EXPLORATION OF SNAKE MOTIFS IN PAINTING
This project is an experimental research which seeks to create a body of paintings by exploring the surface quality of lives and forms apparent on eight snake patterns. The designs and patterns on the snake are a source of inspiration for creating diverse artworks. This research discovers unique ways of exploring and interpreting motifs from snakes in abstract rendition and providing conceptual painting compositions using the patterns and line formations. The researcher employs a studio based methodology for this study whereby the independent variable is subjected to a creative manipulation. This experiment proves that snakes often feared by man could be harnessed for art production. The researcher finds out that the snake patterns offers opportunity for artists to adapt various visual artistic qualities for artistic expression. The spiral lines, the geometrical shapes, brilliant colours, the smooth and rough texture are the major sources of inspiration in this research. It is observed that snakes have not been explored to a large extent and adapted by Nigerian artists for painting experiences. Lines was manipulated to cause change and to remove the scene of representation in realistic form. In the same vein, some of the works are conceptual looking less complicated while geometric interpretation of the subject matter is exhibited. Artists in general, are inspired either by nature or their own environment or fellow artists, in their creation of art works. This research, therefore, draws the attention of Nigerian contemporary painters to explore more on nature for visual art expression with an in depth studying of snakes as it relates to the elements of art and design. The critical studio analysis and exploration of the snake hopefully ignites a new direction and understanding to visual artist to look at nature with creative minds to enable them create art works using snake as a source of inspiration in painting.
1.1 Background to the Study
Nigeria is known for its diverse landscapes and climatic conditions, including rainforest, coastal plains, mangroves and vast savannah. These account for Nigeria‟s wide biodiversity of flora and fauna, including abundant species of snakes. It is observed by Goin and Goin in Kearny (2003) that the subject of reptiles is one of the most fascinating to be found in the study of natural history. This is partly due to the fact that, particularly with snakes, there is always an element of danger when dealing with them. On the other hand, man is always naturally curious about things which he instinctively fears.
It is noted by Durand (2004) that snakes are members of the class of animals known as reptiles (reptalia), and are further divided into the order squamata and are in the sub order of serpents. Snakes are characterised by great elongation of the body accompanied in most cases (except in the primitive type such as the python, boas and worm snakes) by complete absence of limbs and associated elongation of the internal organs, with great reduction or lost of one of the lungs (right lungs), in conformity with the elongation of the body.
The post-cranial skeleton is reduced to a back bone and ribs, with the great increase in the number of vertebra of ribs to give increased flexibility of body movement. Snakes are also characterised by a loose attachment of ribs to the vertebra, allowing great distinction of the body for the encompassing and swallowing of preys considerably greater in diameter than the head or body. The brain is completely bony in front; with absence of an internal air and a functional auditory apparatus. The eyes are without moveable eyelids, are but covered by a transparent spectacles, which is shed regularly with rest of the skin. The tongue elongates, is slender deeply forked, and is also retractile in to a sheath lying in the floor of the mouth and protrusible. The tooth are sharply pointed, curved and fused to the supporting bones and in certain species, some specialized to function as poisonous fangs. The body of snakes are entirely covered with scales or scutes of various shapes and sizes, known as snake skin as a whole. Scales protect the body of the snake aids it in locomotion, and allows moisture to be retained within the body. The scales also alter the surface characteristics such as roughness to aid in camouflage, and in some cases, even aid in prey capture. The simple or complex colouration pattern on the scales of snakes are a property of underlying skin. A herpetologist, Krysko (2016) of Florida Museum of Natural History, says that some coloured patterns are identified in snakes as follows:
Uniform colours; these are solid colours of black, brown, tan, orange, yellow, grey, blue or green.Speckles are small coloured marks or spots on a scale of different colours, thus often covered or flecked with small marks or colours.Stripes; these are narrow lines that run lengthwise down the snakes body.Spots, these are small rounded marks, usually without border which may cover several scales.Cross bands: these are bands of colours extending across the sack and down the sides excluding the belly.Blotches: are large irregular shaped markings frequently with dark borders.Diamonds: Slightly overlapping diamond shaped blotches running down the middle of the back which usually have dark borders or light and dark borders.Rings: There are bands of colours that extend across the back down the sides and across the belly to completely encircle the body.
