Sketchbook Page 1: Down to the Bone

January 6, 2010 § 2 Comments


The Jawbone of the Whale (from sketchbook)


In Franz Kafka’s short story ‘In the Penal Settlement’ a criminal is punished by having the cause of his crime incised into his body by a monstrous machine. It is only at the moment of the final, bone-deep, fatal incision that the nature of his crime is revealed to him. In Moby Dick Queequeg transcribes the mystical patterns from his tattooed body onto his coffin; copying them from his living skin onto the dead wood.

Leopards carry their markings beneath their fur – their spots are, in effect, tattooed upon the skin. Recent research into oxygen isotopes has revealed that our teeth carry evidence of our passage through life (I’m thinking of the example of the British Bronze Age archer that travelled all the way to Austria – we know this by the signature imprinted in his dental records by the alpine water that he drank). 

I want to pursue the idea of wearing something that carries information beneath the skin; perhaps a hidden (buried?) familial tattoo that identifies mammals as members of the same clan. This might be a way of making visible the patterns of evolution through genetic coding and could, in appearance, be much like the patterning that occurs on a number of creatures (from orcas to butterflies) that have developed through the processes of sexual selection.

It is also a means of creatively drawing the surface (the tattooed skin) inwards and of drawing the concealed interior (the bones, masked beneath the flesh except in death) outwards.

P.S. Just learned of Talpa gigantea, a species of giant mole. The only evidence found so far is a humerus measuring 35 cm in length.


§ 2 Responses to Sketchbook Page 1: Down to the Bone

  • hannah says:

    I really love the sketch. The detail is fantastic. Maybe genes could come into it – the way we all carry genes is kind of a hidden identity? You may not be able to see them but they’re there? I would never have thought about the bones of animals in my art and I really love this because it’s made me think about how I could, perhaps, bring them in at some point.

  • Leif Jonsson says:

    I know of Talpa minuta (extinct, Miocene). What a fur a gigantic mole must have had. A jacket of that sort, a real mole skin trench coat! Wow!
    Not to forget that moles are feeding on earth worms. Then what about the earth worms eaten by the gigantic moles, and the tunnels through the earth made by these worms. Wonder if Darwins family would have allowed Charles to carry on experiments in the flower pots in their house. But the contribution to the formation of soil would have been so much greater with such worms. Who is the auctor of species Talpa gigantea? Munchhausen?

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