Written by Michael Ashman
Is death really “The End”, or is there an afterlife after all? David Gough contemplates this idea and so will you after looking at his art book titled "D3ad/Ends." The afterlife is a fixation of many religious beliefs, but the question of whether it exists or not has not been answered. It is one of the jobs that the church does to help alleviate any fears of death. By teaching its religious beliefs to others, the church hopes to save its people from hell and guide them to heaven. Importantly, the Christian belief in the afterlife is one focal point for Gough’s artworks. His infatuation with the growing radicalized “religious” community in the United States inspired him to start "The Theothanatos Series." Literally meaning “the death of God”, this series is devoted to icons of death and religion.
The number three is very important to the Christian religion. David Gough also obsesses about this number and uses the number three continuously in his series. He even uses the figure three to replace the letter “E” in the title of his art book. Many of the sections in the book also have the figure three in them. For example, “Thr33 Kings” is a section with two paintings with three skulls morphed together in each. “Is there Life After Death?,” which he created in 2010, shows three skulls shedding from each other through the top of the head. His work from the same year titled “Triumvirate” is a painting of three skulls fused together sharing the eye sockets of the middle skull.
Skulls and skeletons represent the death of the mortal form. Gough uses these as darker representations of the church. In his 2008 piece titled “Theothanatos III-Axiom,” the painted black cross on the skull represents the mask that the church puts on death. In a way, he is explaining how religion portrays itself as comforting people about the afterlife. If they follow the rules of the church, safety is in heaven, if not, eternal hell and damnation follow upon dying. Other skulls in the series deal with controversial relationships between religion and children, women, and science. In “Theothanatos V-Crevolutions” the artist reflects the dispute between creationism and evolution. By painting a calm monkey in one eye of the skull and an angry one in the other, he draws parallels from human and simian behaviors to rationalize the argument.
This art book gives a lot of detail on Gough’s life and art. Each section in the book has a short story by the author. The stories relate to his life, school, art, and relationship with religion. Christianity definitely inspired some of the titles in the book such as, “The B3ginning,” “New Testament” and “Fall3n Eden”. They add to the artist’s background and another layer behind some of his artwork. A foreword by his friend, David Buckley, gives us more information about Gough’s life in Liverpool, U.K. While Gough’s introduction, on the other hand, gives us more details into the back story that started his “Theothanatos” series. The well made art book published by Darq Matter Publishing, features very big, even full page, images ensuring every dark, disturbing, and grim detail can be seen.
If there really is something after death, has David Gough figured it out? Nothing is for certain, except for the inevitable “Dead End” we must all face eventually. David Gough’s "D3ad/Ends" can be bought at Thumbprint Gallery and at Thumbprint Gallery’s online store. The public is welcome to visit Thumbprint Gallery at 920 Kline Street in La Jolla. The gallery is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 12pm to 4pm.