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The Orphic Annunciation–The Anima Series

L. Caruana 2001
50 x 80 cm, Mischtechnik


When I first returned to Paris after my apprenticeship with Ernst Fuchs, I immediately received the invitation to participate in a large exhibition of Fantastic art. This is one of the three paintings done for the Parfums de Femmes (Scent of a Woman) exhibition held in Paris, May 2002.
I connected ‘scent’ to the idea of memory, and decided to portray, in a symbolic way, three women who had a major impact on my life. In the end, I called them the ‘Anima Series’ because each painting reveals more about my interior view of these women rather than the woman herself.

I met her in Malta, and our relationship was passionate, intense, and brief. The strongest memory connected to this Viennese girl was the possibility that she was pregnant. We imagined twins, one a boy the other a girl. Since she was fair and I was dark, we also imagined them to be dark and light.
In my memory and imagination, these ‘light and dark’ twins became connected to the Orphic Myth of the Creation. Orphism was an ancient Greek cult founded by the Greek hero Orpheus, who journeyed to the underworld in search of his lost love. Orphics believed that rites of initiation (teletai) and purification (katharmoi) were necessary to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. (See Orpheus and the Greek Religion by W.K.C. Guthrie).
In their myth of the Creation, Chronos (Time) came first of all, a three-headed serpent with the faces of a lion and a bull, and a god in between. He appears at the top of my painting with expanded wings and a cobra’s hood.
Together with Chronos was Adrasteia (Necessity), ‘the cause of bringing all things forth’. I have depicted her as winged, upholding her hands in a gesture indicating ‘all of this is ordained’. Her features are drawn from my Viennese girlfriend.
From these two came the first stirrings of creation: a great yawning abyss with a cosmic egg in its midsts. This egg split in two, and the ‘first born’ of the gods emerged: Phanes (the Light). He blazed with luminosity, and had a double set of golden wings upon his shoulders. From his side, bull’s heads emerged, and on his head rest a monstrous serpent. To depict Phanes, I mixed iconography from classic Greek, Mithraic, and even Heka Egyptian sculpture. We see him emerging from the cosmic egg, which is opening in the form of a lotus flower.
Phanes bore a daughter, Nix (Night) who assisted him in the creation of the world. She bore Ouranos (the Heaven) and Gaia (the Earth), and the first generation of the gods. For this, Phanes handed to her his sceptre and rule of the cosmos. We can see this in the painting, where Nix ‘the dark dream mother’ appears ‘shining with darkness’ (as the Oprhic Hymn to Nightrelates).
The birth of Phanes and Nix, the ‘light and dark’ twins is the mythic image which uprose in my imagination, inspired by my personal memory of possibly fathering twins with my Viennese girlfriend. While painting, I became increasingly obsessed with darkness, light, and the spectrum of colours in between. The white light of Phanes unfolds into the entire spectrum of colours. At the outer limit is the dark violet shadows of Nix. But, there is just as much violet shadow from Nix in the painting as there is coloured light from Phanes. Through its reflective gold surface, the medallion on Adrasteia’s chest brings together and unites all these hues. Working on this painting, I came to understand shadows for the first time: they are a dark light falling upward.
The Orphics were obsessed with Unity and multiplicity. In their myth of the creation, Zeus asks Nix ‘How can I have all things one and each one separate?’ She replies enigmatically that, in the heaven, earth, stars and seas lies the admixture of air, earth, fire, and water. So, on Adrasteia’s chest, I have painted a mandala which shows the four elements and their underlying qualities. The secret answer to the god’s eternal question lies within its shape and form. Each element shares one quality with its neighbour, while possessing another quality opposed to it. Through this system of similarities and differences, the unity and multiplicity of the cosmos arises.

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