Turning and Returning

Corpus Christ [Suburban Gothic & the Sublime Divine] : Tanja Stark 2001

Spiral Journeys

The Spiral is a universal symbol imbued with layers of meaning and myth since ancient times.  In my iconography it forms an integral image in explorations that swirl around ideas of Suburban Gothic and the Sublime Divine ;  a symbol of shadow and light, of labyrinthian journeys of transformation, and mysterious Grace. 

Across the years, as curious and beautiful energies and synchronicities have spiralled though my own life, I have been especially intrigued by the dual energies of fire, that mirror our capacities to harm and to heal; in our own lives, and the world that surrounds us.   The same heat that burns and destroy, can also strengthen, nourish and refine, something symbolised so deeply in the alchemic transformation of the oven, the stove and clay in the potters kiln.

Domestic Alchemy

The Spiral Element first emerged in the suburban kitchen of my suburban Australian childhood, glowing red rings, pulsing with the forces of electricity and heat that ran through copper wires into the house from crucifix-like powerlines outside.   Intrinsic and ubiquitous, these most primal shaped symbols were electric manifestations of the woodfired hearths, ovens and stoves of kitchens past, transforming food that nourished bodies throughout the ages. In times long ago, Hestia was the goddess of the hearth, acknowledged at every meal. In my childhood home, we gave thanks through the ritual of grace.

Modern symbols; ancient rituals.

If the spiral stove elements in the kitchen sustained my body, the spiral grooves of black vinyl spinning in the living room electrified my spirit.  Music soaked into my soul, and I was mesmerised by the rhythm and songs that spiralled from turntables and swelling cassette spools, and the psychedelic spiral flashes of compact discs. Artists, musicians and poets are cultural storytellers, sensitive to energies that pulse within and around us, and often beneath our consciousness, embodying stories and myth that unfold through our creativity. In vinyl or stone, the spiral resonates across time.

Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”  — C. G. Jung

Mysterious, electrical energies would pulse through my deeply religious father too, spiralling him into the realm of the unconscious, his temporal lobe epilepsy piercing domestic rhythms with strange autonomisms and seizures we called ‘turns’, sparking a lifelong interest in the mysteries of psyche and consciousness, sarx and pneuma, spirit and flesh.

Turning and Returning. 
Spirit and Spirals
Fire and Flesh
In-Spiration, Ex-Spiration,
Inward and Outwards, spiralling up and down,

Life journeys are not linear, but circuitous spirals.  We turn and return to similar themes, dark or light, (they curiously seem to re-occur across time), both different, and the same. Sometimes the journey reveals dragons, bulls and beasts, some to tame, some to slay. But the spiral centre can also symbolise the sublime Source that nourishes our soul,

And across the years, curious energies and synchronicities would also spiral though my own life, as I explored personal and collective shadows.  I became intrigued by the energies of heat, and our dual capacities to heal and to harm. The same heat that burns and destroy, can also strengthen and refine. It has been these mysteries – the suburban gothic and the sublime divine – that have formed the centre of my arts practice.

In-spiration, ex-spiration, inward and outwards, spiralling up and down, life journeys are not linear, but circuitous.  We may turn and return to the same themes, dark or light, that seem so familiar, often devastatingly so, but we are always at different stages of the labyrinthian spiral of life.  

Tanja Stark

2 thoughts on “Turning and Returning

  1. Wow, Tanja – just read your personal connection to the element and symbolism – *so* powerful, and vulnerable, and an incredible way to help us all process trauma. Truly hope this exhibition draws some warranted attention and praise, sparking all kinds of unexpected conversations.

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