Oil on canvas – 102 x 76 cm – 40” x 30”
In eastern philosophies such as Buddhism, greed anger and stupidity or ignorance, are called the ‘three poisons’ and they are regarded as the root causes of human misery. The thinking behind this is fairly obvious, stupidity is associated with pestilence and environmental mismanagement, greed causes inflation and anger leads to war. Of these poisons stupidity is the worst because greedy people are also stupid people that are never satisfied no matter how much wealth they may acquire. And even if there is such a a thing as reincarnation there is no universal bank where funds can be deposited for use in one’s next lifetime. A person motivated by greed can never know true contentment and peace of mind. The actions caused by greed frequently lead to conflict and warfare and they engender a whole raft of negative emotions such as depression, envy and fear. The three poisons of greed anger and stupidity are very resilient and pernicious, they exist in every human being and have been able to penetrate institutions, religions, governments and nations. However we can make a difference by being aware of these poisons working within our own lives and the environment however this negative impact can be offset by cultivating the ‘three virtues’ of courage wisdom and compassion.
In the picture the procession is led by Stupidity sitting astride the three-headed beast that represents Anger. Greed follows sitting upon a globe that indicates the planet earth, the globe is resting on a huge ingot of gold and this is being carried by paramilitaries in much the same way as pallbearers carry a coffin. The Trump lookalike symbolizes Greed although he could easily be any one of the three poisons. He has a halo and wings because the love of gold is like a religion for many people and he is surrounded by symbolic imagery showing warfare and industrial pollution. At the rear of the procession we see the figure of Death wearing a bow tie and a wig and rolling forward the machinery of warfare. The vultures indicate those organizations that profit from despair and misery. The burning forest in the background shows the inevitable destruction that occurs when the three poisons run rampant.
I don’t often paint pictures that have a message but the tumultuous events of recent times have forced my brush. I’m not a natural when it comes to art drawn purely from the imagination so I’ve used some of the ideas of my old friend Paul Rumsey. Paul is a very talented artist who mainly works in charcoal and pen and ink. The following sequence of images show Paul’s drawing and then my copy which was my main source of visual information when I was painting this picture. These are followed by a series of images showing the development of the composition.
The Triumph of Folly – Paul Rumsey – charcoal drawing 1994.
The Triumph of Folly – Colin Murray – pencil drawing 46 x 43 cm – late 1990’s