Nicholas Baxter

Soul

The inspiration for this painting came largely from oysters and their far more notorious contents: pearls.

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The pearl has been a symbol of magic and purity throughout antiquity and across many varied cultures, from Western religions like Christianity to Eastern spiritual traditions such as Buddhism.

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Soul thumbnail sketch, ink on paper.

In this painting a pearlescent lump of vibrant, growing flesh represents the human “soul,” or the mysterious essence of life that animates the decaying physical body, and for which modern science still has no complete understanding or explanation. Quite ironically, the only representation of this lifeforce that we mortals seem able to discern with any reliability is its supposed opposite: the physical embodiment.

Here, its life-giving energy is co-opted by the encasement of confining machinery, which can be seen as representing the limited human form, and in a broader sense, the inescapable yet corroded impositions of society and culture.

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Soul, 11 x 14 inches, oil on mounted linen panel, 2015

The contrast between the hard and soft elements of this picture illustrates the human struggle to find meaning and fulfillment in the precarious balancing of vulnerability and armament. The title Soul references the mystery of what it is that makes our atoms vibrate with life, and our consciousness self-aware.