Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The ultimate jig saw



La Llamada, 1961 by Remedios Varo.

On my way to find dinner, I came across a beautiful cafe bookshop and wandered in. Even, as here, where most of the books are not in (to me) an accessible language, I am always interested in what a bookstore chooses to sell.


I was struck by a substantial section on Judaism that echoed a sign in this morning's Starbucks that it was kosher compliant, obviously this suburb of Mexico City has a substantial Jewish population.

I noticed that there was one whole section of the books in English that dealt with fantasy, science fiction and the occult. They were significantly over-represented here than in either a standard English bookshop or similar sized collections in stores in other countries that I have visited.

Cue images of rabbis taking coffee and pastries with ageing English occultists... They probably end up discussing the Kabbalah!

They are no doubt observed with the wondering eyes of Mexican philosophers as this too was a section more sizable than the 'usual'!

English occultists put me in mind of the English painter, Leonora Carrington, long resident of Mexico City, and her friend, Remedios Varo, whose painting 'The Call' is shown here. Both of them had a deep standing interest in the esoteric and both began as surrealists until their art was deepened and transformed by the development of a personal language of symbols.

One of the more unique offerings of this book store were 1,000 piece jig saws of several of Varo's paintings - completing them would be an exacting task of patience but you would, as a result, get to know them intimately!

I noticed too a complete catalogue of her work that I will probably buy. I love her work for its precision, jewel like beauty and narrative mystery. Here in 'The Call' an illumined woman carries  a sacred item through a shadowy street. She is both utterly composed yet vulnerable and the grey figures emerging from the walls are both threatening in their apparent unconsciousness and yet as human beings endowed with possibilities of grace. It speaks a story of mission out of a symbolism that is both uniquely her own and yet compellingly universal. 

I am reminded of the Jungian analyst, Robert Johnson, reminding us that our shadows are places where we put the rejected parts of ourselves which are both our despised portions and portions of our unacknowledged gifts. As the woman glides through the street, dedicated to her call, she awakens shadows that represent both potentialities for growth: our dark rejections and our neglected intimations of glory.



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