Ovid’s Metamorphosis

I first read it sometime in the final year of my BA. Inspiring, subtly politicial, very sceptical collection of myths, that for me expressed the state of the disillusioned world around me at the time. Rereading it almost 20 years from then, I can see subtle layers of meaning, through the poem, that complicates my initial experience of it. What it means for me now is not the same as what it meant for me then. As I read more of the theory surrounding it, it becomes clear that at different historical times it was read radically different. Although it has never stoped fascinating artists and writers since the moment it was conceived, the meanings have shifted wildly. In the Middle Ages, for example, there was an attempt to read it as a somehow methaphore for Christian values.

The popularity of the poem continued and expanded in the renessance. The influence of the person commissioning the art work can not be overestimated. It poses questions of the role of power, the use of art to make some practices acceptable, to find a justification. The loves of Jove by Correggio were commisiond by Federico Gonzaga, “The circumstances of the commission are somewhat shadowy. It is quite possible, however, that this series may have been intended to pay sexual complement to Federico’s liaison with Isabella Boschetti – the mortal girl, as it were, to whom he could play amorous Jupiter.” (Barkan, p.194-5)  The court of nobleman would often include humanist intellectuals, equally employed to create cultural meaning, cultural lineage and justification for the family to remain in power.

The poem itself questions the stability of power, it explores fluidity and change. This fluidity is also explored in meaning of events, by changing points of view.

Ovid introduces a story, then comes back to the same story from another point of view reassessing,  changing the meaning sometimes more than once. A great example, also explored in visual art in the Rensseance, is the story of Europa. This story is introduced early in the poem. It is a story of awakening female sexuality and crossing the unknown, triumphantly arriving at the foreign coast. She was taken away from Asia by Jupiter transformed in a bull, over the sea, landing on the Greek coast.  Then we come back to it again and see it differently through Arachne as she weaves it in her tapistery, giving us more critical view – abuse of power by Jove.


This story is the subject  of Titian’s Rape of Europa, this painting is part of his  Poesie  painted for Philip II of Spain. Series of paintings at the height of Titian’s practise, inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

Velasquez quotes this painting in his Story of Arachne. Elegantly mirroring the structure of the poem itself.


I find this poem very inspiring. I will work with material from this poem in the future.



BARKAN LEONARD, 1990. The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism. New Edition ed. Yale University Press

Ovid’s Metamorphosis

Continuing the malangan inspired project


Building on the last post, I have now finished parts of the sculpture. The woman sitting on a chair is cast in resin and bronze, and I have carved some of the panels.

I have thoughts of creating transparent cages in different materials, as a further developement of this theme. Transparent fabric is very interesting as a medium it resambles skin and can be embroidered. Wire is another material that can be very interesting in achieving transparent enclosed spaces. Some beautiful examples of this include sculptures made out of chicken mesh. Also some theatre costumes, more specifically the costume for the Minotaur in the Harrison Birtwistle reworking of the myth for the Royal Opera in 2008.


The lighting is very interesting in the above image and in the show itself. With the use of lighting the mask can become opaque or transparent. This is very sophisticated use of transparency, symbolically sometimes the man dominates and sometime the beast.

I may incorporate a light, inside the enclosed space of the wooden panels, to make the sitting woman more visible. This will bring her into focus.

The changeability of meaning in the Minotaur mask is extremely inspiring for me as well. I have started working on a practice based research that is concerned with change.

Continuing the malangan inspired project


I came across Malangan sculpture in the excellent book Museum of the Mind by John Mack, long standing director of the British Museum (Mack 2003, p.105).They are ritual objects made by the people from the north coast of New Ireland, an island in Papua New Guinea.

The intricate carvings are only used once in a funeral rite and then discarded. This captured me. Why would the artist spend so much time creating these beautiful pieces just to be used once and then destroyed?


Malangan figures, 1882-83 C.E., wood, vegetable fiber, pigment and shell (turbo petholatus opercula), north coast of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea © Trustees of the British Museum


Looking at the objects it becomes clear that there is always a figure locked in a cage like structure. This structure can be made of different things- often monsters, tusks, fish, snakes – a variety of items confining the figure. As if forcing it up, this is a cage with only one way out. The figure itself can be fearsome sometimes.

