L. Caruana 1978 ~ 1989



       In 1989 I left Toronto to study painting for one year at die Akademie der Bildende Künste in Vienna. In my portfolio for the entrance exam were the works seen here. 


A self-portrait. aged seventeen

       From the age of 16, I became fascinated by Dali, Freud and Surrealism, which can be seen in many of the drawings from the time. By age 18 I discovered Jung and the Archetypes, which began to appear in the clay sculptures I made around 1980. 

       From 1981 ~ 1985, I studied Ancient Greek and German Philosophy at The University of Toronto, and moved in with my girlfriend who was studying Theatre. After graduation, she and I co-founded Magicus Theatre and Filmworks, where we staged original plays and made films. I wrote, acted and directed.

       In 1987, I backpacked through Europe for three months, and felt very inspired by the Gothic architecture and Netherlandish painting I'd seen. Thus my Gothic period began, where many of my drawings (such as The Dance of Death) pursued allegorical themes. 

       In 1989, I privately published my first book, Fragments, which gathered together the filmscripts, plays, poems and art which I'd created up to then. A copy was included in my First Portolio. 



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       All of these drawings date from 1978 ~ 1981, between the ages of 16 and 19. 

       At the time, I was fascinated by the idea of a syntax of the image, which I later developed into iconologic and the ancient Image Language (see Enter Through the Image).  

       I noticed that my dreams often created strange juxtapositions of images. These eventually evolved into bastardizations, where I took established icons from our culture (David, The Mona Lisa, Beethoven) and abused them in some way. This reached its apex with A Sexual Bastardization of Salvador Dali's Mother

       My obsession with Dali waned after high school, but I developed a new interest in philosophers like Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, who I sketched in my notebooks at the time.

       Most of these sculptures date from 1978 ~ 1981, during my late teens. 

       I started reading Jung at age 18 and became fascinated by the idea that certain Archetypes go underground and  become forgotten. 

       I had a very dark and apocalyptic feeling that the world was going to end, due to the empty-headed aspirations of Mankind (The Nightmare of Reason - based on a dream) and the anorexic ideals of Womankind (The Venus of Infertility - an anorexic woman I knew modelled for me).  Due to my nomadic lifestyle, I wasn't able to hold onto most of these sculptures. Some were given away; others (like the two just mentioned) 

were destroyed.  




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       In the late 80s, I started making more ambitious drawings, as compositions for future paintings. While drawing The Dance of Death, I was overcome by apocalyptic feelings that the world was going to end through a plague. Hence the nursery rhyme at the bottom, which is a reminder of the Black Death. When the Global Pandemic arrived in 2020, I started wondering if I'd already felt its presence in this drawing, like a wave of feeling moving backward through time. 

       Both The Dance of Death and Dance Among the Ruins chronicle the end of my  circle of friends in Toronto, because I was leaving Canada for Europe. All the figures in these drawings are portraits. My girlfriend at the time (in my roman à clef, I call her Annabelle) appears in a lot of these drawings, including the three nudes

       The Caruana Arcana at the end was my attempt to create the flip-side of the established Tarot Arcana. I consider these to be the hidden Arcana. Whenever one of these unseen cards appears in my life, I make a new painting to capture its allegory.



Click on image to see Gallery full screen

Click on image to see Gallery full screen

       The Marriage of Simon and Helena is a wedding portrait I made for me and my girlfriend at the time, based on the Gnostic myth of Simon Magus and his consort Helena. In the drawing, our union is blessed by Tiresias, the blind poet who lived as a woman for seven years. The candle-lit ceremony takes place in the baptismal Bridal Bath.

       Next is the unfinished In the Judgement Hall of Osiris-Christ. This was the first time I'd combined myths from different cultures. The Egyptians had the same vision of the Afterlife as Christianity ~ as a time of judgement, except the scales tended by the archangel Michael / Anubis do not weigh good against evil, but one's heart against Ma'at, the feather of Truth.

       While living in Malta, I transferred this design onto a large wooden panel and started painting it, but I had to leave it behind when I moved to Munich. 

