Monday, December 17, 2018

My encounter and evolving relationship with the Tarot (Part 3 of 3)

The World from the Tarot of Marseilles

Historically, the Tarot has been used  as a card game and later on for divination purposes. It can be divided into two parts: The 22 Trumps or Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana. There are 4 suits within the Minor Arcana (Swords, Batons, Cups and Coins) each containing 10 Pip Cards from the Ace to number 10 plus 4 additional court cards (Knave, Knight, Queen and King). The earliest most complete surviving Tarot deck dates back to 1450 is the Visconti-Sforza deck from Northern Italy. The language of Neo Platonic allegories, Biblical narratives and depictions of Queens, Kings and Popes present in the Tarot takes us back to the time and culture of the Renaissance and right at the time of Christopher Columbus.

The Star from the Visconti Sforza Tarot

Subsequently, in 1909 the artist Pamela Coleman Smith created the illustrations for what is now known as the Rider-Waite Tarot or Waite-Smith Tarot the best known Tarot deck from which the majority of decks derive from. What made the Rider-Waite deck so appealing to new audiences was the fact that Smith had illustrated the minor suits with human figures and narratives that made it much easier to interpret and read. Before that, Tarot decks such as the Tarot of Marseilles (1748), only had abstract depictions of swords, cups, batons and coins. It is noteworthy to mention that Smith used Medieval and Renaissance figures to illustrate the scenes in all her cards.

Two of Staffs from the Rider Waite Tarot.

As an artist with a Roman Catholic background and growing up during the 1980's and 90's in the island of Puerto Rico, the oldest colony in the Western Hemisphere, I've had a deep interest in reconnecting with the past. Besides being drawn initially to the art of the Renaissance from the very beginning of my art studies, from the elementary school text books to my travels through Latin America, the figure of Columbus and the images of the conquest and colonization of the New World have captivated my imagination as an artist.

Vespucci awakens "America" in a Stradanus engraving (circa 1638)

20 years ago I started incorporating these narratives into my paintings. At the beginning I was influenced by Eduardo Galeano's Open veins of Latin America and Liberation Theology. With time I got more interested in re-telling the story of climate change by tracing its origins to the time of Columbus. In drawings, paintings and altarpieces, my work responded to the global capitalist/consumerist society with its indifference to the rising threat of climate change and social injustice The hidden connections between American consumer culture propaganda and Spanish Colonial Art and Latin American history are  revealed in this deck I've created.

The Sun from the Tarot Novi Mundi by Patrick McGrath Muñiz. 

The Tarot Novi Mundi (Tarot of the New World) inspired by Catholic Iconography, derives mainly from the history of the Americas but also from personal experiences, reinterpreting the iconography found in the 78 Arcanas of the Tarot while addressing social and environmental issues in our present day world.  Through the use of satirical narratives and anachronisms I aim at questioning the ruling Corpocracy with its Colonial roots, Neo-colonial ramifications and it's inept response to environmental crisis and its impact on the community, especially the poor. These have been my main concerns when making art and this deck is essentially a compendium of the recurring archetypes, narratives and themes in already present in my work.  

THE SEED (2014) Oil on canvas 48 x 48 inches by Patrick McGrath Muñiz. Private Collection.

Every card presents a story, much like an Old Master painting. It made perfect sense to me to re-tell the story of the Americas using the Tarot as it is a product of the same time in which the New and Old World collided bringing about a turning point in human history and dawn of globalization with all its ills and benefits. The Tarot commonly used for fortune telling has a special appeal  to us in a time of political uncertainty and environmental fragility. We are now living in a time of  increased nuclear threat, climate change and technological disruption. The 21st century global culture driven by consumerism and free market policies is part of a larger complex anthropocentric process that like the Tarot, started in the fifteenth century with the encounter and collision of two worlds. The Tarot with its esoteric and exoteric symbolism, both enigmatic and strangely familiar provided me with the perfect story telling format to describe the way I see and understand the world around me.

The Star, Three of Staffs and The World cards from Tarot Novi Mundi by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

The use of Latin in the titles of each card relate directly to the history of Empire and the Church. English, French and Spanish, all languagues of past empires are also used in smaller letters. After being shown at The Jung Center in Houston this year, it is now in the process of being edited before being publishing by US Games. The deck will include a booklet explaining the meaning behind each card and how to interpret them in a reading. If you're interested in updates and purchasing this deck once it is published, you can visit my artist website and subscribe to my newsletter to keep up with the latest news on it.  

Ten of Coins from he Tarot Novi Mundi by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Hope you enjoyed reading and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!