The Anadyomene (the rising)
The Anadyomene (the rising)
The Birth of Venus, or Aphrodite arising from the sea foam, has intrigued artists for millennia. Superficially it presents the opportunity to depict a sumptuous nude surrounded by azure aquatic motifs, but upon closer inspection the seed of the myth flowers into mystical complexity. Though the outward personification of beauty and grace, the enchanted perennial virgin, Aphrodite was born of a violent dethronement.
In many cultures, there is a general idea of descent, of falling through various manifestations from a singular source. In the beginning, Darkness gave rise to Chaos and from Chaos emerged Gaia (Mother Earth). Gaia in turn created Uranus (Father Sky), who became her consort. The primordial pair created many children, but fearing the power of their offspring, Uranus cast his rebellious sons into Tartarus, a dark underworld. When Uranus once again impregnated Gaia with the powerful race of Giants known as the Titans, she decided to free her captive children. She persuaded the Titans to overthrow Uranus. The Titans attacked Uranus as he slept, and the youngest of them, Cronos (Crow)*, castrated him. Cronos threw the severed genitals into the sea, where foam developed and from this sea foam Aphrodite arose. One could interpret Uranus in this context as a sacrificial king at the end of an age, and the blade Cronos used as the sickle that cut the earth from the sky. Aphrodite is the embodiment of the desire for return to the primordial states of earthbound pleasure and heavenly bliss.
In Aphrodite Anadyomene there is a union of opposites, an elemental Heiros Gamos, or Sacred Union. In the waters of the earth, we have a metaphor for the subconscious. In the sea foam, we have the suspension of air and water, the spherical and fluid encapsulation of one element by another. When contemplating the deep biology of life on earth, I often imagine a primordial time before life existed, when there was only the great matrix, the waters of the earth, the mother and source. The Apollonian energy of the sun was held in this matrix, sending warmth and energy through the medium, and giving rise to life.
The centralized composition is based around the geometrical construction of the Vesica Pisces, a geometrical birth portal, formed by two circles of the same diameter, which overlap at both center and radius. In Upper Paleolithic art, the vulva, pubic delta, or mons venus is often represented in an abstract, symbolic form. This is a ritualistic symbol associated with water, embodying the tripartite aspects of cosmic womb, sprouting of life, and birthing process. Variations on the delta motif recur throughout the composition. The use of gold in this composition is not decorative, but alchemical. The gilded sun rising on the horizon functions as both Aphrodite’s Enchanted Girdle and her navel. The navel, in turn, is the place where the human body connects to the waters of our mother in the womb. As “The Anadyomene” arises from the elemental foam, she displaces it forming a corona, like that of a droplet of cosmic milk returning to its source. The singular droplet splashes upward and outward in varied copies of itself, an analogue of reproduction.
In my painting practice, I generally paint from life, or compile volumes of photo-references and life drawings to refer to as I paint. In the case of “The Anadyomene” I wanted to explore a greater interiority, so I did a majority of this work from my imagination. Working first on a full scale drawing, I tried to remember the first time that I’d ever seen a woman naked in the flesh; recalling the sense of rapture and excitement, the feeling of being taken over by the experience. To a lover, a woman’s body is as sublime and mystifying as the sun rising over a turbulent sea.
*Cronos has been interpreted as Father Time with his relentless sickle, but originally he was likely a Raven or trickster figure. Crows are thought to house the soul of a sacred king after his sacrifice. This would explain why Cronos, after dethroning his father, imprisoned his brothers once again and took to devouring his own offspring until his son Zeus overthrew him.
Oil and Gold Leaf on Panel, 28.5 x 35.5 inches
Currently Exhibited in the Visions of Venus/Venus’ Visions at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. Please inquire through Artsy here: