The tattoo recently designed by, and made for, Koral, is inspired by themes discussed during the BA course on the Spiritual in Art which I teach at the Department for Mysticism and Spirituality. Koral, who is a student of the course, has already had the eye tattoo on her upper back, but she reintroduced it in a new context. There could be many interpretations to this tattooed image, hence, I wish it to remain open to speculations.
Still, I would like to emphasize two main themes and a context which the image implies and which the course integrates. The course interweaves theories on humanity’s most ancient art and art’s visionary function and futuristic prospects. The eye in the triangle represents the eye of feminist art history, the eye of altered states, and the alchemical eye that blends through aesthetic media spirituality and advanced science and technology. The eye in the triangle breaks the initial hierarchical proposition of Kandinsky, and despite the chaos caused, reinforces faith in the progress of the triangle, which stands for the auspicious evolution of humanity.
According to a feminist study of ancient Egyptian art by Nancy Luomala, the Wadjet was a powerful attribution of the queen-princess-goddess. It was represented symbolically through the hieroglyphic imagery of a cobra or the eye of the solar gods Ra or Horus. When Hatshepsut ruled Egypt as a pharaoh, she was depicted in statues and paintings as a man. The pharaoh could never be shown as a woman, however, he received his authority to manage the business of the kingdom from the queen who also guaranteed his divine status. In order to reinforce her unusual position as both pharaoh and queen-goddess, Hatshepsut integrated both male and female signs in her public depictions.
The Ancient Egyptian word Wadj signifies blue and green, and is also a word for the eye of the moon. The tattoo reflects these hues but it is positioned in a new context and tells an updated story.
Koral’s tattooed eye of the moon is a copy of her mother’s tattoo, and as such, it recalls the ancient matrilineal lineage that preserved the Goddess blood-line. However, this eye is no longer positioned in the same cultural context. In ancient Egypt, queens and princesses could not take on active public roles probably with the exception of religious functions in which they served as priestesses or the embodiment of the goddess. With the rise of patriarchy, as Luomala writes, the princesses and queens were often manipulated by their ambitious pharaoh husbands and male relatives, and their temples, statues and monuments were destroyed immediately after their death. Although they held spiritual powers and ruled the land of the gods and goddesses, they were often powerless or held limited power in issues relating to their earthly domain.
The triangle in the tattoo refers to the painter and theorist Wassily Kandinsky’s vision of a triangle that represents the progress of humanity via the arts. Kandinsky was the first artist to introduce and redefine the term spiritual in the field of modern art. Although some of his ideas stand in sharp contradiction to contemporary views of non-hierarchical culture and feminist critique, the overall thesis Concerning the Spiritual in Art is valuable to researchers and students of modern spiritualities and modern and contemporary art.
Today, as women, we can claim our power, act from within the culture and shape the external world. We can also make new images of existence and reinvent ourselves. The eye in the triangle is a dynamic image, it hints of the tension that exists between worldviews and the coherence that we long for as we navigate the triangle of evolution forward.
Luomala, Nancy (1982) ‘Matrilineal Reinterpretation of Some Egyptian Scared Cows’, in Broude, Norma and Garrard, D. Mary (eds.), Feminism and Art History: Questioning the Litany, Harper and Row. pp.20-31
© Dr Lila Moore