       The last two drawings of Christ on the Wheel and The Madonna Before the Broken Wheel were given to me in a dream, and I sketched them the next morning. I eventually made two paintings of them called Christus Mysticus and Madonna Mystica while working in Ernst Fuchs studio in Monaco. 



      During my study year in Vienna in 1989, I started making my first Visionary Drawings.

     At the time, I had a number of profound dreams which combined symbols in new and interesting ways. I was also deeply immersed in C. G. Jung's writings on alchemy and Joseph Campbell's books on mythology (especially The Masks of God series).

     When I first saw the art of Ernst Fuchs in Vienna ~ it all came together in my head. Suddenly, I understood how myths and symbols from different traditions can be combined in a single work of art. These are my first attempts at a Visionary style of drawing...

       In 1989 I self-published my first book, a collection of filmscripts, plays, poems and drawings called Fragments.

       These were the early days of DIY publishing. I laid out the pages on a Mac II computer, then laser-printed them to have them photocopied and bound.

       The book had a limited run of 25 copies, which makes it rather a collector's item...  



OF WORKS - 1987




       In 1983 I worked with two actors to write and direct my first sound film (made in Super 8 ~ Kodak Ektachrome 400). It had many dream-like moments which I also drew before filming.

      As the film begins, we are deep inside a dark dream-world filled with alchemical symbols, dancing cripples and sewing machines. Suddenly, Fenmar lurches up ~ he’d accidentally fallen asleep under a bridge at night ~ and had to re-discover how to wake up. As he turns and walks away from the camera, his first thoughts are heard in voice-over.

      Fenmar is a mathematician and rationalist. Since dreams defy all logic, he refuses to sleep at night and instead goes on long walks. But contrary to all reason, weird images erupt into his daytime world: a clock that bleeds; a cracked egg that reveals an eyeball within; and a radio which, once turned on, offers only electric static and a heartbeat ~ until he discovers its pulsating organs inside. Each time, a woman appears, accompanying his crazed visions. Bathed in red light, she gazes at him with darkly flashing eyes. Sometimes he glimpses her, kissing a skull; other times, she appears on the wall as Fenmar’s own shadow.

       Who is she? As a subway train comes rattling into the station, a woman is about to throw herself into the tracks ~ when Fenmar seizes her. At last, he finds himself together with the woman from his dreams ~ a woman filled with passion and intuition, who upsets his rational world.

      In their final encounter, they come together ~ not sexually, but through a violent act which, nevertheless, unites them in thought and in feeling into a single, integrated human being.




       After graduating from university in 1985, I co-founded Magicus Theatre & Filmworks with two colleagues, an actress and playwright. Within the troupe, I served mainly as director, but also co-wrote Reznikoff and acted as one of the two main characters, a stone mason named Diabolos.

      The play is based on a legend from University College, a Neo-Gothic building at the centre of The University of Toronto (where the play was also staged). Reznikoff and Diabolos are two rival stone masons in love with Susie, the bar-keeper at the local tavern. As the duo attempt to outwit each other, both in art and in love, they end up carving gargoyles of each other (which remain on the facade to this very day.)

      Meanwhile, the head architect Hieronymo outwits himself, as the complexities and contradictions in his designs deliver him unto madness. Atop a ladder in the midst of a thunder storm, he proclaims himself to be the insane prophet ~ the only one who is able to truly perceive the chaos unfolding around them ~ due to the insanity of God. 

      The play is introduced by Torquato, a deaf and half-blind bellringer who contrives his own machinations for revenge. In the final scene, the axe-wielding Reznikoff furiously pursues his rival through the empty college, but is ultimately tricked to his death by the wily Diabolos. Thus Reznikoff's ghost comes to haunt University College.

      I worked very hard with the actors to create a melodramatic style of acting ~ precise in elocution, well-contrived in pose and gestures ~ all transpiring within a shadowy stage illuminated by lanterns and candlelight. The atmosphere was very much inspired by Gothic Horror and German Expressionist films like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

      In the end, the play was quite successful. Alas, all that remains of the production is the script with a few black and white photos ~ some posed stills, others from the live production...