“Fable” by Jason D’Aquino

Following up from our interview with Jason D’Aquino, tattoo artist, miniaturist, and one of the newest members of the Metal Ink community.

In this entry, Jason D’Aquino explains his allegorical work, “Fable.” Enjoy!

"Fable" by Jason D'Aquino


This drawing was on the larger side. It was a commissioned piece for Chi Cheng, which I drew on the back of a child’s instructional paint by number. The image is fairly loaded with meaning and symbols, hence the title.

I guess we could start with the obvious question…what does the banner say? The translation of the Latin text inside the banner is, (top) “It doesn’t matter whether or not they are real” (bottom banner) “what matters is what they mean.” This inscription referred originally to mythological creatures…the sea serpents who dwelled in the uncharted oceans (terra incognita) , the unicorns, dragons, and beasts of the forests.

The creature in the center of the drawing is one such creature, the elusive “manticore” often rendered as a lion with a human head and the tail of a scorpion (sometimes the tail terminated in a fearsome ball of spikes, but I had to forgo that detail for the sake of the birdcage). The manticore’s grin exposes several rows of sharp, angry teeth. The skeleton astride the manticore’s back wears a pointed cap…a magician perhaps, or a dunce. Not much difference really between the highly enlightened and the innocent fool. Both have access to a certain undeniable truth. The lower portion of the skeleton’s body is meant to be a distraction from the game board. She is playing a one-sided game of chess. There are only half as many squares as a typical chessboard, and only white pieces are in play–a game you cannot win. Such is life. Death always wins in the end, so maybe it’s about how you play the game. The birdcage in the lion’s tail is holding a fish. This symbol for me is about religion. The fish in the gilded cage seems ludicrous, as of course, it would suffocate and die. A fish would be far more healthy and comfortable in the deep, dark and secretive embrace of the ocean’s depths, but if it’s down there, no one can see it… This is how most treat their religious convictions. They are merely for show, so that others can see them, but true convictions (in my opinion) should be kept secret, kept safe, deep inside.

The Bee is a symbol of hard work. It is drawn to the flower at the left side of the image. (Fans of the surrealists will recognize this particular flower as a sketch by Breton’s Nadja -“the lover’s flower.”) It sprouts from a pool of blood, pouring from the manticore’s pierced heart. The flower is not real–not in any tangible sense, just as love is not real or tangible. But to toil and spend your life and effort in pursuit of an ideal or an esthetic…is that not noble? Such is art, the only thing I have ever felt was truly worth my effort, and yet to most, a complete waste of time. To each his own, I suppose.

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