Myth Myth – Sacred and Profane. 1995

Medusa Madonna painting with Australian venomous snakes and nipples for eyes
Oil on canvas
130 x 180 cm

Sacred and Profane

Based on the composition of Carravagio’s Medusa, this large scale depiction of the Gorgon conflates Medusa with the contemporary pop idol Madonna. It is an iconoclastic conflation of the mythic traditions of the Sacred and the Profane and infers a closer association than is normally apportioned to these supposedly polar opposite notions.

In resolving how Medusa petrified the men who gazed upon her I painted nipples for her eyes set behind a mask made from interlocking tectonic plates. By virtue of biological encoding, heterosexual men are transfixed by women’s sexuality.

I have cast Madonna as a tongue-in-cheek lady of perpetual succour sporting a Byzantine red and gold halo eliding the Greek myth of Medusa with reference to the Catholic  Marian cult. The contemporary pop idol Madonna is known for her brassiere-like harnesses. Note the red beauty spot to the left of her nose as well as the star on her forehead which was, a personal touch derived from a past personal relationship.

While painting this work in Bilpin in the Blue Mountains I felt it appropriate to use venomous Australian snakes as my models. These are represented by a Taipan, Red bellied black snakes, Tiger snakes, Copperheads and Death adders – all considered highly toxic in Australia.  These venomous snakes could then easily represent reactionary feminism in Australia.

Having being born in the Chinese year of the Snake (in the grass) and growing up in South Africa I have had a number of confrontations with these reptiles both there and in Australia.  One evening in Bilpin in the Blue Mountains I was voicing my fear and respect of and for snakes to a farmer friend. This bush philosopher and I had had a few drinks and he dismissed my concerns by telling me that, “as you know, horses have four legs and are hellish fast. Well humans have two legs and are too quite able to move rapidly. So bear in mind that snakes only have one leg and are therefore not to be feared!”



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