'Polarity' Dec 2013- Jan 2014
38cm x 30cm (15" x 11 3/4") Painting-collage on canvas board
Mixed media (acrylic, encaustic, egg-tempera, silver leaf, pencil, sand, melinex mirror paper, aluminium, fragments of leaf, newspaper, b&w reproduction (Titian), card jigsaw pieces, pencil, pearl, mosaic pieces)
Notes from the artist's journal, 21st Jan 2014
'Polarity' - A painting-collage addressing hermeneutical issues of interpretation, namely the duality of spirit and matter. The composition comprises two sections.
In the lower part, representing matter, there is a mirror in which the viewer is reflected. This is a worn-out or 'foxed' mirror revealing parts of a well known 1514 painting by Titian known today by a later 1693 Neo-Platonic interpretation as "Sacred and Profane Love". Originally it was a portrait of Laura Bagarotto, the young bride of Niccolo Aurelio (who commissioned it to celebrate their marriage), accompanied by Venus, the goddess of love, with Cupid stirring the waters in a sarcophagus onto which they are both reclining. This section, with its mirror, the Titian, fragments of text, a broken leaf and two incompatible jigsaw pieces, represents matter in a state of flux - to use Heraclitus's words: "No-one can step twice into the same river, nor touch mortal substance twice in the same condition. By the speed of its change, it scatters and gathers again.". There is a darkness in this section, and above - in the transparent dark layers of the tilted square, and in the two triangles which are part of the geometric pattern at the top.
The upper part of the composition represents the spirit by the use of Neo-Platonic geometric forms - a square and a set of three rectangles, two of which are diagonally divided into triangles. These triangles act as a roof to the various elements; they echo the shape of the mirror below and, like arrows, they point beyond the composition boundaries. The triangular forms are echoed below. The coarse grey texture is in extreme contrast with the smooth surface of the geometric pattern, the subtle textile grain of the canvas, the encaustic wax dark layers of the square, and the mirror, emphasising the fact that this is a living surface.
The tension created by the polarity of spirit and matter requires a poetic synthesis. This is the function of a circle which embraces both sections of the polarity, and three found objects: the mosaic pieces, the broken pencil and the pearl. The circle unites both sections. Poetically speaking, on the coarse gray texture on the left, which evokes the fragment of an ancient wall, there are four pieces of mosaic, each echoing colours which appear in other parts of the composition. The yellow pencil, like a compass, points both to the pearl and to the Neo-Platonic configuration of geometric forms. Here the pencil represents art -as an instrument where the eye, the heart and the hand converge - here half broken but alive, surviving the ravages of cynical deconstruction. The reclining figure of Venus, born from the sea, points to the pearl, a perennial symbol of beauty. The pearl appears floating next to the circle - like a morning star, rising from a distant horizon. Here the circle can also be read as the finite boundaries of the known universe - which scientists tell us is elliptical.
Regarding the main theme of this work: the polarity between 'spirit-matter', 'sacred-profane', and the need for a poetic synthesis or resolution between these opposites, this is hinted at by both the diagonal direction of the broken pencil and by Venus's reclining position - The answer lies in the interpretation of both the circle and the pearl. But then, when it comes to the highest forms of music, poetry, religious texts, or the visual arts, we find works which cannot be simply reduced to words. There is a dimension that goes beyond words, and beyond feeling, something which speaks of the mystery of our being and the universe, which, at that level, can only be perceived in silence .