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The mythology of ancient Greece has had a deep and lasting influence on western European culture from the renaissance to the present day. In fact a real understanding of much western art is hardly possible without some knowledge of the mythology which gives meaning to so many art works. These myths seem to encapsulate the collective unconscious psyche of European nations in a way which transcends that of mere nationalism, to provide a common ground for understanding between all European cultures – even in 2018.
I perceive the legend of Persephone as a poetic metaphor not only for the duality which lies deep in the human psyche, but also for the unity which can exist in what seem at first irreconcilable opposites.
The daughter of Demeter, the goddess of nature, Persephone spends half the year as the wife of Hades, god of the underworld, and the other half on earth. Her coming in springtime brings new life to the world.
My composition can be perceived as a series of pictures, similar to the structure of some medieval paintings where disparate events are presented together and the viewer, after having seen each item separately is then left with an understanding of the whole.
- Persephone descends into the underworld (Hades).
- Charon, the ferryman who carries the departed souls into Hades, crosses the river Styx.
- The departed souls enter Hades.
- Cerberus, the many headed guardian of Hades prevents the return of the souls to the living world.
- The souls sink back to seek the waters of Lethe which bring forgetfulness.
- The dead are judged, and those who are not condemned return to drink the waters of Lethe.
- The judging continues and the condemned souls descend into Tartarus for punishment.
- They bewail their fate.
- Persephone returns from the darkness to the light.
Commissioned by Auckland Youth Orchestra