Seoul lantern festival. The festival of lanterns is a fire-based holiday observed on the fifteenth and final day of Chinese New Years. The celebration culminates with the lighting of multiple lanterns, a ritual which represents the bringing of light into the new year.
The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.
I have been working on a new painting for the past two weeks. But it might be more accurate to say that for the past two weeks I have been working on several paintings as this canvas has been re-painted numerous times. Underneath the surface image there resides a lily pond, an aspen grove, a field of gold and black. Right now the painting is about a salamander and I believe that is the image which needed to emerge.
So why a salamander? Not sure -- but this is what I found in my research.
In world religious traditions, fire represents variously spirit, soul and emerging consciousness. In some spiritual traditions, salamanders represent the soul which is purified by fire but cannot be destroyed. This metaphor arises from a piece of ancient folklore that asserts: if a salamander is thrown into the fire, it will emerge unharmed. This tradition has its origins in the habits of the salamandra salamandra. A forest native, the salamandra salamandra tends to hide in fallen leaves, rotting limbs and tree trunks. In earlier times, when human beings gathered fuel for their fires and added these materials to the hearth, quite often salamanders would emerge, seeming to arise from the heart of the flames.
There are other examples of the role fire plays in cultural mythologies. For example, in Celtic tradition, May 1 is Beltane (meaning bright fire) and marks the beginning of summer. On Beltane, the Celts believed that the veil between worlds grew thin and the Otherworld was particularly accessible. Beltane celebrations traditionally centered around the creation of a huge bon-fire and might also include storytelling, fire-leaping and fertility rites.
In Aztec and Mayan mythology, the god of fire Xiutecutli is represented as a butterfly. Fire, like the butterfly, is a symbol of personal transformation. The role of fire as transformative is also part of Egyptian mythology. The roots of the phoenix may be found in its Egyptian counterpart, the Bennu, a crane-like bird believed to be the soul of the sun-god Ra. Egyptian myth says that the Bennu burst into being from the heart of Osiris, god of life, death and fertility. This explains its use as a symbol of creation and renewal.