Oil Painting on Canvas/ Digital Medium
This work is a marriage between the classical and contemporary art applications. The mediums used in this piece involve the traditional glazed oil painting technique on canvas which serves as the foundation and base of the work while the more modern digital painting techniques are employed to bring out the highlights and finer details of the image.
The concept of spiritual warfare has long been one of my favorite genres as an artist and as a Bible-believing Christian. Therefore, I wanted to frame this work in a larger triptych format to creatively depict and visually express the essence of the verses contained in Ephesians 6:10 - 20. The triptych format was exemplified in many Netherlandish Christian art of the early 15th – 16th century including the works of some of my favorite artists like Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck.
As an enthusiast of classical Western art history, I’ve always found this subject to be rather intriguing. While the theme of spiritual warfare has commonly been depicted by many artists throughout history, I can’t help but realize that it has largely been portrayed in anthropomorphic ways. Examples of this may be seen in Peter Paul Rubens’ War in Heaven; Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut, Saint Michael Fighting the Dragon and Gustave Doré’s set of etchings on the theme of spiritual conflicts for his celebrated illustration of Milton’s Paradise Lost. The depiction of these spiritual entities are almost always limited to winged-angels and horned-demons portrayed in familiar human forms to represent the good and evil forces. This strikes me as dualistic and essentialistic which does not seem to capture the wider scope of the biblical spirit world. In contrast, I also noticed that there are only a small handful of paintings and drawings that seek to present spiritual beings and spiritual conflict in a more imaginative, visceral and dynamic way where spirit beings come in all shapes and forms. Examples of this may be seen in works such as Bruegel’s The Fall of the Rebel Angels and Bosch’s right panel of The Haywain Triptych.
In my triptych, the full armor of God (Eph. 6: 10 – 17) which serves as the focal point is presented in the center panel. It is flanked by the many different manifestations of evil forces and powers portrayed on the left and right outer panels. As these nefarious entities unleash their evil powers to deceive and destroy the child of God (1 Pet. 5: 8), he continues to remain steadfast and stand firm in God’s grace, power and protection (Jas. 4: 7 – 8). He prays constantly (Eph. 6: 18 – 20; 1 Th. 5: 17) and wears the full armor that his Heavenly Father provided (Eph. 6: 11) – for this is what enables him to withstand the daily onslaught of the unseen forces (Eph. 6: 12).
Details for the artwork “Onslaught of the Unseen”
The biblical description of spiritual realms and spirit beings goes beyond angels and demons. Spirit beings come in many classes and designations with different powers, jurisdictions, and domains in which is collectively referred to in Eph. 6: 12b as “ --- the rulers, principalities, powers and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. Moreover, the Bible also frequently points out that the reality of this spiritual battleground is often waged in the realm of one’s inner struggles between the darkness within one’s flesh or evil desires and the light of the Spirit which desires to do that which is good or pleasing to God (Matt. 26: 41; Gal. 5: 16 – 17; Eph. 4: 22 – 24, etc.). In my own spiritual journey, I have come to realize that this is very real and there is certainly a continual struggle within the two spiritual realms deep within the core of our beings (Rom. 7: 15 – 20).
As one who submits to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, I hope to do justice to its multifaceted and highly nuanced biblical teachings on spiritual warfare. I also want to expose these invisible malevolent rulers, principalities, and powers and to make them visible as expressed through the embodiment of the myriads of demon-inspired ideas or other seemingly culturally innocent and innocuous themes which may take on literal, abstract, iconographic or semiotic references or forms (Exd. 20: 3; Ps. 115: 4 – 8; Acts 16: 16 – 18; Acts 19: 13 – 20; Acts 19: 23 – 27; 1 John 4:1; 1 Jn 5: 21).
At the same time, I want to visually illustrate the hope we have through fervent prayer (Mark 9: 29; 2 Cor. 2: 10 – 11) and complete reliance on God’s grace (Eph. 2: 8 – 9; Heb. 12: 2) and power to protect and enable us to stand firm in his righteousness amidst the spiritual battles in our lives (Heb. 10: 22).
Unfortunately, many people in our contemporary society are quick to dismiss these ideas of the invisible or supernatural deities as obsolete and superstitious (Rom. 1: 21). Others deny their existence out of fear, compulsion or compromise even if one knows better (Lk. 9: 26; Jas 4: 4). But ultimately, what they fail or refuse to realize is the far-reaching effects and implications of this present evil is evidently and pervasively at work in all aspects of our human life and have also successfully infiltrated every sector of human society (2 Cor. 11: 14; Eph. 2: 2). In short, just because one is unable to see the invisible spiritual realm does not mean that it's not there (Num. 22: 21 – 31; Heb. 13: 2). By denying the existence of evil forces will not only intensify the sad state of our present human condition (Rom. 1: 29 – 30) but it will also deprive many from seeking God’s truth and help (2 Cor. 4: 1) in confronting the darkness of our present reality.
Winston Young/PaperCut Studio
Onslaught of the Unseen
Private Collection (Not for Sale)
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