Tuesday 31 January 2017

Art in Focus: 'Wheel of Fortune'

As is suggested by its name 'Wheel of Fortune' is all about fate, fortune and luck. This tarot represents the cycles of life which come in good and bad, and having both negative and positive experiences is simply a part of life. If your life feels difficult, do not be discouraged, things will improve, keep your faith and keep working hard to get what you deserve.

When looking at various decks versions of 'Wheel of Fortune' it became obvious that the imagery of the wheel itself was the most important factor. Early Tarot simply depict animals and mythical beasts on a turning wheel, suggesting they may fall and suffer a foul fate. The Rider-Waite deck however has much more complex symbolism. In each corner sit an angel, eagle, lion and bull, representing the four fixed signs of the zodiac. On the wheel itself is IHVH; the Hebrew name of god, the word TAROT and the alchemy symbols for mercury, sulphur, water and salt. Surrounding the wheel are Egyptian gods, all with their own complex symbolism. 'Wheel of Fortune' is probably the card with the most complex symbolism, which without research and reading, would be very difficult to understand.    

When approaching my design for 'Wheel of Fortune' I had some clear cut elements I wanted to feature in the piece, and a basic idea of layout for the card, but certain elements felt quite troublesome and difficult to resolve. I had started my initial sketches knowing I wanted to avoid overly complex imagery which was difficult to understand. I wanted to simplify the number of different elements and have an image which was generally more accessible. As a card, 'Wheel of Fortune' is closely tied with 'Judgement', so I wanted the themes to reflect this also.

In my original design I had a red and black wheel in the centre of the image, with heaven (or reward) above depicted as clouds and golden beams of light (to connect with 'Judgement') and hell (or punishment) below, depicted as the boat of Charon on the river Styx to take the damned to hell. A demon is poised ready to cast the deserving down. Throughout the pen and painting layers I felt uneasy with the piece, I wasn't satisfied it was correct, or the best version of the card I could produce. So after 8 hours work I scrapped the piece and started again, keeping elements I was happy with and altering others.
After re-thinking 'Wheel of Fortune' I decided to take the imagery of the card right back to the very roots of the wheel of fortune as a concept, leaving behind any modern day dilution. The wheel of fortune was an anicent medieval belief system based around the goddess Fortuna, who spins her wheel at random and changes ones fate, with the chance of misfortune or great luck, but the wheel is ever changing and moving, I suppose an allegory to explain the ups and downs of ones life.
In my depiction Fortuna is a giant goddess. She is unclothed, for she has no shame and it is her role to judge others, not be judged. She stands in limbo between heaven and hell, eternally spinning her wheel, with mere mortals struck by its tragedy, pain, misery and punishment, and the lucky few, joy and reward. Hellmouth sits beneath her, waiting to take the souls of the unlucky players to hell, his firey breath expresses his desire to swallow the sinful and undeserving. Initially I chose the boat of Charon over Hellmouth, as I had been concerned that Hellmouth had already featured in 2 of my Tarot, but I quickly realised this had been the wrong decision and broke the continuity of the series, one of the main reasons for starting the piece anew.  

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