There is a word, Mythopoeia
It’s a word that relates to the idea of myth making, of creating alternative worlds. Ones that often echo pre-existing myths, or myths that echo the world that they are generated in.
It naturally prevails in the worlds of fantasy and sci-fi, think the Mad Max movie. The word itself was invented by the ultimate in fantasy writers Tolkien and despite depicting a world of fantastical creatures it can be argued that Middle Earth is a description of the changes that befell England during and after the Second World War.
Within this word we see are natural desire to make things up, to tell stories in order to explain our world. It happens on many scales for example the simple telling of a personal event becoming imbued with great import.
A certain type of mythopoeia appears to be central to the work of Lenora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool. Here paintings and drawings are filled with images drawn from a collective mythological world. The figures that inhabit her work seem familiar but in the way that déjà vu is familiar.
Her paintings present a kind of parallel myth, one born of a parallel history.
This is more pronounced in her large tapestries with their strange symbols and animals definitely give the impression of belonging to another history. While her sketches and statues would seem to belong to some forgotten book of lore or book of monsters.
There is a sense of magic in these paintings and I associate then with the ‘rule of name’ a tenet of magic wherein if you have the real name of a thing or person you can have real control over them. That there is a fundamental reality under the one we can see.
Like the wizards in Ursula K leGuin’s Earthsea saga.
Perhaps within this idea of a true name of a fundamental truth we can see or read Carrington’s work as an attempt to find that name. That the adaptation of myths will somehow create a way to discover something new about the world or some basic truth.
Myth making doesn’t solely apply to an otherworld it can also be applied to the world of the mundane. To the objects we gather around us and brush with a light fetish.
Heirlooms can sit on shelves and produce of soft mythology, a contemporary and active archology. This is present in the work of Cathy Wilkes who has a parallel exhibition with Carrington.
The moving between exhibitions provides an unusual sensation as if you are stepping into some kind of mirror world. Of stepping into a landscape like Carrington’s and yet not being wholly present within that world.
This is a landscape inhabited by figures that refuse to acknowledge your presence. As if we, the visitors, were sprits gliding through this world. Things aren’t concrete here some figures melt into the floor filling the space with a sinister dream like quality.
The people that inhabit Wilkes landscape stare blankly or intensely (its difficult to tell) at recognisable objects. They stare in a way that is alien they stare at comics; ceramics wallpaper as if looking at an unknowable past. Pieces of furniture wrecked and broken broadcast a strange worth.
This is a surreal landscape.
Though everything is recognisable it becomes alien. Like walking in a familiar place in thick fog. It disconcerting.
If there is myth here it is one that stems from the present, a present whose flitting nature nudges us into attempt to create meaning from the places and object, which we inhabit and use. The production of experience into memory calls for the need for mythology.
To sure up fragile memories and to keep us telling stories.