I think it was last April when I dreamed of Tigers. I believe in the shamanic tradition, and when an animal appears in your dreams, it is a messenger. I knew I would paint them, but it had to evolve over the course of the summer.
Initially, I was thinking about the five Tigers in Chinese tradition: Water Tiger, Wood Tiger, Fire Tiger, Metal Tiger, and Air Tiger. There are five colors associated with each. I had the idea of the monkey playing a song, and having the notes appear in the Tigers’ stripes. But I was still deep into my summer garden and did not have time to paint.
By the fall, the nastiness of the American 2016 election cycle had become, astonishingly, worse. I stopped asking myself if it could get worse, because it inevitably did. The Trump candidacy has brought the white nationalists, racists, misogynists, and their ilk out of the woodwork, emboldened to speak their hatred. And that’s when this painting changed. The monkey, master of chaos, trickster, plays a song and influences the Tiger’s nature. We always, always have two choices in life: Love and Hate. There are many monkeys who would seek to influence one or the other. In the heart of essence, of course, your eternal Spirit remains in Love and Enlightenment, regardless of what choice you make in the material world. But choices have consequences.
When I began, I wasn’t sure at first if I could bring myself to put some of the symbols of hate into this painting, but doing so was strangely cathartic. Like everything of this world, even hate is an illusion, a tune played by an illusory monkey. No. They needed to be there.
Some of the Tiger stripes are random; some are not. I used Chinese characters, symbols of enlightenment, and English words. They speak for themselves.
Originally published at ashahawkesworth.com.