There is a sense of coercion in this item. The animals and patterns that make up the cage are related to the family – clan the deceased belonged to. It is as if the traditional signs are forcing the deceased to behave in a particular way – leave.

The idea of traditional patterns coercing (people-us) into desired behaviour was starting to form then. The use of symbols/rituals as a way of establishing power relationship is very interesting and a good starting point for my next art work.

I am currently working on little sculpture of a woman, cast in resin, sitting in a cage of paisley patterns which are carved in wood. This is a traditional, domestic enclosure. I am trying to capture the claustrophobic aspect of this.


The British Museum, “Malagan at the British Museum,” in Smarthistory, March 1, 2017, accessed December 9, 2017, https://smarthistory.org/malangan/.

MACK JOHN, 2003. The Museum of the Mind. The British Museum Press




How can pixel graphics deeply affect?

It is the old combination of form and content – the game world itself and the issues it explores, in this case. If the tension created is believable and meaningful, even simple symbols are enough.

‘The Last Door’ and ‘To the Moon’ have overwhelmingly good reviews from its players. They also have in common a certain simplicity of the graphics- they are deliberately created pixelated, using the bare minimum of pixels. Yet they attract almost cult following.

‘To the Moon’ has a central question: What if some decisions in a long life were made differently? The game starts with an old man near his death. The game is a journey inside his head, discovering secrets form his past, suppressed memories and trauma.


The Last Door’ creates genuinely oppressive atmosphere. Set against Victorian background, it is about a search for ‘answers beyond’. This goes well with the slightly romantic view of the science of the time, practised mainly by the rich as a pursuit of leisure. The side characters and issues are a big part of the atmosphere. There is madness, PTSD, drug abuse, social issues, fog and a secret society.

Aviary Attorneys is not a pixelated game. It uses very simple, but beautiful animation based on 19th century caricatures by J. J. Grandville. The difficult moral choices the player must make and the severe consequences that follow, make it incredibly immersive. The feelings of guilt, after some of the consequences, are real. It can have several very different endings. I wanted to mention it here because despite its simplicity, it creates a complex world.  It made me reconsider and question more.

 Minimal visuals have been explored (and still are) in theatre as well.  I recently watched a lovely, minimal, shadow puppet performance of the ‘Tin soldier’. The audience genuinely experienced the sad story, even though the actor/storyteller cut the characters out of paper on the stage. There were tears in the audience at the end!

We experience the story (the art) despite the simplicity of the visuals.  Our brains decode the symbols and construct a whole world, that we become immersed in. We fill in the missing parts of the picture. The potential and the readiness of our imagination to live through an imaginary world is immense.

We have a hunger for good stories.

How can pixel graphics deeply affect?

Interactive art

Visiting the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, we were taken by an interactive piece. Part of it are musical benches, that you can play like an instrument. YSP commissioned the art collective Greyworld to create this playful piece in 1999. Their public art is always fun, a little reminder that “life has unexpected joys”(Greyworld).

Here are some moments, featuring the piece in YSP.

This feeds onto my interest in interactive and participatory art. Their example is joyful and surprising.

Interactive art

Onion Skin


This piece is about layers of identity. The building up of different aspects of our selves into a coherent person. It is about belonging and home,but also about the reflections in our mind.

It considers as a layer the biological body with its limits and the potential self.

These aspects layered over each other create a sense of self. How do we define ourselves ?

The ambient music is by Project Divinity

Onion Skin

Remebering a homeless woman

I have come across a strange parallel between a contemporary homeless person and a character in several Noh plays.

The character of  Komachi,  is based on a real poetess Ono no Komachi ( 825  to 900 AD). Talented and beautiful in her youth who becomes homeless in her old age. It immediately  made me think of an old lady  I have noticed in London, with shopping bags on her feet.  I later found that the resemblance goes deeper then their homeless status. She also was a talented woman, a concert pianist when young. She has sadly passed away now. Her name is Anne Naysmith, and I used to see her on a car park where we used to park sometimes.

This Christmas we have noticeable more homeless people than previous years. Some of them choose to be homeless and some have no other choices left. It is good to loose the prejudice even a little.

There is a great resource online with a large database of translated plays here Noh play database with downloadable PDFs.

Remebering a homeless woman