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Auguries of Innocence III
Oil on birch
8 x 8 inches
Framed dimensions: 12 x 12 inches
Rehs Contemporary Galleries, Inc., New York City
William Blake’s iconic poem “Auguries of Innocence” (1803) is emblematic of the Romantic period, in which nature was seen as a conduit for experiencing the sublime. I have always been mystified by the opening stanza:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
Further on in the poem, I discovered a couplet that inspired my paintings:
Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh
This is a stern exhortation to preserve even these tiny creatures, lest we end up on the wrong side of Judgment Day! Blake’s poem is a manifesto to wonder –– seeing grandeur in the small and innocent things of life. For the third painting of my “Auguries of Innocence” mini-series, I decided to feature a Blood-Red Glider Butterfly, native to Central Africa. When researching this tiny butterfly (54mm/2in wingspan) its heart shaped wings reminded me of the Celtic clover-leaf symbol found in medieval manuscripts.
I am fascinated by Japanese rock gardens, a visual reminder of the ephemerality of life. In preparation for each painting I tried my hand at making my own miniature rock garden. I can personally attest to the paradoxical challenge of raking perfect lines in the sand, only for them to be blown away the next second! This fleeting reality is reflected in butterflies, whose average lifespan does not exceed a month in duration.
In our world innocence seems like such a foreign concept. I see glimpses of innocence in children, but I also see it in our world’s tiniest creatures –– insects. Butterflies play a hugely important role in the food chain, and in the transferring of pollen so we can have plants that provide us food to eat and oxygen to breathe [i]. I do not paint these beautiful creatures simply to entertain, à la the butterfly collecting industry. I create these paintings in an act of faith against impending extinction and a call for the conservation of innocence.
[i] A Rocha Field Notes Podcast, Ep. 1
Born in 1995 in Moscow, Russia, Josh Tiessen is an international award-winning artist based near Toronto, Canada. Tiessen is best known for his hyper-surreal shaped oil paintings, which take up to 1700 hours to complete, and reflect the interaction between the natural world and human-made structures, drawing upon his studies in philosophy and theology.
As a young artist Tiessen was designated one of the world's top ten prodigy artists by Huffington Post, and the only known male art prodigy in North America by Dr. J. Ruthsatz, global prodigy expert. As a teenager he was juried in as the youngest member of International Guild of Realism among foremost realist artists from around the world, Artists for Conservation and Society of Animal Artists, elite groups of the top nature and wildlife artists worldwide. Art Renewal Center designated him Associate Living Master, and New York based gallery Jonathan LeVine Projects awarded him First Place from 2000 artists in their international competition Search for the Next Great Artist. LeVine presented the emerging artist’s debut international solo exhibition “Streams in the Wasteland” in May of 2019.
Mentored by masters like acclaimed Canadian artist Robert Bateman, Tiessen has exhibited his work since 2006 in over 100 exhibitions including the National Gallery of Canada and prominent galleries in the United States. He has sold over 150 original works and hundreds of limited edition giclée prints to private and corporate Canadian and international collectors.
Featured over 200 times in the press & media (Forbes, American Art Collector, International Artist), speaking and teaching at 60 venues, and making 90 invited art donations to charitable organizations, Tiessen established the Arts for a Change Foundation. This prolific artist has garnered over 60 awards and honours including International Guild of Realism Creative Achievement, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and Canada's Top 20 Under 20, for his artistic accomplishment and philanthropic work.