1024 N. Western Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90029
Saturday, February 11 at 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Ends Mar 25, 2023
“The starry vault of heaven is in truth the open book of cosmic projection, in which are reflected the mythologems, i.e., the archetypes. In this vision astrology and alchemy, the two classical functionaries of the psychology of the collective unconscious, join hands. - Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, 1960
“I’ve always been interested in myths, mysticism and religion, and how these belief systems affect our social fabric. These myths… they change - we’ve been around for a long time.
I just think it’s interesting how art is part of that function of how we abstract the world, create concepts, how we organise ourselves, how we think.
Before there was ‘art’ there was the Totem, the Fetish. ” - Scarlett Rouge, 2023
“‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’—that is all
Ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know." - John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn, 1819
You are the Seeker. Stepping into a cool mountain temple in Tibet, or out of the strong afternoon sun into a dark Mediterranean church, you encounter altars draped with rich fabrics upon which have been placed vessels containing sacred relics - a piece of the skin, a tooth, a bone of a venerable saint or martyr. Step off Western Avenue into The Lodge in February 2023, and you will find a similar reliquary of the mystic and sacred in place.
With ASTRAL PORTRAITS AND EARTHLY REMAINS, Scarlett Rouge assembles, enshrines and elevates intangible pieces of herself, her friends and family, as well as figures of legend and myth, into richly resonant syncretic objects, tapestries and mixed-media sculptures. These conceptual ‘collages’ are realized through a practice based in processes of catharsis and intuition. Esoteric mysteries and subterranean currents flow through her as raindrops into the ocean, misting back up to the sky to fall again as rain, an endless cycle of transpiration and sublimation. The artist takes a sociological approach to the numinous. This is art that, like the most primordial of religions or sophisticated of philosophies, explores the eternal questions of Life, Death and Rebirth - and the living and learning done in between.
The Astral Portraits weave together Scarlett’s fascination with astrology, astronomy and the possibilities of cosmic identity into graphic appliqué tapestries. Reading star positions like a psychic alchemist, she sifts and sorts the uncovered aspects into bold ideograms in which Art Deco streamlines meet Japanese woodcuts with a surreal and phantastical result. A true visual dreamer, storyteller and acute observer, these Celestial investigations draw out the traits of each sitter according to their ascendant signs and unique personal story. One (Scorpio Rising, Scorpio Sun) is embodied as a warrior Kali, her duelling ruling planets both represented, with Pluto as her head and the severed Mars on a platter, as above an exploding volcano is crowned with a blooming Bird of Paradise. Another (Cancer Rising, Pisces Sun) levitates above the raging waves below as pagan skies shake with lighting. Scarlett’s own Astral Portrait (Cancer Rising, Virgo Sun) takes the form of a hand-knotted carpet, her lithe, Moon-headed form dancing among crying eyes, arms outspread, unafraid to embrace the wildly elemental Universe that radiates around her.
The seemingly rough-hewn bas-relief plaster works are the very solid results of a delicate and intricate process of pouring, infusing and carving Scarlett devised herself. In this series of ‘studies,’ the legendary comes alive. Satyrs, centaurs and other chimeras frolic amidst shell-topped columns through aeons of darkness and fire back to the caves where the first human artists created their own totemic objects to propitiate, venerate and perform ceremonies for. Often collaborating with her mother Michele Lamy, Scarlett perpetuates her matriarchal artistic legacy with a work featuring her daughter, ‘Petra’s Hymn.’ In ‘A Conversation with Lilith’ the Ur-founder of the outspoken, independent feminine lineage appears astride a griffin, her head replaced with a fulsome mouth. Apt for the original rebel who would not be silenced, ever-after demonised as bringer of pain and child devourer.
Among this maelstrom sits the elegant, softly tapered Gorgoneia Urn, glazed in a matte, dark tone and held by an antique bronze tripod. The title derives from the mythic Greek Mother Goddess cult deity, who had a face, or wore a mask, that would turn any onlooker to stone. Paradoxically, this quiet form derives from that of a wet, writhing octopus; Scarlett sliced off the limbs and turned it upside-down, paring it down to an essential shadow. The distinctive noirish hue was chosen to evoke the obfuscating ink which is not just a Cephalopod defence mechanism, but can be found on her mother’s always black-dipped finger tips. The Bell Jar sculptures also spring from this period of the artist’s deep-dive into the complex emotions of her own family dynamics, negotiating strategies of entrapment and escape.
With an archeo-graphical, psychologically immersive practice, Scarlett Rouge encodes a palimpsest of ideas into symbols that speak without words, piercing the carapace of civilisation to expose our collective fears, loves, challenges and desires. Like the images of a dream that linger on your eyelids as you awake, these richly metaphysical tableaux are portals into wide heavens and roiling seas, fragments and souvenirs from hidden netherworlds. Equally intriguing and triggering, we are fortunate that for this brief moment in time they are gathered together in precise alignment, silently and sentiently awaiting fresh eyes to fall upon them.
So dear Seeker. You have come to the right door. Look up to the sky, and down to the earth. And then step inside to become part of an atavistic ritual which leads back - and forwards - through both the cosmos and the layers of your own psyche. Seek, and you shall find.
Text by Hannah Bhuiya