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Tarot Card Major Arcana. A personal, spiritual journey. This project started when Elsa Dax initiated the Stuckist Major Arcana Tarot deck, where the 22 cards were designed by 22 different artists. This is my own take on the 22 Major Arcana cards.
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Model: Jonny Cashunut.
Setting: Deptford Beach.
This is me setting out on my journey to leave London.
I have decided, after painting the Magician first, at home in my living room, that I need to escape my studio in the oppressive homeless hostel in Hackeny, and also escape the tiny, oppressive council flat that was slowly squeezing the life out of my family.
Like the Fool in the Tarot, I had no idea what was in store for me.
Model: Paul Nathan.
Setting: an Alchemist's laboratory.
Paul Nathan is an international magician and performer, famous for his whip cracking skills.
This card was painted for the Stuckist Tarot deck in 2012. Conceived by Elsa Dax, the Stuckist deck consisted of the Major Arcana painted by 22 Stuckist artists.
I photographed the model and painted this picture at home. It felt like a new beginning - that the time was right to move to a bigger house where I could paint at home again. LIttle did I know what was really in store.
The High Priestess
Model: Susie Cavill.
Setting: The Moon.
Model: Suri Sumatra.
Setting: Montserrat and Bordeaux.
Model: Lee Gerrard-Barlow.
Setting: a forest.
Much to say about this - Mesmerist and model Lee Gerrard-Barlow had a lot of input into the symbolism of this card. I shall add more about these cards as blogs in the near future.
Model: Reverend Beatman.
Setting: Here, there, everywhere and nowhere.
Reverend Beatman of Bern, Switzerland, the rock & roll priest, with performer Zora Vipera and friend Corine Hunziker.
Models: Romany Regan and me, with added figures: Ben Hell, She Rocola, Laura Ellis, Viktor Wynd, the Arse of Almande Magdalene, and the Urban Voodoo Machine. (Witch and Cupid are not named).
Setting: The Last Tuesday Society Halloween Ball 2013.
The Arse of Almande Magdalene also appears on the Devil and the Wheel of Fortune Cards.
Self portrait cycling between Great and Little Sark, channeling Ben Hur, letting go of baggage, and remembering the Mayflower in the background.
This is me really wanting to let go of my old life and move on to the next life. But letting go is not as easy as one may be led to believe.
Setting: Hackney and Cambridge.
This card is based on a true story. This young man was tired of being stopped and searched because of the colour of his skin. So, he went to Cambridge to study law, so he can defend his friends back in Hackney.
On his first summer break from university, he was again stopped and searched on his way to the shops. He showed the cops his Cambridge id.
Model: Sexton Ming as Jude Hagg.
As we were trying to sell our flat and leave London, times became more grim as it took so long to sell. Tottenham was the location of the start of the UK-wide riots in 2011. This a particularly grim area. Mattresses represent the homeless hostel where I was working at the time. The hermit still shines his light of hope. And the dog, Ronnie in this painting, is serene and determined to face the journey with bravery, unlike the Fool's yapping dog.
Wheel of Fortune
Model: Mitchell Denney as Sympathy Bucket.
Setting: The Sarrein bar in Amsterdam.
Sympathy and I did a Valentine's show in 2011; the Wheel was made by Sympathy herself. Surrounding characters were at the event. The Arse of Almande Magdalene was not at the event, but I added it in. That's me on the floor doing a burlesque guitar playing routine.
Model: Elsa Dax.
Setting: a Big Cat cage.
Elsa triumphs over not 1 lion but 11 big cats. Elsa was the reason I started painting the Tarot. Strength is her card.
The Hanged Man
Model: no one in particular, though I have been painting this screaming grey face behind a bright coloured smiling mask since the mid 1990s. At this point we were feeling very stuck with the move. Though as well as being stuck this card represents a sacrifice.
Setting: Beiruit. Because I wanted to make the setting as grim as possible.
Hope on the phone that the figure is dropping refers to a dream I had in which I was trying to contact my friend Hope, only to find the phone would not work.
The dove symbolises actual hope, though in this card it might look more like it is flying away.
Model (lying on the bed): Angela Edwards.
Setting: Bristol prison/Alcatraz.
Inspiration: Angela's performance piece "Tempting Failure", which took place at Bristol prison in April 2013.
Death is about fear as much as endings (and new beginnings.) Angela's performance terrified me. Being imprisoned is a huge fear for me, almost as much as death itself.
The Death card in the Tarot is not a negative card. It means the ending or passing of something that must pass. There is light at the end, and new beginnings. The sunset in the window is from the traditional Tarot card, where the sunset represents the end of the day but beginning of a new day. My skeleton (from the 1550 statue from the tomb of Rene de Chalon) is surrounded by a glowing light, showing something new to come, beyond this world.
The heart the skeleton is holding is the heart ripped out from my Hanged Man card.
Bed "12A" refers to how in hospitals there is never a bed 13. Between 12 and 14, they have 12A. Death is card 13.
The knives were part of Angela's performance. The toilet was in the cell. I changed Bristol's tiled walls to resemble a cell in Alcatraz because I thought that would fit the card more than tiles. The vulture eating a corpse is from a sky burial, where bodies are left out for animals to consume.
