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Toriana, Sword of the Golden Dusk

Museum Link:

Source Link:,-sword-of-the-golden-dusk-12675

Date Minted:  August 8, 2020

Artist Description: Even the divine can be corrupted... 

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

In the margins between Jaw’s artwork is an entire realm of unkempt possibilities. Claiming to be “Building my own world through the creation of deities, creatures and character inspired by mythos and pre-existing high fantasy,” the rub is that we never actually glimpse this world, only its chosen emissaries. Jaw creates incredibly detailed and technically-polished figures, creatures, people, and circumstances in their crypto art, but all of these pieces provide only small peaks into the greater worlds of Jaw’s devising. By creating, say, a piece like Toriana, Sword of the Golden Dusk, we’re automatically tasked with imagining the environment just outside the frame, a process which builds and builds on itself, and soon an entire world is constructed off only the suggestions inherent within each piece. Toriana, Sword of the Golden Dusk is a good example of this, and not just because the color composition is as bold and imaginative as the textures Jaw uses, but because the specific framing of the image, the posture of the character within it, and the circumstantial contributions to the piece —both title and Artist Description— goad us into accessing our imagination. Every bit of this piece screams “INCOMPLETE,” but that’s no fault of the artist. It has to be incomplete because the nature of the frame is that it can only capture fragments. Still-lifes capture only a bowl of fruit, which is only one thing within a room, which exists within a single structure, situated on a plot of land, somewhere along a countryside, in a town and county and state and country and…artistry is by its very nature compartmentalized. The magic —in film, literature, and visual art— is in inspiring the audience to fill in the multitudinous blanks we as artists must leave open. Toriana, Sword of the Golden Dusk lays its incompletions bare for you and I to occupy. And each one creates another; an endless chain of “What about this?” What a triumph: A new world in every piece, and a unique one for every person. 

Do you see what I mean about the position of Jaw’s character inspiring imagination? See her there, this Toriana, and how she’s standing. Long golden blade slung over her shoulder, its hilt held onto by both hands as if the body wielding it is preparing to swing. Naturally, that engenders questions. Who is she swinging at? Why? Where is she? We can only see the greyish-slate background behind her. And those shimmering golden eyes, the dilapidated and leathery skin, what gives? Is she possessed? Is she overwhelmed by some uncontrollable energy? Why does electricity run up and down the sword, and what is that snowflake-like substance bursting out the back of Toriana’s skull, and what happened to her that she should have such a gaping cavity in her abdomen, and what the hell is that substance that has taken up residence there? A lot of the fantastical imagery I come across is, well, simply too fantastical to inspire imagination in this way. It may pop! It may be more visually compelling. But the magic of this piece is the same magic that Tolkien and Rowling, masters of fantasy, managed. The world captured here is just recognizable enough, near enough to our own lives, that we are able to understand the nature of the blank answers we’re left to ponder. It’s a Mad Libs. It’s a crossword puzzle. We understand what language these artists are speaking and the natural progression of one conceptualized idea to the next. Jaw does help us understand a bit more of the lore behind this piece, writing in their Artist Description “Even the divine can be corrupted…”

Can you not feel yourself becoming more and more intrigued? Do you not find yourself with further questions?

That kind of intertextuality is a triumph in its own right. Jaw’s entire oeuvre displays this same kind of implied world-building too. Toriana, Sword of the Golden Dusk is notable within this oeuvre for just how specific the character is and how suggestible the subject matter. Other pieces Jaw creates are more standardized portraits, or with subjects in landscape-oriented positions, and are more overtly about the composition itself. While Toriana doesn’t sacrifice its composition —indeed, I mentioned the colors before, and though they aren’t intensely bright, they are luscious and complex— it appears to capture a situation en media res as opposed to something composed specifically for the sake of holistic artistry. And with the movement of the character a movement of narrative is created. A movement of history. All the secondary aspects of the piece come alive because of the anti-artistry of the piece. That the character is semi-cloaked in shadow; that she is in the midst of movement; that there is not some righteous landscape behind her for us to focus on. We are absorbed in the character —and thus the piece— because all else has been stripped away other than she, her movements, her desires in the moment, and the propulsive force that motivates her. Of course, these things we can only guess at. But we can guess and guess and guess, and we will, and our guesses will change over time, and so the piece guarantees itself a long life. It shifts before our eyes. Not physically, not literally the piece before us, but everything outside of it. The empty edges we fill in real time. 

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