ARES and THE SPOILS OF WAR
ARES and THE SPOILS OF WAR
Oils on Canvas
1000 mm x 700 mm
HOMERIC HYMN TO ARES
'Ares, exceeding in strength, chariot-rider, golden-helmed, doughty in heart, shield-bearer, Saviour of cities, harnessed in bronze, strong of arm, unwearying, mighty with the spear, O defence of Olympus, father of warlike Victory, ally of Themis [Law], stern governor of the rebellious, leader of righteous men, sceptred King of manliness, who whirl your fiery sphere among the planets in their sevenfold courses through the aether wherein your blazing steeds ever bear you above the third firmament of heaven; hear me, helper of men, giver of dauntless youth! Shed down a kindly ray from above upon my life, and strength of war, that I may be able to drive away bitter cowardice from my head and crush down the deceitful impulses of my soul. Restrain also the keen fury of my heart which provokes me to tread the ways of blood-curdling strife. Rather, O blessed one, give you me boldness to abide within the harmless laws of peace, avoiding strife and hatred and the violent fiends of death.'
Anonymous, Ancient Greek hymns
Ares was the Ancient Greek god of war and member of the Olympian pantheon. His military prowess was unrivalled and on the battlefield his resilience and physical strength made him almost unstoppable. He revelled in the untameable ferocity of war gorging his insatiable desire for violence on the bloody fields of battle.
Symbolism plays an important part in my paintings. The points of interest in this painting are as follows:
Nude Ares – The Ancient Greeks extolled the virtue of the perfect male form and admired male nudity. Thucydides commented that it set the Greeks apart from barbarians. I have portrayed Ares as supremely confident with the overt masculine prowess of a Greek warrior. I was required at the time to cover the genitals for exhibition purposes, to be removed at a later date to be true to the original concept.
The battle field – This is Ares domain and where he is most comfortable. Ares is relaxed and satisfied after the day’s battle, lounging contentedly on the back of his chariot.
The chariot – Ares is often described on the battle field in his chariot with winged wheels…I have shown these as sharpened spikes in the wheel’s axle. I have positioned the chariot centrally to enthrone Ares as the sovereign of his violent realm.
Sunset – In antiquity battles usually ceased at sunset as the combatant struggled to see each other. I have given the sky a turbulent unsettled look to mirror the violent event that has taken place.
Ares’ weapons and armour – Ares wears a golden helm and traditionally holds a shield and spear, the weapons of a Greek Hoplite or infantry soldier.
Red cloak – It was said that Ares cloak was made from the skins of his defeated adversaries. To symbolise this I have chosen crimson red as a sanguine representation of this.
Vultures in the sky – These carrion birds were symbols of Ares. Circling the battle field ready to feast on the dead.
Arms and armour of the fallen – I have portrayed the fallen warriors’ equipment amassed on the battle field as his tribute to symbolise the slaughter that are his spoils of war.
Bloody ground – The ground is soaked with blood and Ares’ bare feet are bathed in it, signifying the aggression and violence that Ares delights in.