Redrawing Lilith: Canadian Painter Jon Tobin’s New Vision of the First Woman

She was the first that thence was driven; With her was hell with Eve was heaven

– “Eden’s Bower,” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1869

Lilith – Adam’s First wife, a temptress, a demon, the architect of Man’s fall from Eden. As the embodiment of “the perilous principle in the world being female from the first,”* she has captivated writers and artists since the dawn of civilization. Her image has become standardized, traditionally cast as a woman of supreme beauty, an un-aging seductress ominously entangled with the Serpent and the Tree. Yet Canadian painter Jon Tobin has envisioned a new Lilith – a psychological being and a woman of raw, primal emotion, journeying through darkness, as much tormented by her inner demons as humanity is by her deception.

Tobin’s Lilith is introspective. As she ages, she becomes increasingly aware of her true self. The blindfold present in each image in the series represents self-contemplation as well as her blindness to the havoc she wreaks. She is also carnal and raw – a “woman in exile who has returned to her body/ as one would return from a country on the other side of the Sun.”**

“The Lilith Series,” an ongoing study of the character, visualizes the artist’s personal interpretation of the Lilith Myth in the style that is signature Jon Tobin. The artist is known for his ethereal canvases that pulsate with internal energy, and Lilith emerges out of Tobin’s autographic palate of subdued hues, masterfully manipulated to create startling contrasts and tactile depth in darkness. The palate ultimately harmonizes to create a ghostly figure of Lilith that is mysterious, captivating, and haunting.

Tobin studied Fine Art and French-Canadian Literature at University of Waterloo. Besides serving on the Board of Directors of the Waterloo Regional Arts Council, Tobin teaches aspiring artists and lectures on the techniques of “tactile media.” His paintings have been widely exhibited at galleries in Toronto, Montreal, and his hometown of Kitchener and collectors have been quick to recognize the sublime yet subtle beauty of Tobin’s artistic vision.

*Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. Correspondence of 21 April, 1870.

** “femme en exil revenant dans son corps/ comme on revient de loin/ de l’autre pays/ du soleil” from Michel Camus’ “Hymne a Lilith: La femme double.”

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2 thoughts on “Redrawing Lilith: Canadian Painter Jon Tobin’s New Vision of the First Woman

  1. Lilith and the Secret of Tones

    The ancient lore speaks of Lilith the foul
    Sweet Sumerian, screeching night owl
    Seeking dames of a feather
    Casting sound spells, flocking together

    Misty sirens hear them sing
    We hear them all as our ears ring
    Some of us fall upon the rocky beach
    Some to flight beyond ocean’s reach

    Mirror, mirror, oh mirror ball
    Who is the fairest of them all?
    Oh, but Sarah, lovely princess pure
    Her voice the clearest, most dearest lure

    In the rhyme of time, Lilith flies
    Again and again reborn in disguise
    Soft, gentle, as if to further
    Something hidden within her worth her

    The dream, the hope, the bidden foe
    All man’s glory in the glow
    Yet watch, for there is a chance of slight peace
    As in McDonald’s tome of a beast

    Oh better the whole story be told
    And everyone be wiser, young and old
    Watch, listen, feel the bold tone
    You will be the rock…. or turned to stone

    Stoned by Medusa, she herself did call
    Her names were many before the fall
    Adam’s first, or was it the moon’s child?
    Tugged along tide, wet with ocean’s smile

    Was she neutral with the angel’s Holy Grail
    Or quite complicit with Samael’s tale?
    Templars have wondered for generations past
    To the present, the future, a reciprocal impasse

    Androgyny’s children, the touch of orphan’s saint
    Giving solace to those fumbling in ecstatic faint
    Alchemic swirls of the aqua permanence
    The philosophers gem surfacing to dance

    Where is the treasure lost, hidden now-
    Off the coast, in Oak Island’s frothy maw?
    Even Lilith knows not where
    The White Lady of Rosslyn keeps her chair….

    In Rosslyn’s castle, and Holy Chapel Choir
    Drifts the tone in stone of everyone’s desire
    Played in the mist, along River Esk’s glen
    Old Scotland, New Scotland, she taunts all men

    With a treasure, it never fails to mesmerize
    If one whispers just right by truth to wise
    Some even say Lilith herself will appear
    As the holy light, St Clair, so clear

    Oh, but that may be the forgone illusion
    The lighted law that leads to delusion
    The cup that is full but never doth flows
    Drawn in and out, pretending to glow

    Aye, careful then, watch and learn
    Forever her rhymes twist to turn
    When you believe a part of you
    Begs to love all…. of her crystal blue

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