In November 2013, following the final exhibition of Cosmic Designs’ ‘I Am Art’ project, I unveiled my first solo show at The Virginia Gallery, ‘Rotarot’.
N.B. This post contains artistic nudity. Read on at your own risk!
Here’s the original blurb: A brand new exhibition of work by Garry Mac. All 22 cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, reimagined as an autobiographical journey of awakening, through growth, creativity, mental health and sexuality.
As an artist with a deep interest in all things occult and magic-related, I’ve been exploring the Tarot for years. I personally don’t see it as useful for “fortune-telling” of the kind we see at fayres, phonelines etc, but instead as a proper tool for divination. You’ll notice that there’s some debate on that Wiki page about the legitimacy of divination, which is often mistaken for that fortune-telling I mentioned. So how do I see it?
I see divination as a complex mix of psychology, inspiration and synchronicity. I think that divination works best when practised by the questioner themselves, so there’s no room for charlatanry or confusion, but it does (and has, superbly, in my experience) worked with other people. I don’t like the supernatural or paranormal explanations of how it works – I believe that magic itself is nothing more than straddling the strange line between art and science, where inspiration lives. It’s that space, the liminal place, that gives rise to leaps of logic and an ability to “connect-the-dots” that often reveals truths that are difficult to see in the cold, rational light of day.
Anyway, whether or not you believe in the legitimacy of tarot as divination or not, often the cards themselves provide a wealth of artistic and spiritual inspiration. I’m particularly fond of Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Deck, painted by Lady Frieda Harris. These images are an explosion of the scientific and artistic into a symbol system that still clung to medieval imagery that was trite and outdated to many modern readers.
So when I was deciding on a theme and medium for a solo show, I decided that I wanted to do my own version of the major arcana – the main symbolic cards in the deck that express archetypal concepts and pure, universal ideas.
I also wanted it to be modern, and to walk the line between personal and universal. So in the end, I came up with a semi-autobiographical series of images that charted my journey from childhood to adulthood, taking in my awareness of my artistic inspiration, my spiritual growth, my struggles with mental health and my acceptance of myself as being a queer man.
I spent the majority of my research time on this finding ways to create new cards that still related to the original ones – that the correspondences allowed anyone aware of the original cards to at least make the leaps required to understand these – while still allowing the new viewer to make their own connections and correspondences.
This ended up being one of the most personal artistic projects I’ve ever undertaken. Not only was it liberating to explore my own past through the creation of the images, finding a massive sense of closure in the process, but the act of publicly showing the work in a solo exhibition forced me out of my own comfort zone. It’s made me bolder, and more keen to get my work out there.
Rotarot is over, and I’ve moved onto other things, but I’m still considering collecting it together as a book, with notes and thoughts on the meanings and creation of the cards. So many people who came to the launch night and to the gallery afterwards were really interested in the cards and their meanings. I also realised that I’d quite like to come back to the tarot over the years, and tackle them from different perspectives.
I’m loathe to go into the deeper meanings of each card publicly at this point, but the image below contains a sentence for each card that relates to its deeper meanings. If you’re interested to know more about the meanings contained within, feel free to message me and I’d be happy to talk about them in more detail.