Ballpoint pen, ink on paper, upcycled frame
42.5cm (w) x 54cm (h)
Chewing tobacco stains the teeth. Red also represents the inflammation and disease caused by smoking, and bloodshed from the death of smoking related illness.
Things to note within the composition.
The trachea (windpipe) is designed to overtly look phallic, but also mildly like a cigarette, imagining the ball shape at the top (not anatomically correct) to be a crushball equivalent, something to smooth the ingestion of harsh tar and nicotine. The viewers' left lung show systemic internal damage caused by smoking, the right shows the social callousness and scar tissue forming. The tobacco plant itself (although the flower is pictured in abundance) is not nearly as recognisable as the sly cigarette in the mouth.
What does bibere venenum in auro mean?
This is Latin for 'drink poison from a cup of gold'. This has many meaty layers of meaning. First, Latin to sow the seed of discord between competing interests of those invested in smoking. (The haves vs have nots.) Many are in it to make serious money. The tax revenue alone vs the cost to the NHS is ethically interesting in the UK. There has also been a definitive shift in class divide of smokers and non smokers. World wide, smoking is now associated most strongly with working class people. Now the cup. We know that the tar could be likened to poison, but why the gold cup? People smoke because they want to. Though there are strong genetic and environmental factors, it is ultimately a choice. The golden cup is the reassuring lie of nature or nurture that the poison is what we want. Finally, note the position. It is exactly where one of my own tattoos is. Though I have never smoked, I identify with the addictive allure of expensive (harmful?) simple pleasures as an escape from the underclass world.