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The Vine of the Dead

L. Caruana 2006
50 x 80 cm, oil in 5 part medium



The evolution of this painting began in the Spring of 2006, during a two-month trip through Mexico and Guatemala. I came across an Aztec sculpture which struck me to the core of my being; its image seemed to pull me out of a dream. I saw the face of death, but in this case, life’s closure also became the opening to unexpected mysteries.
By transposing this motif to painting, I freed it of the opaque clay of its earlier incarnation, and so the image acquired a certain transparency. It did not strike me as odd to transpose this motif to European culture since Christ, as far as I’m concerned, is also a mythic image of death and transcendence.
Then, during an all-night ceremony led by Native peoples, I ingested ayahuasca for the first time. Over the course of six hours, I reviewed my life, confronted my own death, and experienced a kind of personal Last Judgment.
Toward early morning, this personal vision-quest transformed into a more archetypal vision. Wherever I turned my eyes, I saw the sacred patterns which constitute (so it seemed to me) the interconnected space and substance of our very souls.
Weeks later, I was amazed to discover that the Shipibo-Conibo tribes of the Amazon, who treat ayahuasca as a sacrament, sew these same patterns onto all their ceremonial vestments, recognizing them as ‘patterns of the soul’.
In this way, mixing my own experiences with the established motifs of several cultures, the painting achieved its final form.
It was shown in Paris at Galerie Arche de Morphée for an exhibition on Death called La Mort Transfigurée with a marvellous poster by Michel Henricot.

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