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First There Was Nature and Then There Was Heaven (2018)
From the Chinese idiom in the art title and the predominant Chinese attributes in the composition, it is very evident that this artwork is El A’awar & Mullen’s own perspective and manifestation of the recently arrived Chinese New Year. What premonition of the new year do you think that they wish to share with us? To better answer this question, both artists wish that we all first revisit the famous legend of the Chinese New Year. It was known that at every New Year’s Eve in China, there was a great mythical beast named Nian who would spread fear and suffering by devouring the Chinese villagers and their children. Until one time, a savior monk known as Hongjun Laozu stripped into his undergarments before being eaten by this beast. As a result, he frightened the great beast away with the red color of his undergarments. Bringing this news to the villagers, Hongjun Laozu was later deified, and so the New Year tradition of the red color paste over the Chinese house doors, represented by the red wall in this artwork, would later help to restore the peace back to the villagers. Behind those pictured red walls, lies Nian with his red eyes and pupils, and where the stylized roofs help shape his gigantic eyebrows. While represented in red, Nian is thus meant to be finally conquered, where peace and balance must finally emerge. Being the "Ancestor of the Great Balance", Hongjun Laozu is also the graphic variant of primordial nature that first existed before the separation of the Heaven and the Earth (as per the idiom in the art title), where this separation occurred at the perfect balance between the Yin and the Yang principles. This balance achieved by this separation and by the conquering of Nian in the legend is fantastically depicted by the resultant duality of El A’awar, being Heaven and Earth, as photographed here by Mullen ( @jan_irvin_mullen). Enlightened by Hongjun Laozu, and while appearing as representing the arts, El A’awar strips and holds his jacket revealing his tartan shirt to symbolically revolt against today’s evil authorities. Mirthlessly smiling at evil, he coldly declares an ultimate challenge!