Monday, November 11, 2013

Runes 302 - Interviews - Bifrost and Beyond

This post not only marks the first in a new series - interviews, but highlights the work of a great Heathen artist, CSA, whose body of work is depicted as Bifrost and Beyond.  I've been familiar with CSA for a while now and even used one of his pieces in my post about the Norns.  It has become one of my favorite pieces of art, so I was very pleased when he agreed to this interview and to share some of his work with us.

Thank you, CSA, for taking the time to talk with me.

Many of your pieces contain Runes.  Can you tell us why and how you incorporate them into your art?
The Runes are ancient and timeless symbols from our past.  More than just a primitive form of writing, their simple shapes encompass a vast multitude of subtle and diverse meanings.  They empower us; they teach and guide us; they hold the secrets of the universe.  Sometimes, Runes will demand to be included in an image I'm working on, as they echo the meaning of the piece.  Other times, my work is inspired by contemplating a specific Rune.  I am in the process of producing a series of images based on meditations on the Runes of the Elder Futhark - it's been a really rewarding and enlightening piece of work and I plan to release the images as a book when they're complete.

The book sounds very interesting and the Runes play a key part of it.  How did you come to be interested in the Runes in general and as part of your art?
In my mid to late teens (a long time ago now) I went through something a lot of teenagers experience - a feeling of angst, not really belonging or having a place or purpose in the world.  It's not reflection on my upbringing, just a commonly difficult period of transition for young people when you feel like and adult, but the world still views you as a child.

Tyr woodcarving
In that time, I began to contemplate my heritage and ancestry - not just blood, but the soil I had been born and raised on.  There I found a rich history, culture and mythology that instantly struck a chord with me and that I could intuitively relate to.  I recognized the myths of the Norse and Germanic people as beautifully crafted metaphors for the cycles and phenomena of nature that I could see occurring around me.

It wasn't long before I became interested in the Runes and, after reading a couple of books, I decided there was no substitute for firsthand experience.  I created my first set from a piece of oak over twenty years ago and still have it today - those Runes are my most treasured possession.  Living and working with the Runes over such a long period of time, it's only natural that they would begin to feature in my artwork.

So, first you discovered the culture and myths, then the Runes.  How does that Norse experience inspire your art?  Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Celtic, for example.
I love mythology full stop - the timeless tales of courage, heroism, love, beauty and tragedy.  It's impossible not to be inspired!  I feel a particular affinity with and my artistic style lends itself best to the mythology of the Norse and Anglo-Saxon cultures.  I naturally use cold grey and blue hues that reflect the colder northern climate; I tend to use sparse, simple backgrounds with bold, dominant characters, who look as if they were carved from a great oak or hewn from a rugged rock.  In that way, they represent the earth, the soil and the environment - the timeless essence that spawned such a rich and heroic mythology and culture.

What else inspires your art?
From time to time, I create work inspired by Greek, Roman or Celtic mythology.  Other inspirations have included Steampunk genre, the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and the Soviet era to name a few.

I'm really in the zone when working on the Norse and Anglo-Saxon theme though; that's where I work most intuitively and am, I think, at my best.

How long has this theme been the primary focus of your artwork?  How long have you been working with the Runes in this capacity?
Rather surprisingly, the Runes and Norse mythology have been my primary focus for only about two years.  I took a long break from any sort of creative endeavor in my mid-twenties, for no specific reason that I can fathom.

It was a chance encounter with a fantastic artist, painting in a shop window, that inspired me to engage in the creative process again.  We have remained friends ever since and he remains a source of encouragement and inspiration for me.  I guess, for the first few years, it was trial and error, trying to develop a style and experimenting with a range of themes and subjects.  I produced some pretty awful stuff back then, but I keep it as it marks a step in my journey.

It was only about two years ago that I really developed the style that I have become so comfortable with.  Initially, I was reluctant to work on anything Rune-based as that had always been a very private part of my life, but whenever I relaxed and just let myself draw almost subconsciously, the kind of images that related strongly to my experiences with the Runes came out and they were, by far, the most satisfying and meaningful things I had done.  This led me to ask myself, "What is art, if not a true reflection of the inner self?"

Ever since then, the Runes and Norse mythology and cosmology have been the driving force behind my work.  It really has been the most tremendous experience - externalizing my thoughts, feelings and interpretations really leads me to examine them from new perspectives and teach myself new things along the way.

Do you have a favorite piece that includes the Runes or Norse Mythology/Norse influence?  Can you tell us about the piece?
"Algiz" is, by far, my favorite piece.  It's a portrayal of a potent visionary experience from many years ago.  The image is burned into my consciousness as if it were yesterday.  I always thought it would be impossible to replicate it in physical form, but I found that, as soon as I tried, it was pretty much instantaneous.  It's a technically simple piece, but it pulses with the energy of that experience and exudes everything I wanted to.

There's something very primal about it.  I like to watch people at my exhibitions and see which pieces engage them, which ones they stop and contemplate, which ones they talk about and so on.  Algiz has a tendency to stop people in their tracks and people with no knowledge of Runes or Norse mythology have approached me to say that they like it and to ask what it's about.

How do you use the Runes outside of your art?
I have used the Runes for over twenty years, very privately for the most part to meditate on and consider difficult situations in life.  I don't believe there is any clairvoyant "magic" in the common sense of the word behind the Runes.  Rather, I think that they channel the reader's intellect and intuition, prompting him or her to consider aspects of a situation they might not have otherwise considered.  They won't tell you your future, but will offer possibilities to influence your decisions.

Recently, I held some readings for friends, who seem to have found them very helpful and insightful.  Aside from divination, the Runes are part of my daily life.  I often find that a Rune springs to mind when I'm facing a challenge or difficulty and it offers guidance and inspiration and enhances my understanding of it and myself.  Other times, a sight, sound or smell will bring a Rune or a series of them to mind and bring me to contemplate the sensory experience - sometimes it's quite difficult to stay focused on the mundane, practical matters without such distractions!

As far as I am concerned, you can never master the Runes, only deepen your relationship with and understanding of them.  Their meanings and subtleties are infinite.

Do you have one special moment or unique experience with the Runes, where you had an epiphany or clarifying moment?
I do, although I prefer to keep these things close.  It's a fool who bares his soul for the world to see.

Where can people view and purchase your art?
Currently, my primary exhibiting space is my facebook page, but I am also on Deviantart.

At the moment, I'm selling via PayPal. People can message me on my facebook page about the piece or pieces they want and I'll send them the payment details.

Because the majority of my work is digital, it provides tremendous scope; I can produce almost any of my images at any size on just about anything - a standard print, canvas, mug, T-shirt, mouse pad, whatever!

I'll be exploring eBay and one or two other avenues in the coming months; it just takes a bit of time to list the volume of work I have in an array of available options.

Thank you, again, for taking the time to share your art with us and tell us how the Runes inspire it!

CSA's Bio
Living in southern England, I have been a practicing Heathen for over twenty years.  I have a deep and intuitive relationship with the Runes and a strong spiritual bond with the mythology and cosmology of the Norse and Anglo-Saxon culture and with my natural environment.  All of these things influence and inspire my personal philosophy and artwork.  I strive to portray the values and ethics of Heathenism for what they are - courage, resilience, sacrifice, and heroism - but, at its purest level, Heathenism is the observance and honouring of the wonders of nature, understanding that all things are connected, that we all have a part to play and an influence in the grand scheme and, above all, trying to live a good life.

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