This graphite drawing is by far my most extensive and most intricate drawing to date. A Stag Beetle (Lucanidae) carries a secret world of darkness and eternal suffering on its back. My drawing is based on Dante Alighieri ‘s Inferno, the first part of his epic poem, The Divine Comedy. In Inferno, Dante is lead by the poet Virgil through the nine circles of Hell in search of his beloved Beatrice and encounters fantastical horrors during his journey.

We view these circles from above in a maze of confusion that draws the eye closer to the centre. They’re not precise circles, but circle-like shapes. I’ve never been a fan of creating perfect symmetry; I find odd things beautiful, things that are by no means conventionally attractive. That is evident in the misshapen legs of the Beetle: sizes ranging from large and thick, to thin and almost impossible for it to balance on. I wanted to remove a leg but decided against it because I felt sorry for the poor thing. It can’t be easy to walk around with Hell all day.

The idea of worlds within objects fascinate me. An entire universe of cells, atoms, things, exist within the human body and everything else for that matter. What if there are different galaxies with parallel worlds within those cells? That makes it possible for an entire Hell to exist on the back of a simple Stag Beetle without it ever noticing.

Hell is not a fantastical place that exists in a secret realm, Hell is around us. The same goes for Heaven. Some of us fall into Heaven, and some of us fall into Hell. Looking around you and watching the news is enough evidence that Hell is human-made and we do the most outrageous things to our fellow living beings. People suffer in poverty, sickness, war and unpopularity. Imagine it ten times worse, and you will see a glimpse of what we put animals through. All of this make Hell seem like a tranquil garden. You walk past someone on the street, and you don’t know what their story is, what they’re suffering through daily. Thus the Lucanus goes about its daily business, all the while Hell sits neatly on its back.

Suspended above its head are the words ”Lasciate Ogne Speranza Voi Chi’intrate”. I chose the Latin above the English phrase: ”Abandon all hope ye who enter here” because Latin is such a beautiful and ominous language. The 3-headed Cerberus guards the proverbial Gate of Hell in the shape of a winged skeleton. The Stag Beetle’s shell crumbles away in city-like structures to reveal the nine spheres of Hell which comprise of the following:

Limbo – Dark, swirling clouds that represent the state of suspension within the Asphodel Meadows.

Lust – A frenzy of snakes intertwined to represent the serpentine Minos.

Gluttony – An endless row of horrid teeth, always hungry, always seeking.

Greed – Hands reaching towards the centre, wanting without receiving and so distorted that they become almost unrecognizable at times.

Wrath – The Styx river filled with a merging of bones and Charon’s boat, abandoned because there is no hope for these trapped souls.

Heresy – Blazing tombs, distorting in the fire and smoke, making it indistinguishable.

Violence – Bodies merge with tree branches, showing the endless suffering of those who committed suicide.

Fraud – The circle of sorcery, a serpent coiled without end.

Treachery – The centre of Hell, where the Baphomet represents Satan trapped within the ice.

To gain some insight into where my idea comes from, I’d suggest a bit of reading. Visit your nearest library and look for The Divine Comedy. Make an event of it: relax and step into a world within a world. Be prepared; it’s a lengthy read.

“Through me one goes into the town of woe,  Through me one goes into eternal pain,

Through me among the people that are lost.

Before me there was naught created, Save eternal things, and I eternal last;

All hope abandon, ye that enter here!”