Tempest, Tumult, 2017 by Alex Kuno

Hello, there. I thought I would take some time to write a little something about the first painting I finished in 2017, "Tempest and Tumult Trample Through The Tiny Temples":

 

 

18x24" Watercolor, Graphite, Ink, Chalk on 300lb Hot Press Fabriano Paper

18x24" Watercolor, Graphite, Ink, Chalk on 300lb Hot Press Fabriano Paper

I was invited by the owners of the Antler PDX gallery in Portland Oregon to make a piece for the opening of their new space, Talon Gallery. The show is called "Familiar," and the theme was an interpretation of that word. In this particular case, a giant, conjoined pair of Mongrels (I'll get into that in a bit) slouches through an unsuspecting city. The character is in the process of transforming into an altogether new beast. This new form is in the process of devouring the old one, and whatever the end result might be, the way things are shaping up doesn't look good for the ancient and tiny city below. 

This piece is actually something of a hodgepodge of older characters, ideas and themes from my previous work, crammed into the new aesthetic of the "Offal" series I've been working in for almost a year. "Tempest and Tumult" are the names of a pair of conjoined "gods" I made for a much smaller painting back in 2014:

 

 

Here they are, destroying a city. 

Here they are, destroying a city. 

2014 is around the time I started introducing some spiritual themes into the Miscreants of Tiny Town mythology, by way of illustrating what I imagine these children might see as their own Creation stories. Even though I started the Miscreants of Tiny Town series as a way to process my own childlike anxieties about the direction the world seemed to be heading since the 9/11 attacks, I framed the Tiny Town backstory as a purgatorial space, where the souls of stillborn children are sent to develop their own societies and identities. The longer they're there, the more their appearance adjusts to reflect their innate personalities. Over time, they can evolve/mutate into animals, mixed creatures, trees, mountains, islands. They can also evolve into spirits that can determine the actions and identities of the "younger" Miscreants. Now, the "spirits" and "gods" in the world I created are more like metaphors for the mysterious forces that sweep through our current world. They're descriptors of religion, History, sociopolitical movements, evolution; they're the anthropomorphised Winds of Change. 

 

One of the mixed creatures that has become a driving force behind of the mythology is a wolf-headed creature called a Mongrel. They're well-dressed and seductive. They protect some tribes from the elements and can appear to save and protect lost or injured children. The children never realize until it's too late, however, that the Mongrels are raising them as livestock. Mongrels vary in physical appearance, culture and hunting techniques; some are more animalistic than others, and some clans prefer to lure children into the woods to feed, some drug them, and others invite them to a large picnic and then slaughter them all at once. Here are a few examples of how they've appeared over the years:

2010

2010

 

 

2010

2010

2014

2014

The Mongrels are essentially a re-telling of The Big Bad Wolf; in my work, they represent an abstract, childlike fear that's triggered by a current, grown-up anxiety; a looming deadline, an unpaid bill, an ominous news story, a lingering health issue. Consequently, I've been fascinated by how the Big Bad Wolf has been used as a propaganda tool throughout history to achieve that same effect. As grotesque as these creatures are, they reveal more about the villainy that created them than the group they're intended to target:

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 Considering that my "Offal" series is about the revelation of long-simmering conspiracies, laying pent-up secrets bare, evolution and cultural change and the impotence of an individual to affect the direction of events, the conjoined goddesses Tempest and Tumult from 2014 mutate into a two-headed Mongrel in 2015, then grow too big to contain its insides and explode and destroy itself at the start of 2017. Just in time for the inauguration.

 

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Anyway, that's pretty much what this one's about without going into too many specifics (though considering today's political climate and the profusion of T's in the title of this piece, I don't think my nuanced, astute political commentary's lost on anyone); I might write more about the Offal series at some point, too. But yeah. Good luck out there, everybody. 

by Alex Kuno

You know that weird poster of different conjoined infants I posted? Well, this is what I was talking about. 

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Here are some close-ups of the feet so far: 

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