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Back in 2006 I began a series of paintings inspired by Irish mythology. I intended the paintings to explore the ancient Celtic gods and goddesses through a more modern and personal eye. What I didn't realize was that this series would set me on a personal, spiritual journey that has forever changed my relationship to painting. Over the next four blog posts I will share my journey, as it has unfolded so far, in relation to the painting of the first four pieces of the series.
The first painting in the series depicts the transformation of the goddess Boann into the river Boyne, after she had unwittingly released the waters from a sacred well. The creation of this painting came out of a difficult time for me emotionally. I didn't realize at the time that my relationship to my art was taking a more spiritual path. Like Boann as she was torn limb from limb by the raging waters she released from a sacred well, I felt parts of my inner self being stripped away. Intense feelings of sadness then rage surged through me. Many times these emotions had no context. I couldn't make sense of what they stemmed from. I did, however, have a sense that these emotions were connected to the collective unconscious. There was no particular reason I came to this understanding, it was something I just knew.
In the painting Boann looks out from the canvas to the viewer, her gaze squinted. She is looking at the physical world and the spirit world at the same time. As she loses her body, she begins to merge with the spirit. I also began to understand that spirit was influencing my painting process. Once I let go, realizing that nothing was going to hold back the waves of emotion crashing upon me, I found rays of light, like those that streak down upon the Salmon of Knowledge. Here, the Salmon holds a hazel nut from one of the sacred trees that grew around the well. Boann's curiosity not only freed the waters of the well, but the five Salmon of knowledge which is obtained by the senses. The Salmon, having fed on the magical nuts of the hazel trees, possessed the wisdom of the world and inadvertently brought this wisdom to mankind.
I gained a kind of wisdom as a result of this painting. I had a deeper understanding of who I was, what I needed and a clearer sense of purpose. This kind of wisdom often can only be gained by a severe and painful stripping away of one's ego. Boann, who had gazed into the well out of rebellion for having been barred from it, paid the ultimate price, but also evolved into something greater. Sometimes, sacrifice is necessary for growth. This painting taught me that great sacrifices were ahead, but they would lead me toward a deeper knowledge of myself and the path I was embarking on.
Once I completed this painting, I felt scoured clean. I was raw and open, but it was necessary in order to approach the next painting, which was leading me down into a kind of darkness I had never encountered before.
Next, The Morrigan.