Photo Essay: Ptah-Sokar-Ausir, Reliefs in Progress
Detail from the completed under drawing with reliefs in progress of “Ptah-Sokar-Ausir“~ an original Kemetic icon by master iconographer Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa/ Panel 1 of The Sacred West Triptych
The icons I create make substantial use of relief as a tool for creating further dimension, but also, and perhaps more significantly, for allowing the most important aspects of the deity to stand out, quite literally, from the overall composition. I mean this not only in a material or visual sense, but also in a magical and cultic sense. Every opportunity must be taken, when creating a cult image (ba or sekhem), to bring shape and substance to the netjer (deity); a surface becomes the actual flesh or body of the goddess or god, and is thus an organic and living entity. Organic, living entities have form, mass, texture, and weight, thus cult images, whether two or three dimensional, must also have these. This is accomplished in my work through the building up of reliefs using liquid gesso, which is then gilded with 22 karat gold.
Ptah-Sokar-Ausir makes the most use of detailed reliefs of all my icons to date. The other two icons in this triptych are also dominated by reliefs; however, this panel, when completed, will carry nearly as much gilded relief surface as actual paint. It will also carry more weight in semi-precious and precious stones than all of my previous icons.
The building up of reliefs on an icon panel is the most labor and time intensive aspect of my work, sometimes occupying several weeks of work. Gesso in its liquid form must be applied with painstaking accuracy, allowing each layer to dry completely before the next can be added. Many of the reliefs are also characterized by patterns or intricate designs on the uppermost layer, and these can take hours, if not days, of careful labor. Once each relief is completed, slight imperfections must be sanded with the finest grit sandpaper, before being sealed with shellac prior to gilding.
My readers should keep in mind that Ptah-Sokar-Ausir (like all three panels in this triptych) is an 8″ x 10″ panel, with the actual deity occupying only the central portion of that space. Many of the details built up into reliefs are best viewed through a magnifying glass. This gives my readers some sense as to the tremendous skill and patience demanded in the creation of these excruciatingly detailed icons.
NOTE: The following pictures show icon details significantly magnified.