Monsters everwhere

Monsters everwhere

While taking walks I usually pay attention to the marginal ways people express themselves in public. “Marginal” in the sense that one cannot identify a specific purpose to an expression nor the reason somebody had to feel compelled to make such a public, albeit anonymous statement. This picture was taken in a wooded area near to Hamburg. The original sign reads “nature preserve” (Landschafts-Schutzgebiet) and the symbol chosen to communicate the idea is a stylized black owl. I have noticed that these signs seem to be attracting alterations wherever they are displayed. It’s funny, considered that they are only found pretty much out of the sight of urban traffic.

It’s a bit mysterious to me. What is it that the sign communicates (despite the sober, original administrative message)? What triggers the desire to change it? Is it the way the owl stares at the viewer with yellow (paper-cut like) eyes?

The changes mostly interpret or exaggerate the original monster like quality of the cut out owl. Here someone actually spray painted a monster on top of the owl, completely obscuring the original symbol. It seems not too far fetched to state that the simple anthropomorphic quality of the monster points back to the very origin of art, the moment when humans started to express themselves with symbols.

As Mircea Eliade has observed in his work “The Sacred and the Profane”, even in the modern world we pay witness to a deeply ingrained “mythical” comprehension of the world by reacting to triggers. The world through human eyes is “fraught” with religious value, or at least with “meaning” in the sense of an offer of communication not necessarily only between people but also between people and nature, people and the inanimate world, people and the perceived reality of an order of their world that they must adhere to to give their own lives value and meaning.

Could it be that the character of this sign inadvertently triggers such a response? And that the response is rendered in just the same language? Artist’s musings, for sure …

I have often been asked why monsters are a recurring theme in my work. Obviously there is not one answer to that question. Sometimes it’s their naivety and friendly, childlike celebration of the world that attracts me. But I have done other more serious monsters. And I feel that one underlying theme might be a response not unlike these anonymous signs. Though I do not paint on traffic signs …

Just to round this up: I have also seen the signs and the little owl creature changed through weather and sunlight, resulting in faded or partially peeling paint. And in the midst of these beautiful alterations the little owl changes character, always peeking out at the world and talking about time and change … Seems that nature itself takes pleasure in participating in this game …

I am looking forward to reading your comments!

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