It is interesting to be aware of the specific meaning of the rune symbol depicted in the paintings. The rune was chosen at random, after the completion of the painting. Believers reading runes would say the rune choose the painting as a message. Does knowing the rune meaning change what the viewer sees in the piece and effect the painting’s meaning? Does the viewer feel any different armed with the “translation” and does it serve to open possibilities or is it completely irrelevant in mentally processing the piece?

Nauthiz – “Not-this” Translation: “Necessity” Need-fire

The rune of need, resistance, constraint, conflict, hard-work, drama, effort, necessity, urgency, life’s lessons, creative friction, distress, consequences of past actions and short-term pain for long term gain.

First dating back from 200 CE runes encompassed a pre-literate writing system used by Germanic tribes of Northern Europe. Meaning “secret wisdom”, runes can be compared to modern day graffiti— with the ability to enhance the profane into mythology and spirituality.

Often hinting towards answers without revealing details, runic forms activate the viewer’s perception and intuition. In this series I use these ancient symbols to accomplish much of the same task; characters lost to the modern era are transformed with the contemporary medium of graffiti, and incorporated into each painting. Emblazoned on each piece, what may be initially seen as vandalism actually forges a deeper connection, one represented by the meaning or emotion of the chosen rune.

Meditating on the paintings, the emotions, energy, and sentiment of individual pieces are matched to runes which hold the same resonance. For each painting, its corresponding rune is chosen blindly without conscious bias. Whether these runic interpretations properly align themselves with the feeling of the painting, or if those emotions are illuminated within the viewer, is not the primary ambition of the series.

What is the value of art? Does the medium, perceived effort put forth by the artist, or symbolic aesthetics hailed by contemporary trends truly guide the definition of fine art? Graffiti, vandalism, and authenticity seem to meet on a fine line when embraced by contemporary art. My work, including this series Runes, explores these questions and others.

~Kevin Glass

The original meaning of the word rune is “secret wisdom, secret knowledge or something hidden.” Runes were the pre-literate system of writing amongst the Germanic tribes of Northern Europe. The first runic inscriptions are from around 200 AD. The preliminary alphabet had 24 letters, these characters are characterized as the Elder Futhark alphabet. Around 800 AD the alphabet was shortened to 16 letters known as Younger Futhark or the “Scandinavian Runes.” As Christianity spread throughout Scandinavia, the language and symbolism of these characters were lost expect for examples of Latinized runic texts in the Middle Ages. They were used in connection with trade, inscribed on weapons to enhance their power, on jewelry to bring happiness and good fortune, on Viking ships to invoke the gods in blessing long sea voyages and on gravestones to ease the passage for the dead. Much like modern day graffiti, these runes had the ability to enhance the profane into the world of myth and spirituality. Examples of this are present on the artifacts left behind by these peoples. They have been found written on wood, bone, and the large standing Rune stones that still dot Northern Europe.

Runes were also used for magic and divination. Odin himself was regarded as “Father of the Runes,” as the runes in their entirety came to him whilst he hung from the great tree Yggdrasil. By the ancient Shamans and Seers they could be used to predict the future, heal others, counteract harmful forces, and could be used in curses and magic spells. It is also widely believed that runes can also be dangerous in the wrong hands. Counters with carved runic symbols fashioned in the wood of a fruit bearing tree or bone were thrown, in a process called Runemal. The oracle could interpret and read the rune counters based on how they had landed. Casting the Runes were used to obtain answers from the oracle and in predicting the future. Although the language is for the most part lost, we currently read runes much the same way. Today runes are made of different materials; including wood, stone, crystals, shell, bone, or even metal. Runes are known for hinting towards answers, but leaving you to work out the details, which is where intuition is helpful. The Vikings especially believed in the interconnectedness of all things, referring to this as the “wyrd.” The runes allow us to engage with the wyrd. Although much about the runes has been lost, this feeling has endured still.

  • Shadow of Need
  • Year: 2018
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas
  • Dimensions: 30 x 40 in (76 x 102 cm)