Illustrating the Iliad: Monotypes & Paintings, Opening at the Aegean Center 30 July 2011

22, July 2011 § 2 Comments

I can not remember when the idea of illustrating the Iliad first occurred to me. I have known the stories of Achilles and of Helen, the “most beautiful woman in the world”, since childhood. These stories float in the western psyche and reappear in various forms as archetype and impetus for the re-creation of new stories. I loved these stories and I could recall their flavor, almost the way that a fine taste can linger in your mouth. When I came to live in Greece I sometimes caught a flash of a sea nymph in the waves, or Pan among the olive groves. The gods were still here and inhabiting the island. When I walked the streets I sometimes glimpsed Helen and Paris as their modern counterparts went about their daily lives. Once the project of illustrating the Iliad surfaced I knew I had to realize it. It took me many years to begin as I felt I was not ready, perhaps not mature enough, but also not skillful enough. With years of painting now behind me and entering into my fifth decade I decided I had waited long enough.

The Iliad begins western literature. Created by Homer in the 8th century BCE it depicts a war that took place more than four centuries earlier. Roberto Calasso, in “The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony”, said that the idea of progress in the arts is refuted by the perfection of the Iliad. It has never been surpassed. The Iliad brings together stories of human passion, evokes the dangers of hubris, illuminates the futility of war, and shows us the responsibilities we owe to our fellow man. All of this born out of the events of an ancient war, fought by men but urged on by the capricious gods. The war is fought over Helen. A war waged over a unique woman, the most beautiful woman in the world. A war fought over beauty and honor by very flawed men who come to understand the depth of sacrifice and loss that are demanded. The heroes are trapped in an epic war, while Ananke, the goddess of necessity, tightens her noose about their heads. It is a tale of transformation; the characters change as the conflict rages. We question the nature of revenge when Achilles dishonors the corpse of Hector and see his transformation as he learns that material wealth and military honor cannot replace lost love and life. Our sense of what is honorable comes in the actions of Hector, who fights a battle he knows he will lose but who keeps faith between his words and deeds. Our sense of a true King comes from Priam who refuses to lay blame on Helen for the conflict and who is able to beg on his knees for the body of his son. These and the other characters form complex webs of knowledge about the content of human souls. Little has changed in three millennia.

I hope that my illustrations can lure students into reading the Iliad as the loss of this story from our modern dialogue would be monumental.

Jane Morris Pack

Exhibition of Jane Morris Pack – March 5 to April 3

15, February 2010 § Leave a comment

This coming March the Somerville Manning Gallery in Wilmington, Delaware will be hosting a exhibition of three women.  I will be showing paintings on paper and monoprints , another artist uses encaustic to create her work and the third a bronze sculptor.  We don’t know each other but the galley is presenting our work under the title, Mystical Shores, as we all live on islands. I will attend the opening and hope to see some familiar faces of Aegean students.

The paintings on paper are part of a series I did  investigating and rendering three dimensional space using landscape as a vehicle to explore intimate and  long distances (which are more common to traditional landscape ideas).  I drew out of doors on large sheets of paper held on my lap and then worked up the images in the studio using both tempera paint made from egg and oils.  The images reflect my immediate surroundings in the olive trees, terraces and sycamores which flourish near by.  I wanted to combine the activity of line with the color and spatial qualities of the vegetation.

Pomegranate

Pomegranate

My newest works are illustrations of Greek myth.  I am using a monoprint process which is best described as painting ink on a zinc plate and then transferring the image to paper by running it through the press.  This means that you only get one image, hence the “mono” in monoprint.  I then use egg tempera to add color and dimension and some traces of  shell gold, ground gold in a gum base which paints out like watercolor. You can see more of this ongoing work at my web site: www.janemorrispack.com

Narcissus

Narcissus

Myth used to be an important element in every western education and people were familiar with the stories and characters of Greek mythology. Now however they are largely forgotten or mostly referenced in a cursory and unstudied manner.  These stories offer a very real and important vision of what it means to be human, how our life paths may differ and cross and how to deal with eventualities we all must face as living beings.  I find that my students are the most obvious embodiment of the myths and play out many of the stories on their journeys to discover who they are.  If familiar with a myth which characterizes a moment of growth and decision, the story can help you to see potentials, dangers and solutions in our real lives.  The stories offer rich messages and images of possibilities.  Perhaps living on a Greek island for so many years enables me to connect more forcefully with the nymphs and gods of old but I see the power of this mythology helping to tap creativity and expression in young artists as well as finding it to be a constant source of imagery for my own work and devlopment.

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