Artist’s Statement – Kevin Convery
Joseph Campbell, in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces, ” wrote that “Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.” Since childhood, when first exposed to the rich imagery of these stories, I have been inclined to agree. Over time their characters and symbols seemed to find a resonance with my own experience of life. This then became the source material of a visual poetry worked out over many years. I do not, in a strict sense, ‘illustrate’ myths but draw heavily on their undercurrents to create reflections on basic life themes: desire and destiny, love, loss, death and regeneration. I think these stories have held such long enduring interest for people because they reflect the transitions through which we all must pass in some way.
Almost all of these pictures have evolved out of a blend of traditional lore (usually from the Greeks, Celts and Nordic peoples) and more personal impressions. The last bronze rays of sunset filtering through a forest might transform it, just for a moment, into a sacred grove of Arcady or the enchanted land of Tir na Nog. A woman, brooding alone at a picnic table, would call up some sorrowful figure such as Echo or Cassandra. Like overlays of some fine, transparent substance these little moments of vision seem to fuse myth and memory into a fragment of the “fabric of dream” which underlies everyday human experience.
The White Stag
The old Hungarian legend of two brothers who encounter a great white stag while out hunting, and pursue it for many weeks into a land that will one day become Hungary has many counterparts around the world. The White Buffalo Calf Woman of the American Great Plains, the numerous accounts among the ancient Celts and Germanic tribes of encounters with magical animal guides, and the tale of the Buddha’s mother dreaming of a divine white elephant just before his birth, represent a few.
This elusive, pale emissary of the spirit realm has roots that extend far back into the Paleolithic age. In the caves of Lascaux and Chauvet in southern France the evidence of this ancient fascination with animal magic is still to be seen to this day in cave wall frescoes dating from the ice ages when vast glacial sheets covered much of Eurasia and North America.
Intimations of this archaic worldview are not entirely missing from the modern world either. Herman Melville’s symbolic novel of the mad hunt for ‘the great white whale,’ Moby Dick contains echoes of this long enduring archetype.
In his book “The Way of the Animal Powers” Joseph Campbell reflects that: “Neither in body nor in mind do we inhabit the world of those hunting races of the Paleolithic millenia, to whose lives and life ways we nevertheless owe the very forms of our bodies and the structures of our minds. Memories of their animal envoys still must sleep, somehow, within us; for they wake a little and stir when we venture into wilderness…”