Without warning, the angel lunges with the arrow piercing it deep into her chest, releasing an excruciatingly sweet pain as Teresa’s head falls back with eyes closed in rapture. She opens her eyes momentarily, surprised to see bitcoin spill out from her as the arrow is withdrawn; however, Teresa is even more aware of the knowing smile appearing on the angel’s face and the intense heat radiating from her beating heart. The temporal being of St Teresa wishes this moment will never end but her spirit understands that there will be consequences.
View the animation with audio at the SuperRare marketplace here.
Demo video of the augmented reality feature below. The oil painting was created with this video July 2018 for my CryptoDisruption exhibition. I've since changed the AR experience to the original 1/1 NFT animation with music.
Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582) described the scene in her autobiography, “In the angel’s hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times ... and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease.”
Bernini used this masterful and undeniably erotic artwork as a springboard to a new and higher type of spiritual awakening. The work became a melding of sensual and spiritual pleasure, the heavenly and the earthly coming together. The piercing of Teresa’s heart becomes a point of contact between earth and heaven, matter and spirit. These uniquely powerful combinations are what I focussed on when creating the original painting, the accompanying AR video and now with this NFT animation.
This painting was inspired by the 2017 crypto bull run and the euphoria that was sweeping across the world as bitcoin quickly surged towards $20,000. I searched for a powerful image that could be reinterpreted to convey the high emotion and insatiableness of some crypto companies, ICOs, 'influencers' and over leveraged investors driving this delirium whilst heralding it under the guise of self-sovereignty, morality, and a Utopian prosperity. People’s lives were changing dramatically. Literally overnight, ‘dreams’ were coming true, money was being made faster (and lost faster) than could be imagined. There seemed to be no limit to the heights and greed that could be achieved.
In search for a symbol, I turned towards the highly ornate and extravagant Baroque period renowned for its ostentatious displays of wealth by the monarchs and decided on one of the greatest masterpieces of the 17th century, Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. This symbol would be reworked and reimagined with oil paint, video and animation in an attempt to convey the original message of connection with a ‘higher power’, the search for the divine, but to also carry with it a message of caution and the need for responsibility. I aimed to capture that moment which Bernini first created – when the angel and St Teresa act out a scene of both pleasure and pain simultaneously, the ecstasy and the agony, but this time in front of a shining, golden bitcoin.
The Bitcoin Angel represents dreams, hope, and the desire to improve oneself, but it also acts as a warning to the greedy, self-absorbed and negligent that without caution and integrity, those ‘dreams’ can very quickly transform into something entirely different.
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 financial 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 more 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 painting, 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.
Below is a description of the NFT animation along with a breakdown of some of the symbolism embedded into the artwork.
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
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the ideas behind the creation of my painting and NFT - The Hodler. 🙂