Reading John Milton’s poem, ‘Paradise Lost’, was a fascinating experience. Since the very beginning, Milton swept me off my feet onto a vast ocean of knowledge guiding me through endless references from Greek Mythology and difficult theological issues such as fate, predestination and Trinity.
Stricken by blindness, Milton amazed me with his powerful, vivid descriptions of the realms that he could only see with the eyes of imagination. I stayed up late reading the story of the Fall of Man searching for that metaphysical motif that could trigger my inspiration. To me, the exploration of the depths of the insight and the intellectual dissection of a thought or emotion are essential elements to work with. And I found my motif and got moved by that particular sequence with Eve and Satan in the Garden of Paradise. It all begun from there. Milton slowed down and changed the tone while presenting Eve in fine colourful details. He saw Eve through the eyes of a lover offering me precious psychological details about the settings and the protagonists of the play.
Feverishly, I started painting the Garden: luxuriant flowers and trees, beams of light, the shadows, a source of water flickering through the grass, butterflies and nameless insects, a feast to the imagination. Eve, one of the marvels in the Garden, was enjoying herself like a flower among the others so young and fragile. She was resting beneath an arbour innocent and unaware of the plot. She loved that Garden so much because it was her home. For rendering the heavenly sky, I employed different hues of blue to create that air saturated with all sorts of fragrances, the divine energy and the refreshing breeze.
Then, I stopped and thought of Satan and his world. For a better understanding, I let myself fall in to the Abyss, to feel the darkness, the coldness, the frightening negative energies and treacherous invisible forces swallowing me alive- like a horrifying Black Hole. In a place like that, there are no butterflies, no beams of light, no flowers- only Madness and Distress. Filled up with horrors, I painted Satan and his anger. He jumped out from the Deep to seek revenge for everything he has lost: the wondrous new world. Disguised in an ordinary snake skin, I had just one tiny eye to express his Evil nature, his frustration, the mindset and surprise.
He was aware of the irresistible beauty of Eve, but to get to see her in flesh was a bit of a shock. God himself created Eve as a special gift for Adam to make him feel happy and fulfilled. Adam himself, after learning about the sin, deliberately ate of the fruit because he could not bear the thought of separation from Eve. Thus, to see her beautiful lips speaking to him, to hear her heavenly voice- the wildest animals were kneeling at the sound of her voice- to see her lovely eyes, a river of desire and sensuality, it was like a dream Satan did not think could be real...Fighting back his feelings, Satan gathered his dark thoughts into action to beguile Eve because afterwards everything will fall apart. This excess of beauty caused him more torment and anguish.
Painting the Fruit was a challenge because there was not a specific description of it. The Tree of Knowledge was clear, but little it was known about the Fruit. The Fruit was described as having many flavours and a powerful drug-like taste, but no shape, no colour, no clue about it. They used to paint an Apple because the apple has a sweet and sour taste and it is beautiful to paint. However, I decided to challenge myself and paint the Temptation with the means of the Metaphysical Painting. The temptation as an abstract notion that only our mind can process but eyes cannot see. The temptation like a chemical reaction of our brain, powerful tumultuous inhibiting the common sense, a sort of Méphistophélique potion that makes you venture in dangerous places such as a radioactive zone in spite of all the warning signs; you find yourself in there with the consequences because you could not fight the temptation. So, I painted the Temptation like a category 5 storm that follows the Snake. It is painted in a small proportion here like the announcement of a terrible storm that will come later to destroy anything on its way. I could not make it bigger because it was like the storm was happening already. I needed to give Eve and Satan some time to spend together. My Temptation looks like a mysterious force having a mysterious colour and shape.
From the metaphysical point of view, painting 'The Sweet Recess of Eve' was an interesting experiment. I am not interested in illustration; Painting is above that. A skilful composition and a subtle clever message are important aspects to render and challenge with. And this specific moment, this crucial, unforgettable, encounter between Eve and Satan was so rich- like a rich harvest of emotions and thoughts, a labyrinth of Uncertainty with metaphors, elaborate descriptions and suspense.
John Milton, once again, proved to be a gold mine with fabulous resources of inspiration for many artists to come.