L. Caruana 2002
50 x 80 cm, oil & varnish on wood
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.
When we met in Malta, Myrette was ten years younger than me, and still uncertain about what path to take in life. Half-English and half-Maltese with a childhood spent in England, Cyprus, Germany and Malta, it was no surprise that we shared a wandering existence. We ended up living in Munich together for two years.
Though English in manner and appearance, her interior was pure Maltese. Since my background was also Maltese, our relationship drew to the surface a lot of unconscious ancestral habits and forgotten archetypes. This explains the four statuettes on the altar, which manifest four stages of Goddess worship in Malta.
They also reflect four aspects of the central figure, whose face looks out in four directions (like the Moon's dark side, one face is turned away from us). During the Moon's four phases, she could manifest any one of these ancient Goddesses...
THE FOUR GODDESSES
On the bottom left of the painting is an ancient Earth Mother found in one of Malta's megalithic temples. The Goddess-worshipping culture of the megalithic temple builders lasted for thousands of years on the island, from c. 5000 to 2500 BC. During this time, the Goddess manifest the mysteries of death and rebirth, cycling from sterility to fertility.
Next to her is the Phoenician Goddess Astarte. From 800 BC onward, numerous temples were built to Baal and Astarte on Malta. Astarte is a Goddess of love, war and wisdom, who shares many similarities with Sumerian Inanna, Babylonian Ishtar and Roman Venus. Appearing with her breasts upheld and the triangle of sex clearly defined, she manifests the abundance of love. But, standing upon a lion mount, she also manifests a war-like ferocity and pride. Serpents rise from her thighs and atop her head is a lunar crown with the eight-pointed Star of Venus between the horns.
On the right is a venerated Maltese statue called The Madonna of the Grotto. The original stands amid a pool of water in an underground cavern near my father's native town of Mellieha. This image of the Virgin has been venerated by the villagers for centuries. Upholding her miraculous child and pointing mysteriously into the darkness, she manifests love and compassion.
The final statue on the right, a mere fragment, reminds us that some images of the Goddess are lost and may remain forever unknown to us.
THE GNOSTIC TEXT & A DREAM
Despite all these archetypes surfacing from our shared Maltese past, other images emerged. The book on the left shows lines from a Gnostic text called the Thunder Perfect Mind. Its enigmatic phrases suggests that both sides of the paradox are true, and there is no sense to one, without the other.
Meanwhile, the right of the painting depicts a dream I had about our relationship. In that dream, we set out to visit the temple of Mnajdra on Malta. This megalithic temple is perched on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean (and the small island of Filfa, depicted above the knife).
In the dream, I'd learned that an arch had been built from the megalithic temple to a Baroque church that was set into one of its apses.
As we came closer, I could see this strange temple - half-ancient, half-Christian. But a Mediaeval gate of stylized wrought-iron was blocking our path. She said "My father has the key to enter here." To my surprise, she then produced the key and we passed through the gate. We began mounting a long set of winding stairs, but never arrived at the entrance to the temple...
All of this appears on the right of the painting. On the gate, I inscribed the words 'My Father has the Key to Enter Here' as well as ~ Somnium 12.9.1994 ~ meaning 'Dream of the night of September 12, 1994'
THE THUNDER PERFECT MIND
DREAM OF SEPTEMBER 12, 1994
THE HIGH PRIESTESS
As our relationship started to fall apart, she asked me to read her Tarot cards (which is something I rarely do, since I can never escape their oracles). The final card of the spread ~ the Papess or High Priestess ~ indicated that she would find her direction in life only when she followed a path away from mine. In the painting, she is holding up this card in her left hand. And, in her right hand is the knife...
Around Myrette is a post-and-lintel arch typical of the Maltese megalithic temples. And before her is one of their characteristic altars where animals were sacrificed as burnt offerings (the charred remains of animal bones, as well as an obsidian knife, were found in one such altar). Myrette, as High Priestess, holds the knife. And before her on the altar is the sacrifice ~ a symbolic Gryphon which, when all is said and done, is me...
THE SACRIFICIAL KNIFE
THE GRYPHON SACRIFICE
THE TAROT CARD
Such is the wisdom which the High Priestess reveals. But the Goddess herself, as understood by the ancient Greeks, remains forever unseen and unknown. That is why I have inscribed the words of the goddess Isis above her: NO ONE HAS LIFTED MY VEIL.
THE WORK IN PROGRESS
This painting required a lot of layers.
With The Orphic Annunciation, I'd experimented with spectral colours for the first time. In this painting, I pushed the colour harmonies and saturation even further. With a fire in front of her and moonlit night behind, I had the perfect opportunity to explore the play of warm and cold spectral colours over the flesh tone.
While visiting Johfra's studio, I noticed that he began each work with a neutral grey underpainting. So I decided to try that in this work. The underpainting allowed me to establish the tonal values first, which I could then translate into colour. I had to go back and forth many times, from white scumbles to fresh glazes, before I could achieve the right balance of colours.