“So do join me in Cognito,
You know that I’ll never tell.
We’ll sneak in the back door of Heaven
And stroll unnoticed through Hell”
Ruan Janse van VuurenINVESTORS LOUNGE:
From the shrunken heads of the Amazon to the spun-sugar calavera candies of a Mexican November or the bleached bones of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, skulls have long exerted a mystical pull on the human imagination. They have also been eternally attractive to students of pure science through the ages; every feature from the shape of sagittal ridges to the functions of cerebral cortexes have been and continue to be studied in laboratories, in the most minutely intimate detail.
This spirit of memento mori (Latin for ‘remember [that you have] to die’) as well as momento vivere (Latin for ‘remember [that you must live]’),, is fundamental to the iconography of the skull, making it a shorthand – and focal point – for our own obsession with (im)mortality. Like Hamlet, we hold up Yorick’s skull, and try to make sense of our pointless, transient lives.
It is the ultimate equalizer; permanently en courant, whether sashaying the catwalk on Alexander McQueen’s scarfs, bags and rings, or in the most bejeweled and bewitching of all its forms such as Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull For the Love of God, 2007. Perhaps these popular cultural references are the most resonant of all – as Dia de Muertos’ dissolving sugar skull reminds us that nothing can perpetuate our existence forever.
In essence then, the skull is the ultimate tabula rasa, reminding us with its relentless anonymity, ambiguity and androgyny that in death we are all equal. Our differences – in colour, creed, social status or wealth – will dissolve like the flesh from our bones, and kings, lawyers and servants will all be reduced to the same essential structure at the last.
Evoking admiration, awe and morbid fascination, the skull endures as a macabre, unifying symbol of the human condition, inviting interpretation at every turn whilst denying that any reading can ever be definitive. It is provocative. Inevitable. A relic of our past and an omen of our unavoidable future.
The skull is one of man’s oldest and most powerful symbols. It has a long and varied history of use with multiple overlapping interpretations. Most commonly it is seen as a representation of death and mortality, but it has many other uses including:
– To invoke fear or caution.
– To celebrate the memory of the dead.
– To celebrate life.
– As a symbol of vanity.
– As a symbol of life after death.
– As a symbol of change.
– As a means of obtaining good luck or avoiding bad luck.
– As a symbol of toughness, machismo, courage, bravery or indifference to death and danger.
– As a symbol of nonconformity, free-thinking, and rebelliousness.
– For popular appeal and fashion.
– As pure decoration especially as tattoos.For more information contact DF Contemporary Gallery.