Psychic Dancehall

Tarot Cards – a source of artistic inspiration for luminaries including TS Eliot, Sylvia Plath and Genesis P – Orridge –  are being reworked once again for the Outrageous Fortune exhibition, which opens this week in Southend before touring nationally.

Tarot cards originated in 15th-century Italy, and were initially used to play card games in a more traditional sense. It wasn’t until the 18th century that they became a tool for mystics and an integral accessory of the occult; now becoming a fundamental compass with which to map spiritual and mental pathways.

For this project, 78 artists were asked to draw a card randomly from the Tarot pack, and invited to reinterpret the classic Tarot de Marseille deck of cards uniform format, with a hugely diverse mixture of formal, conceptual, Expressionist, literary or design-based approaches.

The King of Chalices by Cerith Wyn Evans
The King of Chalices by Cerith Wyn Evans

Dan Rees The King of Wands
Dan Rees The King of Wands

The Three of Swords by Lindsay Seers
The Three of Swords by Lindsay Seers

The exhibition, which is a touring show from the Hayward Gallery, is curated by Andrew Hunt, director of Southend’s Focal Point Gallery, and draws on the richly evocative, frequently eerie and inherently ritualistic elements of the cards to reimagine the pack.

Hunt says, ‘At a moment when speculation about the world economy is rife, the reading of each work in this distributed or donated “deck” represents a utopian glimpse of an imminent or forthcoming world, through its response to the project’s curatorial conceit. As ever, the participating artists’ responses and their generosity have been extraordinary.’

Among the contributions are The Nine of Swords, signifying rewards due to one’s efforts, by Mike Nelson; The Hermit, denoting solitude, the passage of time and a search for virtue, by Suzanne Triester; The King of Wands, representing leaderships and masculine authority, by Dan Rees; The Two of Pentacles, rather ambiguously symbolising different possibilities, by Adam Chodzko; and The Ace of Chalices, marking new beginnings, by Anna Barriball.

The Ace of Chalices by Anna
The Ace of Chalices by Anna

The Two of Pentacles by Adam Chodzko
The Two of Pentacles by Adam Chodzko

The Hermit by Suzanne Treister
The Hermit by Suzanne Treister

Outrageous Fortune runs until 27 August at Focal Point Gallery, Southend Central Library, Victoria Avenue, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, before touring nationally until January 2012

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