"Devoted to purity
Your garment is ever spotless
But what of your heart?”
The “Conference of the Birds” is a 12th-century Sufi poem by Attar of Nishapur, that is a timeless parabol of the mystical quest for the Truth. It features the hoopoe, a spiritual guide figure, leading the birds on a perilous search for their King, the mythical Simorgh. Each bird in turn makes an excuse for not setting out, until at last they are all ready to take part. The duck symbolizes frivolous attachments, being more fixated on water itself than on the purpose of ablution.
I have a deep love of birds, and painted this series out of a desire to create some illumination-inspired work, with traditional pigments and materials, and gold accents. Each bird is perched on a rendition of its Arabic name in the “Eastern Kufic” style, which originates in Persia just like the poem. The text accompanying each bird is my own, trying to distil the essence of that particular passage in a form short enough to fit inside the halo.
Materials: oakgall ink, egg tempera with natural pigments*, gold leaf 23.75 ct.
* Pigment list for the whole series: burnt sienna, venetian red, vermilion, lac dye, rose madder, madder red, lead tin yellow, yellow ocher, terre verte, chrysocolla, dioptase, cavansite, azurite, lapis lazuli, eggshell white.
Oakgall ink, egg tempera and gold leaf 23.75ct