And finally… the three heads. Severed heads usually appear in the Death card. My three heads refer to a story that has always stuck in my mind: During the Algerian civil war in the early 1990s, a friend when home to visit. One morning, he opened his front door and saw the heads of three policemen. This is NOT a political statement. It is merely a memory I have included in my Tarot deck, and it is my deck and I can include what I like. Death, fear, severed heads.
Model: Amanda Mae Steele.
A bit of Sweeney Todd going on here. Amanda is mixing hair dye, in order to transform. But the card also contains the reverse warning: if you r life is out of balance, you may find yourself with a sausage in your brain.
Model: Ben Hell.
Setting: The Others Bar in Stoke Newington, and Ben's room.
The Devil here is alcohol. Surrounded by sex and wild animals. Magician Paul Nathan appears on the absinthe label, as he is often portrayed as the devil, and he likes absinthe.
This was the beginning of the Arse of Almande Magdalene installation. At the painting's first showing at the Others in Stoke Newington, people commented on Alamde's lovely behind. She then had the idea to put her arse in a box, with curtains and turn it into an interactive installation. And it appeared on more cards.
Setting: Rock-a-nore, Hastings.
Now we have finally moved house. We are at the sea side and the cliff is collapsing (a sight I witnessed myself in January 2014). Surfers are surfing out the storm, as they were while the cliff collapsed. This is one of the more realistic cards, though the water spout/tornado was not happening at the time, and the further cliffs are Dorset, also a place dear to me. The Tower pub is actually on Tower Road, not on the cliff at Rock-a-nore.
Setting: Monument Valley and St Leonards on Sea.
"The Star represents a moment of renewed hope, inspiration and discovery. The turmoil of escape from the Devil depicted on the previous trump in the series (The Tower) is over, indicating calm after the storm. It is a breakthrough, a new opportunity to rise to higher state of consciousness...A higher pathway is becoming visible. We may solve a mystery, discover secrets, or gain ideas in meditation."
Model: Joe Le Tropic.
Joe made a self portrait as the moon. I have based the moon in my sky on Joe's own self-portrait.
This is a pensive card, a dreamy card, a hidden card, where there is a lot going on that we don't really know about or understand. As an artist Joe moves in his own way. Not a dark character, but Joe does march to his own drumbeat, and through his music, leads us into a mysterious underworld.
Model: Melissa Reardon.
Setting: Stonehenge, and a cemetery
Figures under the archangel: from 1970s Playboy illustrations, and other dark erotica courtesy of James Ford.
Card design: based on the Spiral Tarot.
By tradition, the Judgement card always shows a number of naked people rising up from their graves, arms outspread and responding to the trumpet call of the archangel, Gabriel, hovering above. The people are appealing to the angel, ready to be judged by the power of the Universe.
"The card calls for a period of reflection and self-evaluation. Through meditation or quiet reflection, you may come to a point of deep understanding about the common themes throughout your life and what you can do or change to avoid these situations in the future. Judgement tells you that you are close to reaching a significant stage in your own journey.
"The Judgement card suggests that you have had a recent epiphany or an ‘awakening’ where you have come to a realisation that you need to live your life in a different way and you need to be true to yourself and your needs. You feel as though you have had a ‘calling’ in life, and you are getting much closer to the point where you need to take action. Something that was lying dormant within you, some unconscious knowledge or truth is finally being awakened and brought into the light.
"As with everything in life, the beginning is woven irrevocably into the end and the end eventually leads to a new beginning. The planetary ruler of this card is Pluto, the ruler of the underworld."
My personal interpretation deals with the feeling that I am being judged. I painted it at a time when I was having issues with censorship. HOWEVER, there is no direct reference to anyone's private life in this painting. It was more about putting as much filth in as possible, and then see what the Facebook censors have to say. I will not back down. I will not allow myself to be repressed, controlled, censored or made to feel ashamed of my work. (Very difficult to achieve as I come from a pretty repressive Catholic background).
Also, I often include the reverse in my card. Here it is also relevant:
Reversed, the Judgement card suggests that you may be indulging yourself in doubt and self-judgement. Your deliberation is causing you to miss the new opportunities that await. A certain amount of momentum has accumulated behind what you have achieved, which could propel you further. If actions are taken now, such momentum will not be lost. Therefore now is not the time for being cautious or introverted, rather it is time to move onwards with confidence and pride.
So now is the time to stop self-censoring this card. Enjoy.
Model: James Ford
Setting: The World (Earth, Fire, Air and Water)
Elements from other cards: arms from the Magician and Empress; earth from the HIgh Priestess (here the world is your oyster); The Green Man from the Emperor; Cupid from the Lovers; animal heads from the Wheel of Fortune (though different animals); Lion from Strength; the sea from the Tower and the Sun.
"In the centre of the World is a dancing figure, rejoicing in the completion of the journey and celebrating not only this completion but also the new beginnings it promises…All of your efforts are finally paying off and you have reached the end of a journey or have completed a major life cycle. You have endured hardships and challenges along the way but these have only made you stronger.
"A long-term project, period of study, relationship, or career has come full circle [THIS DECK] and you are now feeling a sense of closure as well as achievement and accomplishment. …You have finally reached your goal or purpose. Everything has come together, and you are in the right place, doing the right thing, achieving what you have envisioned, and feeling fulfilled and complete."