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The Tree of Life (Mark Ryden, 2007, oil on canvas) framed original

Here’s another strange painting from contemporary master of surrealism, Mark Ryden.  The subject is the “tree of life” a subject which comes up in religion, philosophy, science, and art.  A tree of life from Greek myth even found its way onto this blog several Octobers ago.  In Ryden’s interpretation, a princess with a bouquet and a baby sits suspended in a sentient tree.  Hidden among the boughs are the seven platonic solids.  Beneath her a bear and a monarch symbolize some unknown dualism.Somehow this painting combines Crivelli’s creepy diagram-like realism with half of the topics from Ferrebeekeeper.  Seriously there are hymenopterans, crowns, trees, mammals, a snake, and garden flowers (not to mention all of the colorsfrom a master’s palate).  The only things missing are a Chinese spaceship and an underworld god (and even the latter is hinted at by the death’s head and the tree’s occult eye).

Detail

As always I am moved by Ryden’s realism and by his eerie milieu, but I am at a loss as to the cohesive meaning.  Perhaps there isn’t one and the piece is meant to convey atmospheric mystery and sacredness of a renowned tree which does not actually exist anymore than does platonic perfection.

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