Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Tarot as a Creative Guide for the Artist

Everything has a purpose. In every experience there is a hidden lesson. Last August I received an emergency call from Puerto Rico. My Mom had a severe car accident and was taken to intensive care. My siblings and I immediately flew down to San Juan and to the hospital. The whole experience was scary and surreal. Thank God she is alive and doing much better today. We are all in awe with her quick recovery. This has been a true miracle and this is no exaggeration given the extreme circumstances which I will not go into detail here. For this I'm very grateful to all who had her in their thoughts and prayers.  

Morning at Punta Las Marias, Puerto Rico

While in Puerto Rico, I had the chance to go back to the house where I grew up in Aguadilla and look for my childhood toys and first drawings. At the bottom of a box inside a plastic bag I found my very first Tarot deck. Many of my things did not survive due to tropical weather, humidity or bugs. It was a big nice surprise to find this treasure nearly intact. It's been very meaningful to me and to this day I still see it as a personal revelation. It triggered many memories, from how I  got this first Tarot deck to what I see in it and how it inspires me with my work. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I see the Tarot as a mystical encyclopedia of archetypes.  Finding this deck changed my whole relation to the Tarot. All of the sudden the memories came back to me and it became more personal. This personal discovery was like a guiding light of hope in middle of the darkness. It told me that miracles are possible.

The 1JJ  Swiss Tarot Cards (My very first Tarot deck from 1992)

Finding this old deck among my belongings from 25 years ago not only renewed my interest in the Tarot, it became a creative guide for my art. It did not have much to do with fortune telling or divination but rather a mirror in which I could see my own life reflected. And even though I've discovered it can give some insight into the future (So can a history book) it seems far more useful in order to understand the present. As an artist I find great value in it's semantic elasticity and multiple narrative variations. In the hands of a Surrealist painter it becomes a powerful key which can open many hidden doors. It combines abstract design with figurative elements and has the possibility of telling every possible story of the human experience depending on card arrangement and context. They are like miniature paintings that can be interpreted in so many ways, it stimulates the imagination and lights up the creative mind. Right after I found this deck, I painted these:

MEMENTO MORI II (2016) Oil and metal leaf on canvas 30 x 40 inches 
by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

MEMENTO MORI I (2016) Oil and metal leaf on canvas 30 x 40 inches 
                                                                by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

The cards I used for these paintings as points of departure and inspiration were the Four of Cups and Ace of Swords. The narratives in these paintings are related in part to the interpretation of these cards.  The whole experience in Puerto Rico last year made me reflect on life and death and how easily things can change from one moment to the next. Life in a way is so unpredictable and changing as shuffling a deck of cards. The seemingly random results are what we get in a card reading just as in life. But nature has a mysteriously wise way of balancing things and placing the right cards in front of us. This is why I believe the Tarot can be an incredibly powerful guide and tool in the hands of the artist. When art is too controlled, rational and predictable, it becomes boring and unimaginative. When we allow intuition and the free flow of creative thought to become active players in the creative act, art becomes new, exciting and insightful. This is precisely what I've discovered can happen with the Tarot.