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Christus Mysticus–The Mystic Diptych

L. Caruana 2004
70 x 115 cm each, Mischtechnik


The initial images for these two large paintings appeared to me one night in a dream while I was living in Vienna. Upon waking, I sketched them immediately into my Notebooks. The figure of Christ appeared before a wooden wheel while the Madonna appeared before the broken wheel of Ste. Catherine. Both wheels were inscribed with the Alpha and Omega (Christian symbols of the beginning and end of time). In the dream, they had a most frightening, vertiginous sense of Time about them.
Months later, while travelling through Stuttgart, I became violently ill, and staggered into the city’s Stadtsbibliothek. To stifle the attack of nausea, I looked through a book on Hindu art. When I chanced upon the image of a huge stone wheel from Surya’s sun temple in Konarak, I knew immediately that I had to draw Christ and the Madonna before this Hindu wheel. It had the same dizzying sensation of time from my dream
I started the detailed underdrawings in Toronto, and did most of the painting in Ernst Fuchs’ studio in Monaco. He made valuable suggestions (such as redrawing the hands of the Madonna) and even added a few of his own touches to the work.
In my autobiography The Journey Thus Far I explored the possible meaning of these images which were given to me in a dream. I became fascinated by the resonance between symbols from different mythologies. Christ symbolizes the western belief that we die and rise again once only,particularly because, in the west, linear time unfolds once only, from the Alpha to the Omega, from the beginning to the end. Meanwhile, the Hindu wheel symbolizes the eastern idea that we die and rise again repeatedly,particularly because, in the east, cyclic time unfolds in an endless round of ever-repeating cycles. To combine these two symbols and their associated beliefs would require that we see Christ as a symbol of the repeated deaths and rebirths which we experience in a once only passage through life.
Meanwhile, the Madonna is pregnant with the as-yet unborn Christ child. As my dream of Christ Alchemist had already shown me, to die and rise again in this life means to return to the womb so as to be born anew. And it is precisely during this eternal moment between death and rebirth that time stands still. The measures of linear and cylic time are removed – the Wheel inscribed with the Alpha and the Omega breaks apart.
Shortly before completing these paintings in my Paris studio, I undertook my own Visionary Journey to the East. And it was before one of the great stone wheels in Surya’s sun temple in Konarak India that a photo of me was taken which reveals, in an uncanny way, the wonder, fascination and utter exhaustion which that trip had wrought upon me.

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