Executing Painting

Even today we speak about “executing a painting” or “the artist’s execution of the work” so it should be no surprise that execution is one of the most important allegorical themes in art. Whether the story behind the artist-as-executioner is religious, mythical, fictional or even historical, the underlying subject is always about art with the artist as both executioner and victim. After all, since every painter paints himself (see that Theme), every artist executes himself too. This theme, fusing the artist's imagination of the studio on one level with the painting’s apparent theme on another, takes advantage of the long tradition in which artists have used various weapons, from arrows to rifles, as symbols of their own tools (see Brush and Palette.) It also suggests, since either the executioner or the victim is usually evil, that the artist’s mind (the total image) contains both good and evil (See The Inner Tradition.) In addition, since many such stories tend to contain an executioner of one gender with a victim of the other, the artist can present his/her mind as androgynous, as all truly creative minds always are (See Androgyny) In a further twist, the moment of death has long symbolized the completion of the artist’s creation in any medium. Thus, as the executioner sends the victim to his/her death in the image, the painting-in-process is completed. In “death” it reaches perfection and becomes, somewhat paradoxically, a symbol of the artist’s “immortality”.

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