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All Creatures Praise
Oil on panel
14 x 10 inches
Rehs Contemporary Galleries, Inc., New York City
Painted on a biomorphic shape resembling the whimsy of organic life, this imagined scene spotlights an illuminated manuscript resting on a bed of moss, surrounded by a plethora of flora and fauna. While journeying through the enchanted woods, Sophia discovers an old hymn penned by St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of ecology. In his famous nature hymn, Canticle of the Creatures (1225), he echoes the Psalms: “Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths.” [i] In 1910, William H. Draper paraphrased this canticle as a musical hymn for a children’s Pentecost festival in England. Some of the words from this hymn, All Creatures of our God and King, appear in my painting. It is an affirmation that humans sing not to their Creator alone, but actively join with the cosmic choir of creation.
One day I found a Common Green Darner Dragonfly outside my studio door, having succumbed to the first frost of winter. To my mother’s chagrin, I kept it in a clear box in her deep freeze for a year. Finally, I retrieved it to include in my painting as a eulogy. The hovering honeybee represents the sacrifice found among the smallest creatures. They pollinate plants, which is essential for ecosystems and our own survival.
The biblical book of Proverbs even recognizes that we humans can glean wisdom from insects: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” [ii]
According to the Protestant Belgic Confession, nature is a means of divine revelation: “Like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God.” Sophia also sees this in the prismatic hues of crystal gemstones, such as Amethyst and Agate, which adorned the breastplate of the ancient Hebrew high priest as a sign of God’s splendour.
Atheists are quick to question the existence of an Intelligent Designer, pointing to unseemly creatures like beetles that make up 25% of animal species on earth. It is, in fact, estimated that insects make up a whopping 90%. As biologist J.B.S. Haldane declared, God must have “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” [iii] When Sophia gazes upon beetles such as ladybugs, it only strengthens her faith in the Creator of the universe, who took such care with the ‘least of these’.
[i] Psalm 148:3-4
[ii] Proverbs 6:6-8
[iii] Animal: Exploring The Zoological World (Phaidon Press), 7.
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.