Partly inspired by Jean Cocteau’s surrealist film of the same name (1928), this picture explores levels of reality. The two worlds are reflections seen in a plane of water by the characters; male and female aspects of one being. Does she beckon him up or he seek to drag her down?
Perhaps only the kingfisher, in its plunge, can pass between the worlds.
Just as was Cocteau’s film, it is likewise a treatment of ‘Orpheus in the underworld’ from Greek myth. That is to say, a visualisation of Orpheus approaching the barrier between our ‘real’ world and that ‘beyond’. In Ovid, that land is Hades, the land of the dead. In Cocteau it is ‘beyond the mirror’, where surreality holds sway. In this painting the barrier separates the co-existent duality of opposites, ying and yang, animus and anima, here manifest in the duality of the sexes: male this side, female the other. The figures therefore represent opposite versions of the same being and one side of the divide is no more ‘real’ than the other.
It is a twist on the notion of staring at your reflection in the water and reaching out a hand towards it…as your hand and that of the reflection’s come together, the water is disturbed and the reflection disperses…..in this case however, the point of touch will be with a real (meta)physical presence: both are real but virtual to each other…can the barrier be crossed? That is the essence of the picture. The kingfisher does cross, effortlessly, but this could be a form of magic or the stuff of dreams, as in the Cocteau film.
The architecture is based on an abandoned monastery in Galicia, Spain; one of the most unsettling places I have ever been.