The Major Arcana: Paintings by Hervé Constant, Article by Robin DUTT published in What’s On

Since its inception, the Tarot has inspired and awed countless generations of people. Esoteric, undeniably attractive, stridently magical, these brightly coloured cards of fate and fortune are heavily symbolic and at the same time, as natural and often chillingly straightforward as one could hope for.

Hervé Constant has chosen this deck of mystical cards for his latest inspiration which, in fact, follows on from his other passions of the last few years. Constant is a man who has been touched by the power and meaning of symbols and, in particular, the young symbolist poet, Arthur Rimbaud. A show of work celebrating his life and work went on view to the public at the Musée Arthur Rimbaud, France, a few years ago.

The Major Arcana is a selection of some 21 images of the portrait-cards rendered in oil on paper, intensely worked and highly coloured, Constant has created some exciting and covetable works. Arguably, when you are dealing with such a time-honoured entity it is only to be supposed that the ancient power of the cards would seduce regardless of who has rendered them. They can stand up on their own at any time. Constant of course, must realise this.

To some, what he has created is a series of ‘blow-ups’ reliant on the magic and mystery, so that his own skill plays second fiddle. But this view would not be totally true. Constant has developed a language of paint over the last few years. The works look dry, tensile, and ready to melt and ready to stay. He has in part, captured their essence and so, the reason why they are so revered and feared. Constant has altered the colours and much of the form although they remain true to their original spirit.

In one sense, these are pedagogues of a more contemplative life. The Tarot, though dramatic, speaks of simple, tangible things – Fortune, The Devil, Judgement, The Lovers, Temperance, The world and The Fool and of course, Death and The Hanged Man. They are to be taken symbolically and realistically at the same time. One makes of them what one will. I still remember my personal deck, wrapped in crimson velvet and treated with the utmost respect amidst all the teenage disorder of shop-bought games and airfix kits.

The cards had, and continue to have, a powerful resonance. Constant has tapped into this and has made a very tangible showing of the arcane and an essentially shared world of divination. These are relics, magic icons, pathfinders, advisors, beacons – motifs we all understand without actually understanding why.

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