A series of 22 Major Arcana Tarot etchings by artist & printmaker, Judy Woodborne

  • Limited edition of 22 etchings for sale/auction on ebay: 

I am honoured to have been a small part of this work by respected artist and print maker, Judy Woodborne, with whom I collaborated as a tarot card reader, on her Tarot Card Series of 22 etchings of the Major Arcana, which she produced over 4 years (http://www.judywoodborne.co.za/printmaking.php/ 

Bewitching Portfolio from a master printmaker

A review by Lucinda Jolly, published in Cape Times, 24 September 2012

When the late French artist Niki de Saint Phalle was working on Giardino dei Tarocchi, the massive scultpures of the major arcana for her tarot garden in Garavicchio, Tuscany, which took 15 years to build, she fell ill and disasters befell certain scultpures. It is difficult to contain such primal energy and releasing all that archetypal stuff can do that to a person.

Carl Jung's wrestling with containing his own archetypes brought him perilously close to a nervous breakdown. Facsinated by divination, in particular the I-Ching and the Tarot, he earthed this uncontained energy by building a primitive stone tower which evolved over 12 years into the Bollingen Tower.

For Jung the tower and its surrounding constructions represented the symbolic structure of the psyche. Phalle actually lived inside the sphinx shape Tarot image of the Empress card. And her tower, which incidentally represents ambitions, built on false pretences, actually collapsed. Such is the nature of working with archetypal energy. It can manifest pretty intensely in the person's life. Nothing as dramatic as that happened to Judy Woodborne when she embarked on a four-year period to create 22 etchings of the major arcanas in consultation with psychic tarot reader, Joanne Jardine.

But like Phalle, Woodborne felt that the cards seemed to guide her rather than her being in control of them. She sensed that they indicated what order they would be produced. Jardine and Woodborne would chuckle with amusement at the accurate mirroring of the particular card she happened to be working on and the manifestation in her life. According to Jean Claude Flornoy, a French tarot historian, the 22 Major Arcana's of the tarot portray by means of images the journey through an individual's life, from incarnation to liberation.

It is a geographical map, which describes the inner itinerary over the five phases of existence: childhood, apprenticeship, competence and technical maturity, mastery and wisdom. A GPS for the soul if you like. It has been suggesed that the tarot goes right back to Ancient Egypt but most accept its origins in the 1400s. Its original use was for playing cards not for divination.

Filippo Maria Visconti, duke of Milano and possibly the richest man in Italy in the early renaissance, commissioned a playing card deck featuring 16 Greek gods as a gift for the visiting Greek emperor seeking his help.

Woodborne's facsincation with the cards lies in their 'hidden meaning and symbolism" and more specifically with the pictorial influence of the Marseilles deck from the 1800s. According to Flornoy, the 700 year-old Marseille tradition originates "in the knowledge, science and art of the men who built the cathedrals". Flornoy suggests that all tarot which are not rooted in this tradition (effectively dead by 1730) can be called "fantasy, and just reflect their authors."

"Personal creations remain creatures which are only personal, however erudite or beautiful."

Seated across from her in a rather rickety Rococo style chair felt very much like having a tarot reading. Thre is something a little fey, even witchy - in a nice way - about the pale green-eyed Woodborne. Perhaps it was the layered black clothing, the dark stone on a leather thong around her neck and her pale skin surrounded by dark hair.

There is something quite highly strung too in the sense of reserve and caution she projects. One understands why should would keep whippets as pets which appear in the Fool card and as a constellation in the Star card.

Much like the Byzantine Icons made by medieval monks, which follow very specific layouts, there is often a dark cave under a set of stylised hills which represents the hell realms, which must be transcended, and the hand of God in the top right corner. Each tarot card has a precise structure, which Woodborne kept to, not apparent to the layperson.

Woodborne did not go as far as subjecting herself to a purifying fast as the medieval monks would have done prior to starting to paint the icons.

Used to the fare of the massive scale and colour of contemporary art, it takes time for the viewer to acclimatise to the quietly powerful intimacy generated by small scale and the monochromatic range of blacks and white.

Some of their impact is deflected by the fact that they have been exhibited in a rather cluttered shop cum gallery instead of supported by a space designated entirely to them. It becomes abundantly clear that Woodborne is a master printmaker given her range of mark making, from the darkest velvety softness and liquid stretches to rougher more immediate scratchings.

This is particularly apparent in the Hanging Man who is shown suspended against two familiar pine trees or the pale bodied The Fool who crosses the void against the darkets of cliffs and a background of infinate space or The Tower with its exquisite realisation of a crumbly stone surface against a stormy vapour filled sky or the wild furriness of the lion and the soft skin of the woman in Strength. Possibly because of the restrictions imposed on her by the fundamental structures of the cards the etchings are poised somewhere between evocation and illustration. There is a part of me that longs for the images to go "beyond the limits of representation" and into "some sort of spiritual momentum" in the way that Jackson Pollock's work did. Go see.


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