the man, what’s he doing?” and perhaps, “What is he thinking about?” but someone who understands the title ‘The Hodler’ will already have an idea as to what this lone individual represents.

Second, there’s the video produced for the AR feature of the artwork. The underlying theme of the video is one of unyielding patience and focus regardless of the chaos and volatility happening all around. 

And lastly, the NFT was the final artistic device to add to the ‘total work of art’, creating a kind of gesamtkunstwerk, and an opportunity to develop the narrative even further through symbolism and added meaning.

Note: I’ve since replaced the original AR video with the NFT animation as the AR feature of the painting (2021))

Crypto Disruption exhibition at the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Crypto Disruption exhibition at the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Below is a description of the NFT animation along with a breakdown of some of the symbolism embedded into the artwork.

It’s autumn and the leaves have mostly fallen from the trees. A lone figure sits outside on a bench near the shore looking across the lake in contemplation. The wind ripples across the water and the large tree next to the man sways gently. Although the sun is bright in the clear, blue sky it feels as if there’s a chill in the air and winter is coming. As the sun sets over the mountains, shadows spread out across the land and a koi fish jumps in the lake, then another, briefly capturing the man’s attention.

The day ends and night falls and yet the man doesn’t move, he remains on the bench, waiting, thinking. Stars appear in the night sky and a rocket launches in the distance from behind the mountain. The man follows its trajectory as it disappears up into the atmosphere. He waits for morning. Another fish jumps in the lake as the sun rises up over the mountains showering the scene with the colours of gold and blue once again. Interestingly, the one thing the man doesn’t seem to be aware of in this eternal cycle is that every day the sun travels the same line across the sky, one that seems to follow the circumference of a bitcoin hidden in the tree and somehow even embedded partly through the man himself. Hodl.

View The Hodler NFT at the KnownOrigin marketplace.

The Symbols and the Meaning

  1. The colours – Blue is the colour of the sky and sea and is often associated with depth and stability. It can symbolise trust, wisdom, confidence, and faith. Blue is considered to be beneficial to the mind and body and is the only colour of the spectrum besides red to have been proven to directly affect the physiology of the human body. In direct contrast to the colour red, blue can slow the metabolism and produce a calming effect and for this reason blue is strongly associated with tranquillity. Historically, ultramarine blue was the most expensive colour used in painting as it was made from crushing the valuable gemstone Lapis Lazuli. In fact, blue was often prized over gold due to its scarcity. Gold is the colour of success, achievement and triumph and it’s associated with abundance and prosperity, luxury and quality, prestige and sophistication. The psychology of gold implies affluence, material wealth and extravagance.
  2. The transition from day to night represents the passage of time and the accumulation of wisdom and experience.
  3. The Koi Fish in the lake were chosen specifically as they are symbols of good fortune, abundance and luck. They are also associated with perseverance in adversity and strength of purpose.
  4. The stars in the night sky are often seen as symbols of enlightenment or ‘light and direction in the darkness’ and can represent worthy and noble goals that are difficult to reach. They signify guidance, since constellations have been used for centuries as an orientation map.
  5. A tree is a universal symbol of strength and growth and can represent how an individual grows stronger and increases their knowledge and experiences throughout their lifetime.
  6. Wind can symbolise the act of change or the bringing in the new and sweeping out of the old. Wind can also signify that a storm is on its way (representing potential destruction) but subsequently it lets one know they’ll need to prepare and to not panic, as eventually the storm will subside.
  7. Water in both literature and art is considered the universal symbol for change, it is forever flowing and can take any course. Water is also used to symbolise purity and cleansing as well as wisdom and power.
  8. The rocket symbolises ‘to the moon’, of course!

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the ideas behind the creation of my painting and NFT – The Hodler. 🙂


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