At first glance, this could be a moment in the lives of Adam and Eve of biblical myth. The identifying sticker on the fruit, however, pulls the figures out of myth and into contemporary life. The fruit is not freshly picked from the tree; it has been purchased from a grocery store. It carries with it a new set of associations, both humorous and disturbing. We can ask ourselves any number of questions. Has ‘Eve’ noticed the sticker? Does she think that it was just picked from the tree over their heads? Does ‘Adam’ wish to deceive? Or is he playing a harmless joke? If it didn’t come from this forest, where did it come from? Is it sprayed with pesticides? Is it the product of genetic manipulation?


The two nude figures in this piece could be interpreted as Adam and Eve, but the woman is holding a large prickly fruit while the man observes it. The underlying concept is that unlike the forbidden fruit of biblical myth, which looked attractive but promised a fall from grace if tasted, this unattractive fruit, like a big pill that’s hard to swallow, might actually have a positive effect if consumed.


I obtained a durian fruit at considerable expense from Chinatown to use as a prop for this piece. It is quite a delicacy in Southeast Asia, although it is banned from public transport systems and many hotels due to its surprisingly intense and noxious smell. Freezing it prior to the model session did not diminish the stink. I expressed gratitude to the model who tolerated holding this fetid and prickly object for the sake of art.


The halo motif in this image is cut from a sheet of lead and affixed to the artwork. Borrowed from Christian imagery, this element combined with a silver-leafed sky pick up on Byzantine and early Renaissance traditions for expressing the divine. These visual ingredients contribute metaphorically to a theme of self-sacrifice against great odds. The grandfather of the man who modelled for this drawing was a police officer in the early 20th century, and his original uniform was worn for the model session.


In centuries past, when European artists depicted animals from faraway places, charmingly inaccurate representations were oftentimes elaborated more from the artists’ imaginations than from close observation of the actual creatures. With this drawing of the fanciful fish, I imagine a time in the future when, due to environmental collapse and loss of documentation on what fish really looked like, artists may once again rely more on speculation and hearsay to depict the creatures of nature. Eventually, perhaps all fish will belong more to the realm of myth than the natural world, and research into their appearance will yield only the most basic characteristics (long, scaled and slippery) to which artists will have to add their own conjecture to complete the picture.


The spiritual forebears of believers today would be perhaps bewildered by the transmutations of belief systems and their respective iconologies in this century. In the 1980s, a church in Hawksbury, Ontario featured a statue of Christ high above street level sporting a red neon halo. I found the use of neon in this context to be rather startling because of its garish colour and its association with commercialism. It seemed incongruous with spirituality. Sometime in the 1990s, the halo was removed.


Damage done to a part of nature or the ecosystem resonates in the whole. When one feels a spiritual connection with nature or some aspect of it, any such damage is felt as an assault on one’s self. We have all felt wounded when a favourite tree has been cut down or when nature is destroyed for the sake of “development.” In this drawing, the bite in the apple was made by some unknown presence. Its mark is felt by the figure portrayed. The equilibrium in Paradise has been compromised.

All images and texts © Frank Mulvey 2016, except where otherwise credited.

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