Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On the significance of the Tarot in art today

In recent years I've had a renewed interest in Tarot, Astrology and Alchemy and from what I can see I'm not the only artist finding deeper meaning and significance in these ancient mystical teachings when applied to art. As a figurative artist I am fascinated by archetypes and always see them come to life in film, literature and art. Each time I identify traits and qualities of any given character in film or painting and analyze his/her root archetype, I seem to get a better understanding of the overall narrative and how all the pieces fit together. The Tarot is an encyclopedia of archetypes and archetypes are like the abc's of story telling. They are the ingredients of what makes a particular story interesting.This is why I think Tarot is very significant for any visual artist involved in representational art and especially for those interested in symbolism and narratives in art.

22 Arcana Major from Tarot of Marseilles

The Tarot is a a pack of playing cards consisting of 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana (78 cards in total) used at least since the 15th century in Europe as a game, divination tool and educational device. In the 22 Major Arcana or trumps there are a series of images that represent different characters and situations that people from the Renaissance were very familiar with, such as "The Last Judgement" or "The Magician" or "the Fool". Today we can re-interpret these in many ways, from a humanistic, cultural, historic or esoteric point of view.  I find the archetypal approach to be the most useful. Archetypes are very open, dynamic transcending time and cultures. Even though they might mean slightly different things for any given culture or period their meaning in the end becomes universal. Take for example the card with no name, Arcana 13, also known as Death. The images in these cards could work as keys or guides to understanding almost about any narrative we could imagine in art today.

Arcana 13 from Della Rocca Tarot

As with alchemy, Tarot follows a process and sequence, starting with "The Fool" (materia prima) and ending with "The world" (The Philosopher's stone). As with astrology, each archetype can be both dark and light in meaning so they are double sided and ambiguous at the same time. For example "Death" is not neccesarily evil if we see it as an end of old things and a new beginning.  This potencial for multiples meanings makes the Tarot so contemporary. Archetypes are natural energies that follow the laws of the Universe and always have an important lesson to teach us.

Study of archetypes in Classical Mythology from one of my journals

In the following weeks I will be posting more on this topic as I am doing some research on it for my new project that involves Latin American Colonial Iconography in painting, Contemporary Global Issues and the 22 Major Arcana or 22  Major Archetypes found in the Tarot. So stay tuned... This will really get interesting as I explore each archetype and share my insights on my blog.