Picker is an image that evolved from an earlier painting, Allegory
of Knowledge, that was itself a re-imagining of the Edenic myth
of the Tree of Knowledge. Both paintings include a Venus/Eve figure
holding a basket of figs representing the fruit of the tree of knowledge
(figs are often used instead of apples in southern European images of
One image that inspired me was an ancient Egyptian
image of people gathering fruit from a fig tree filled with baboons
also enjoying its fruit: as an image of harmonious coexistence with
nature it struck me as an alternative to the tragedy recounted in Genesis,
and the ongoing tragedy of our relations with Mother Nature. That the
baboon is the symbol of Thoth, god of wisdom, was an extra windfall.
I think of my picture as, in part, a plea for a different type of relationship
with nature. The painting is intended to be frankly sensual and sexual,
but nudity and sex are not the subject of the painting: they are metaphors
for the ecstacy of insight, as in Neitzsche's aphorism that 'Where the
Tree of Knowledge stands you will always find Paradise'.
Part of the borrowing from Egyptian art and other 'primitive' styles
is a relatively rigid, frontal, hieratic approach to the pose and composition
that is intended on the one hand to give solidity and strength but also
to distance and elevate the figure. My hope is to produce an image that
is true to nature and frankly sexual but also has a spiritual and religious
(if that word isn't too discredited) dimension. I grew up in a religion
that denigrated nature and sex, regarding both as tainted with evil.
Modern science and capitalism denigrate both religion and nature; preach
disillusionment, exploitation. Because of our cultural heritage it's
hard for us to put Nature and Sex and Religion together successfully,
the way the pagans used to do with their images of Venus, but that's
roughly what I'm attempting here.
Conor Walton, 2012