The Green Man

Emerging Green Man by Janice Blaine, Canada

One of the intriguing arworks created for the LandfillArt Collection is the work by Janice Blaine, of Calgary, Canada, of the Emerging Green Man.

 

When I was asked to participate in this project, I saw it as a unique opportunity to explore a new medium, acrylic on metal. I work primarily in watercolour, so I loved the challenge. As an environmentalist, I also loved the idea of turning ‘trash’ into works of art. I’m thrilled to be a part of a green movement that is beautiful, educational, and productive! The theme of the project also gave me another chance to paint one of my favorite subjects…The Green Man

Throughout her career, Janice has worked on a wide variety of projects that have ranged from pre-production animation to design and illustration of children’s books. She is co-editor and illustrator of the Urban Green Man anthology, and her illustrations have appeared on the covers of numerous books and magazines. She currently works as the Production Manager of EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Source of the Image of the Green Man

As Janice Blaine mentioned in her statement, the subject of the Green Man is her favorite !  But what is the source for the use of the Green Man?  This is difficult to trace because while it seems to be a concept that has existed since antiquity, it’s impossible to pin down a specific source or culture.

In general, a Green Man is any kind of a carving, drawing, painting or representation which shows a head or face surrounded by, or made from, leaves. The face is almost always male, although a few Green Women do exist.

But, in that general description, there are a surprising number of  variations, and there do not appear to be standard representations of a Green Man, and there are even examples of two-headed and even three-headed, Green Men.

Most Green Men can be seen in stone and wood carvings in Christian churches – a vast majority in Britain, France and Germany – and main date from the medieval period from the 11th to 16th Century.

These can range from very simple and basic carvings in a folk art tradition, to sophisticated and expressive sculptures in the best church ornamentation. Some of the faces have welcoming and reassuring expressions; others are ferocious, at times even threatening. And some appear barely human – looking more like demons or beasts.

You can see this huge variety if you do a search on Google and look at the images that come up.

Common Interpretation

The most common interpretation for the Green Man is that of a pagan nature spirit, a symbol of man’s reliance on and union with nature, a symbol of the underlying life-force, and of the renewed cycle of growth each spring. With this view it is probable that the tradition came from older nature deities such as the Celtic Cernunnos and the Greek Pan and Dionysus.

However, the first use of the term “Green Man” only dates back to 1939, when it was used by Lady Raglan (wife of the scholar and soldier Major Fitzroy Somerset, 4th Baron Raglan) in her article “The Green Man in Church Architecture”, published in the Folklore journal of March 1939. This article established the Green Man as a legitimate subject for historical and anthropological study, and established the term “Green Man” as the preferred label.

A common link in nearly all of the legends and myths which have been suggested is that of metamorphosis and transformation.  That fits in perfectly with Blaine’s use of the Green Man as a subject for her recycled and transformed art work!

The Green Man expert Kathleen Basford has stated:   “It can be difficult to distinguish between what is a purely decorative association and what may be a significant association of ideas.”  So as at its heart, the Green Man remains, and will always remain, a mystery.

published_urbangreenmanOne especially intriguing theory for the meaning of the Green Man is that the image appears in cycles related to times of crisis or significant change.  That certainly fits our world today and the subject’s modern popularity may have been triggered by our current environmental crisis.

The Green Man can be seen as an archetype of the “conservator”, whose mission is to counsel us to take from the environment only what we need to survive and to conserve the rest, and to remind us of our responsibilities for caring for the natural world.

In recent years, the environmental and Green movement and various other campaigns and commercial organizations have been using the image of the Green Man as a marketing tool, and he has become a symbol for the environment.

A fascinating website that further discusses the possible sources and interpretations, can be found at:   http://www.greenmanenigma.com/theories.html

Janice Blaine’s illustrations for the book The Urban Green Man, can be seen on her website at:
http://www.paintersblock.com/urban-green-man_illustration.html

 

 

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