SHAWN ROSSITER

GILGAMESH


5' x 30'
pastel & charcoal on paper
2004/2005

Gilgamesh came about almost by accident. Originally, my objective was a simple matter of bravado. I wanted to create the biggest pastel drawing in the world. I had found a roll of Canson mi-teinte paper that was 5 ft. x 30 ft. Travis Tanner, owner of Tanner Frames in Salt Lake City, offered me the use of his front gallery space for the week after Christmas as the shop would be closed. My wife and daughter would be gone for the same week, visiting my in-laws.

I went into the shop on December 28th to hang the paper. I had been up late Christmas night and watched the first reports of the Indian Ocean tsunami. The tsunami had taken over much of my thoughts. Alec Clawson, a friend of mine, was helping me hang the paper and I was telling him how I was thinking about the tsunami and using it as a theme. As I was talking of my vision of this mass of water washing away everything in its path, Alec -- eighteen and fresh from High School -- said "Like Gilgamesh."

The words struck me immediately. After we hung the paper I walked a block down to the bookstore and bought a recent translation of Gilgamesh by Stephen Mitchell. That night I began rereading the epic as I began sketching out the shapes that would eventually define the work. Gilgamesh is a marvelous literary piece and the oldest in the world. It speaks of love, loss, sensuality, violence, hubris, and the search for immortality. It is a celebration of life in all its facets. It seemed the perfect way to honor all the stories and lives washed away by the tsunami.

The story of Gilgamesh is too varied and detailed to explain in this space. Many facets of the epic found their way into the piece and I have provided links to translations of the epic for those interested in discovering more.

The reason that Gilgamesh came to Alec's mind is because of Utnapishtim, the man who, like the Biblical Noah, survived the great flood the Gods sent to destory mankind, and received immortality. After losing his friend, Enkidu, Gilgamesh goes on a hero's journey to search for Utnapishtim and immortality.

And in the opening lines of Book I Gilgamesh is described as:

Surpassing all kings, powerful and tall

beyond all others, violent, splendid,

a wild bull of a man, unvanquished leader,

hero in the front lines, beloved by his soldiers --

fortress they called him, protector of the people,

raging flood that destroys all defenses --

you can read the full epic here:

The Epic of Gilgamesh

December 28, 2004

December 29, 2004

December 30, 2004

December 31, 2004

January 2, 2005

January 3, 2005