Dancing in the Dark, The Night Sea Journey

Sep 23, 2020

"Dancing in the Dark", 2020, oil on linen, 100x97cm

Sometimes, when the world seems broken, when what is fair and good seems to be overshadowed by injustice and I´m feeling down, I go to nature. Surrounded by trees and touching the soft earth, or sitting next to the sea and looking up at the night sky, I find relief,  solace. This encounter puts me back in flow with the natural world and with my higher self. 

Night Sea Journey

On an allegorical level, this painting depicts an inward descent from solar into lunar consciousness.  Carl Jung writes in The Psychology of the Transference, “The night sea journey is a kind of descensus ad inferos – a descent into Hades and a journey to the land of ghosts somewhere beyond this world, beyond consciousness, hence an immersion in the unconscious.”

Through descending inward and downward, through going in instead of going out, one is able to pay attention to the neglected, mistreated, and abandoned parts and through making them conscious we may assimilate them and become more balanced, whole, both individually and collectively, as a society. The sea represents the feminine. All things come from our seas and oceans, they are the Earth’s womb.  The night sea journey is a return to the mother. Not in the regressive sense, but in the sense of rebirth.

Death on the Table

The three card tarot spread showing past, present and future, the scull, and the hour glass, are all meant to serve as reminders of the immanency of death.  In this dark, shadowy, land of the unconcious represented in the painting, they are in plain sight,  on the table.  I think it is beneficial to keep death and the impermanence of all things in conscious awarness, on the table,  as much as we can, daily. Flowers represent the beautiful things in life, but they too die, all things pass. Indeed, mindfulness of death is one of the central teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.  It is one of the “Four Thoughts” which turn the mind to Dharma, or spiritual practice:

  1. Thinking about appreciating the precious human life
  2. Thinking about death and impermanence, that the opportunities that we have now with this precious existence are not going to last
  3. Thinking about the laws of karma and cause and effect, in other words how our behavior affects what we experience
  4. Thinking about the disadvantages of samsara, of uncontrollably recurring rebirth.

The Raven

The raven is a spirit animal. Like all birds, she is a divine messenger between the celestial and earthly realms. She is sometimes called “The keeper of secrets”

She incites us to journey even further inward on our voyage to find the answers to put in motion the much-needed change.

In Jung´s night sea journey, a bird appears just before sunrise offering supernatural aid. 

Nature´s Womb

Most everything come from the sea, the “womb of nature”, and will eventually return to her. I myself came here to live in Barcelona mostly because of her, the sea, the Mediterranean, and it is where I continue to find inspiration. This relocation, or pilgrim´s journey, grew out of an “oceanic feeling”, a call, and I heeded it. As Joseph Campbell famously said, “follow your bliss”. I suppose I have tried to do that for as long as I can remember. For me, bliss has always been found through art, both making and looking at it.

A Cosmic Festival

The cycles of nature, the  sea, the tides,  the stars, the moon, the planets, are all engaged in a great cosmic festival, and we are actually a part of that in some very basic, fundamental ways, and these cycles affect us profoundly, emotionally, psychically. When we dance, we return to our bodies and come to inhabit them more naturally. And we participate in an eternal rite. We have joined the fiesta.

Dancing in the Dark

The title for this painting comes from a song, “Dancing in the Dark” by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz.. It´s from the 1953 movie “The Bandwagon” directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charrise. The message and wisdom contained in its lyrics really seems to encapsulate the human experience, it´s one I connect with a lot. Carmina and I would dance to this song and other songs by Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra (among others) in order to cheer ourselves up during the lockdown. But you don´t need a lockdown or any other reason in order to stop what you´re doing and start dancing. The song may have appeared in the 1953 movie, but it was first written for the musical review “The Bandwagon” in 1931 and recorded by Bing Crosby soon thereafter,  in the very middle of The Great Depression.   

Emotional Balance in Dark Times

While working on this painting, I had many quiet hours to reflect and look back on this year and this life. Painting the night sky and all those stars, I began to understand that what this painting was about for me was darkness and light.

Creative, life affirming acts like dancing and painting are as candles in the night, showing us that even in dark times there is light.  If this painting does have a message or if I had to summarize what it is about, for me personally, then that would be it. This painting is basically about trying to maintain some emotional balance in dark times.

Pin It on Pinterest