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Oil on Braced Baltic Birch, 23" x 25" x 2"

The architecture in this painting is based on the Skånelaholm Castle of Sweden, built in 1639-1643. The current owners kindly sent me reference photos of their beloved castle. While it originally reflected the Dutch-German Late Renaissance style, in 1890 the vibrant stucco facade and ornamentation were added, reminiscent of Rococo styles in the Baroque with scrolling curves and pastel tones. I took artistic license incorporating a Gothic rose window from the Duomo Cathedral I visited during a trip to Milan, Italy.

When my brother first saw this painting, he said it reminded him of the residence of Doctor Strange from the Marvel Studios universe, called the Sanctum Sanctorum. Later, that curious Marvel creation would inspire the title for this work.

A closer look through the window in my painting reveals the magical unicorn of the sea, known as the Narwhal. The surreal existence of a castle in the canyons is meant to evoke an otherworldly feeling, with the elusive Narwhal that usually swims in the ice-cold depths of the Arctic Ocean. Water fissures foreshadow the potential breach of this mansion aquarium, symbolic of the threat from poachers who procure the Narwhal tusk coveted by collectors for its fabled magical powers.

Before Skånelaholm Castle was erected, the land had apparently been used as a convent for nuns who dedicated their lives to God. So too, the Narwhal quietly brings honour to its Creator by its peaceful life in the ocean. As the Psalmist penned more than three thousand years ago, "Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths" (Psalm 148:7).

Josh Tiessen

Inner Sanctum was exhibited in the Streams in the Wasteland II solo exhibition at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, and appears in Tiessen's monograph book, Streams in the Wasteland. The painting is currently available through Josh Tiessen Studio Gallery.

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