• My exhibition Metamorphoses and Other Tales is a desire to reconnect with the imaginary and historical past through the verses of Ovid so rich in visual imagery. The other tales are my travels looking at the sites of the ancient classical and Islamic worlds. Of the former I did not want to merely illustrate them, while the latter I wanted to avoid being a topographical artist.

    We are losing touch with Mediterranean culture, the cradle of civilization. The ancient Greeks saw the past as great pantheon of experience while the future was something that they would furtively look over their shoulder and then quickly look back. I believe we can learn from those Greeks. We think far too much about the future, it should be left to the fates to ordain. The past informs the present.

    Civilization is an active deposit which is formed by the combustion of the present with the past. Civilization is maintained by a few people in a small number of places where there is liberal regime free from dictatorship or war. The civilized are those who get more out of life than the uncivilized, and for this we are not likely to be forgiven. One by one the golden apples of the West are shaken from the tree.

    This is not a nostalgia trip, it is about preserving our civilization and without that mankind cannot flourish or survive. Could we be in the last days of humanity? We have subjugated our knowledge, amassed over centuries and the millennia, for materialism and are beholden to the world wide web: we are not using it as an effective tool that will benefit civilization; it will hinder it. Art has a vital part to play in civilization, without art you would not have the former.

    We in the 21st century are too obsessed with technology, we are deaf to the natural world, the changing seasons and circadian rhythms. We are out of touch with myths that are steeped in our collective subconscious. For my part, I have painted stories inseparable from our unconscious imaginative life, fusing the natural and the supernatural worlds.

  • I believe art can be a form of escapism; going through the looking glass, a parallel reality or unreality. I also believe art is life enhancing and beautiful to look at. The present preoccupation in some current art trends is the opposite.

    Look through any art magazine be it Tate etc or Frieze and much of the art is made to provoke and disturb, reflecting the unremitting hostile environment of the post modern world and life. Fine, enough said. What if painting is dismissed as some old time religion or hobby — it will have its renaissance.

    I have not pursued contemporary themes, imagery or culture in an obvious manner and yet they have crept into my work as I obliquely refer to the strife and destruction in the middle east and Arabia in my other tales.

    Black Narcissus for example: for too long we have had the misconception that ideals of beauty are Caucasian; the pearly white of marble of Greek and Roman statuary for instance and yet in antiquity these statues were actually chryselephantine.

    Many heroes in Greek and Roman myth were not white they were often black or dark or olive skinned. My 'Black Narcissus' is a beautiful black youth and his reflection turns into a white tough master/slaver; he is meeting his nemesis in that obsidian pool, not his nirvana. I also pursued the Narcissus theme in other paintings — in this era of the selfie.

    Similarly I portrayed Juba as dark skinned too, after all he was a Berber Prince, and later a Philosopher King. 'Cumaean Sybl I' to my mind is a potent symbol of the feminist cause; she is 'girl power', she is fecund, graceful, strong, assertive, Amazonian — she possesses sagacity and great oracular powers. This my interpretation of the me2 movement.

  • This age old image addresses contemporary issues — issues that women have always been struggling for, their rights and freedom since time immemorial. It is just that we are apt to forget the lessons the ancients can teach us and how they are just as relevant today.

    A Lament for Palmyra and the other Ancient Cities in the Levant, Libya and Arabia is a limited edition wallpaper using all my etchings and engravings of ruins and ancient cities in Libya, Yemen and Syria.

    I have kept the plates and portfolios of drawings from extensive traveling with my mother, (who was an archaeologist) and when I was writing my book 'The Scent Trail' (in those regions, which are now out of bounds.)

    The Grand Tour genre of painting and drawing in the European tradition refers to the Milords love of the Levant and the Graeco Roman world — tragically 300 years later, migrants and refugees are fleeing to Europe, having to abandon their ancient heritage and their regions riven by terror and civil war.

    I painted the interior of the temple of Bel when I was in Syria 25 years ago. Now most of the coral coloured ruins of Palmyra city is all but 'crushed pearl' ; smashed up by the iconoclasts Isis, and its apricot veined marble is reduced to an opalescent fragmentary heap of architectural rubble and dust; into 'crushed pearl'.

    The trail of destruction of the antiquities and medieval vernacular architecture threatens entire ancient Classical and Arabic civilizations to vanish forever in these troubled regions. Their descendants are in turmoil; without their heritage they are left with only memories.

  • The trail of destruction of the antiquities and medieval vernacular architecture threatens entire ancient Classical and Arabic civilizations to vanish forever in these troubled regions. Their descendants are in turmoil; without their heritage they are left with only memories.

    My earlier prints and paintings are a Paean to the lost civilizations and the remains of them that still stand in the countries that are now being destroyed and torn apart. The ruins and vernacular architecture are crumbling in the wake of the Arab spring and now prevailing Arab winter that shows no sign of thawing.It’s not so much the bricks, mortar and marble that are to be mourned but the entire culture of the people of the Middle East; Arabia and the Maghreb have lost and their links to the Arabic and classical worlds forged for a millennia and broken within a few years.

    Celia Lyttelton


    Sales from the wallpapers have a 40 % contribution to Medecins sans Frontiers.

    Metamorphoses And Other Tales at  Serena Morton Gallery

    until 9th June 2018 : 343 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 6HA

    Celia Lyttelton  — Facebook 

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