THE ORPHIC ANNUNCIATION
L. Caruana 2002
50 x 80 cm, Mischtechnik
THE ORPHIC ANNUNCIATION
THE ANIMA SERIES
When I returned to Paris, soon after my apprenticeship with Ernst Fuchs, I received the invitation to participate in an exhibition called Parfums de Femmes (The Scent of a Woman) held in Paris in May of 2002.
By associating 'scent' with the idea of memory, I decided to portray three women who had a major impact on my life. In the end, I called the three paintings my 'Anima Series' because each revealed a facet of my own soul, and my interior view of these women.
FROM MEMORY TO MYTH
Lila was Viennese, a costume designer who I'd met in Malta. Our relationship was cut short due to the distance between us. The strongest memory connected to her was the possibility that she'd become pregnant. We imagined that she was carrying twins, one a girl and the other a boy. Since she was fair and I was dark, we also imagined them to be dark and light in complexion.
This memory of the light and dark twins expanded in my imagination to the Orphic Myth of the Creation.
THE ORPHIC MYTH
Orphism was an ancient Greek cult founded by the Greek hero Orpheus. In their myth of the Creation, Chronos (Time) came first of all, a three-headed serpent with the faces of a man, lion and bull. This figure appears at the top of the painting with expanded wings and a cobra's hood.
Together with Chronos at the beginning was Adrasteia (Necessity), 'the cause of bringing all things forth'. She appears in the middle of the painting, upholding her hands in a gesture indicating 'all of this is ordained'. Her features are drawn from my Viennese girlfriend.
THE BIRTH OF LIGHT & SHADOW
From Time and Necessity came the first stirrings of the creation: a great yawning abyss opened up with a cosmic egg in its midsts. This egg split in two, and 'the First Born' of the gods emerged: Phanes (the Light). He shone brightly, 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 Greek, Mithraic, and Heka Egyptian statuary. 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. As chronicled in The Oprhic Hymn to Night, she is 'the dark dream mother' who appears 'shining with darkness.' 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 (which we can see in the painting).
The birth of Phanes and Nix, 'the light and dark twins' is the mythic image inspired by my personal memory of possibly fathering twins with my Viennese girlfriend.
While I was working on this painting, I became increasingly aware of how Spectral Colour worked, as it moved from darkness to light. At the bottom of the painting, the white light of Phanes illuminates all that is above. At the same time, Nix's crescentine crown eclipses his light, creating shadow. This mixture of light and darkness becomes manifest in the Spectral Colours that fall over the figures above: the warm spectrum of Adrasteia and the cold spectrum of Chronos, which have their highest chroma in yellow and their lowest in violet. (Working on this painting, I came to understand that shadow is a dark light falling upward).
THE ALCHEMICAL MANDALA
Through its reflective gold surface, the medallion on Adrasteia's chest brings together and unites at the centre of the painting all the spectral hues.
Some of the Orphic Fragments preserved by Neo-Platonic philosophers reveal a deep concern with the fundamental unity of the cosmos. In their myth of the creation, Zeus asks Nix 'How can I have all things one and each one separate?' She replies that the cosmos is an admixture of fire, air, water and earth. So, on Adrasteia's chest, I have painted a mandala which shows the four elements and their underlying qualities. It reveals how the opposites find their complementaries in unity.
I describe this alchemical process in Chapter IX of my book Enter Through the Image, and also explain it during my Introduction to Alchemy lecture starting at 33:23.