Visual artist over the years have the innate varied creative and intellectual urge to express themselves in diverse ways. Most painters drew their inspiration from nature, dream, music, and hunch or from socio political scenes, religious and man-made objects. Nature has been one of the major sources of inspiration for artistic expression. Therefore, it offers verse artistic subject matter for explorative, analytical and developmental study of art forms which may convey the artist‟s creative ingenuity. Gardener (1980) observes that, from prehistoric times to date, man has been much involved with nature and its elements such as visual forms, shapes, patterns and images, which are traceable to the visual expression on cave walls of Altamira and Lascaux. Exploration on symbols, motifs, design and structure by various artists were developed into modern art movements such as: uli motifs of the Igbo in Nigeria, Ona motifs of the Yoruba, Nsibidi of the South and the Hausa Northern Knot of Northern Nigeria. Studies have shown that reknown painters such as Picasso (1973) was influenced by African female figures. Sekuk (2015) also explored the surface quality of frogs. Oladesu (2002) mentioned that Rugsch was fun of painting different flowers, trees, tree trunks and animals like snakes, lizards and snails. Notably, Artists have been inspired by different themes and subjects globally.
The patterns and colour of Snakes have been a motif in human culture and religion and an object of dread and fascination all over the world Krysco (2015). The vivid pattern of snake scales such as the Gabon viper; both repel and fascinate the human mind. Such patterns have inspired dreads and awe in humans from pre-historic times and these can be seen in the art prevalent in those times. Snakes scales also appear to have affected Islamic arts in the form of tessellated mosaic patterns, which show great similarities to snakes scale patterns. The snake scale was portrayed as a clue in the 1982 blade runners. Besides, snakes also feature in popular fiction such as „‟Harry potter‟‟, Mayuri (2010) explains that the Chinese and Japanese make snake tattoo designs on their bodies (arms, legs, chest and back). The tattoos are carried in different colours with bold and aggressive lines that have toothed edges.
Snake tattoos are flexible and versatile in nature. Cobras, pythons and rattle snakes are some of the designs used in tattooing. Snake tattoos can be combined with other tattoo designs like skull tattoo to make the best gangster tattoo that portrays the evil and the dark side of the underworld. Thus, we can say that there are a myriad meanings associated with a snake tattoo and the way the tattoo is painted gives the meaning of the tattoo. However, it should be noted that this research is concerned with the problems of how the motifs and colour patterns of the snake can be adopted in paintings.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
Art works created using motifs drawn from snake are dominant in Europe and Asia. They are depicted in photography, illustration, prints and installations. There seems to be no artist attention in painting anything related to snake motifs, especially in Nigeria. However, having search through relevant available literature, it was observed that no study has been done to the knowledge of the researcher in this regard on the use of motifs from snakes as academic research in painting. On a consistent whole, this research work sets out to explore a painting using motifs derived from patterns found on a select species of snake.
1.3 Justification of the Study
It is observed that efforts have been made by some artists in the recent past towards adapting some aspects of nature as a source of inspiration for painting. Among them are Talatu (2013) who researched on „‟spider web‟‟. Okanlawon (2013) explored the “Ona Motifs‟‟ while Chafe (2000) researched on a selected decorative motifs used for Durbar related objects for painting. Also, the researcher is not aware of artists who have taken interest in this direction as an academic work. Therefore, this study justifies the exploration of motifs derived from snakes as a source of inspiration in painting.
1.4 Aim of the study
The aim of the study is to produce a body of paintings using motifs derived from the body of snakes.
1.5 Objectives of the study
The specific objectives of this research are to;
develop a form of expression that draws exclusively from the lines derived from snake patterns.conceptualise the motif derived from snakes patterns into paintings use motifs derived from texture of snakes to create painting
1.6 Research Questions
In what ways could a form of expression be developed that draw exclusively from the exploitation of snake patterns?What are the possibilities that snake motifs can be conceptualized into painting?How can motifs derived from texture of snakes be used to create paintings?
1.7 Scope of the Study
Among over three thousand (3000) species of snakes, Reeder (2015). The researcher has selected about seven (7) species based on the peculiarity of their patterns and their availability within the Zaria and environ of Northern Nigeria. Some snake species, which inhabits this area include the following; Bitis gabonica, Bitis arietans, Black necked spitting cobra, carpet viper, Ball python, Rattle snake, Green snake. The researcher intend to produce about thirty works (painting). The sizes range between 50 centimetres,60 centimetres, 80 centimetres , 100centimetres, 120centimetres and 140 centimetre.
1.8 Conceptual Framework
The conceptual framework is hinged on the “Op art” of Bridget Riley, which goes beyond most of the abstract arts of the past in that it uses simple forms for the purpose of visual stimulation. It is also achieved through the systematic manipulation of shapes and colours. Sylvan (2000), advocates that the paintings of Riley is known for melding clean lines, colour arrangements and geometric precision. The researcher adopted the idea and the technique used by the aforementioned artist to undertake the study. The technique include the juxtaposition of forms, colours and lines. The desire of artist to produce strong visual effects with abstract figures is present throughout history.