The motifs in Anatolian rugs are derived from a variety of sources that traverse cultural and geographic divides. Artistic traditions from across the Mediterranean can be appreciated in Anatolian rug designs through the centuries where the faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity intertwine. The complexity and beauty of these rugs reflects the interwoven nature of humanity itself.


In the drawing Temple for Humanity (which features an Anatolian prayer rug), my desire was to focus on very simple and universal elements and to speak of spirituality without exclusive reference to one religion or cultural tradition. In this piece, there is a bowl for physical/spiritual cleansing, sandals are removed as a sign of respect, and tall shapes lend themselves to spiritual themes. Stains around the drawing and within its composition speak of surfaces humbled by age. Ultimately, the Temple for Humanity can be interpreted as the inner sanctum of the room with its rug, and simultaneously as the austere and unknowable mountains seen beyond. 


This drawing was inspired from a dance piece in which a dancer raised her head to receive an imagined drink of ambrosia (the sweet nectar of the gods according to Greek mythology). Moving from myth to the real world, there are countless ways in which nature provides us with gifts that enrich our body and spirit. With this image, I wish to make a connection between the mythical reference (ambrosia) and something from the real world (the dragonfly). By portraying both of them as magical and wondrous gifts, our perception of the natural world may be enhanced and made more precious.


Visualizations of the cosmos through the art of various cultures have given rise to many beautiful motifs. Research on these forms prompted me to draw my own stylized designs of heavenly bodies. Curious about the possibilities of incorporating objects onto a drawing, I gave a jeweller some of my designs and she produced twenty-two pieces made from silver alloy. The metal surfaces are treated with acid to create a dark patina on selected sections that echo the rich contrasts of charcoal on paper. The pieces are attached to the drawing and serve as decorative elements that reflect motifs depicted on the veil the woman is holding in front of the man’s face. The two figures depicted in this drawing are engaged in a mystical experience, in which the veil enables a new vision of the universe.


Mythology provides culture with a metaphoric portrait of its spiritual values. As any living thing changes through time, so too does the face of culture. Re-evaluation, or even reinvention, of mythology is part of what keeps a culture spiritually and ideologically healthy and able to adapt to change. Otherwise, the metaphoric relevance of myth becomes divorced from the spiritual needs of the culture that created it.


I do not consider the snake in Proud New Era a symbol of evil or temptation. Rather, it is a symbol of individuality, determination and strength. It is emblematic of ideological terrain that is unpopular because of preconceptions and stereotypes that underpin much of our cultural heritage.



The cosmos floats over our heads every second of every day, yet we often forget this. As enmeshed as we are in the daily routine of our lives, a short walk is often all it takes to be among the stars. A sea of light, unlimited and alive, is omnipresent.




Circuses of old would use coal-burning engines to power merry-go-rounds and other machinery. The mud, puddles, smoke and sombre skies of this nighttime circus setting, in which the nude snake handler stands, serve as a gritty counterpoint to her smooth and unblemished skin. She shares an intimate moment with her dark and glistening companion. For me, the snake embodies the beautiful glistening darkness of this world. Wrapped around the radiant woman, together they create a sculpture of scale patterns and skin, coolness and warmth, deep tones and delicate light.


This drawing is over seven feet high. The glittering lines of each scale were drawn using an electric eraser. I would not advise using this tool for any duration around friends or family—it sounds like a dentist drill. Using it to draw abundant detail could definitely put a strain on the relationship.

All images and texts © Frank Mulvey 2016, except where otherwise credited.

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