On the Homeric shore
THE SLENDER LINE OF MYTH running through the works of Natalia Mela makes them resemble the creatures that hover on the horizons of our imagination. It is as if we had never inherited anything from their era, and as if they are a discreet, distilled version of our own forms. Their symbolic counterweight, on the other hand, links them to the earth's memory, our earth's memory, where, as our mutual friend, Michel Deon, says, «mythology pulls you by the lapels».
Winged Hermes, with his superb winged wand, cuddling a lamb in his arms, his light footsteps, slightly raised as if he is picking up speed, running, ready to fly, his eyes looking straight ahead, like a leading man, standing apart from his public in order to deliver his monologue. Poseidon, the old man and master of the sea, is the triumphant fisherman. And Artemis in her long tunic, wearing something «simple but elegant»; protected by those two enormous, four-footed monsters, seems to be saying, «Come close... if you dare». The eternal virgin, Athena, always distant, but, when all's said and done, an attractive and slender woman.
These gods who once existed now stand in front of you, and it is the Latin 'numen', the power of the will of the deities, that conveys the immediacy of their form. This is their main strength, the immediacy of their gestures. It is also their charm. There are others for whom, even under the best circumstances, the mythical forms of the Greeks can offer nothing except their symbolic weight. You say that is all pretence, they exist only to carry the weight of their meaning and that our works are nothing more than trusty guardians. Oedipus has become whosoever's son of whosoever's mother, while Antigone signs the manifesto of whatever revolution she temporarily finds in her way. The symbolic use of mythology is usually the destiny of every art that thrives on symbols: condemning both its creator and beholder to boredom.
For others, even worse, Greek myth is first-rate artistic affectation. An opportunity for big talkers, for great gestures to be exhausted in a type of creative pedantry which tries to cover its inabilities to face reality. It is characterized by an inadequate imagination which flattens the senses as it hides behind these tested masks, behind forms whose worth has been recognized many times before. It is as if they do not dare, or, as if they are incapable of talking to you in their own words.
But there is also another position, which views myths as a hidden power in its world. Here they are interpreted literally. Hermes never stops being Hermes as we know him; however, he is transformed so as to be comfortable in the theatre of its own imaginative horizons. There, the power of Greek mythology is recognized: it is perhaps the only mythology that continues to inspire when man has stopped believing in his gods. It is there we can recognize the power of creation, the possibility of transforming itself as much as struggling to transform its world.
In the Renaissance, Greek myths, like a liberating army, extended the bounds of creativity. They liberated forms from their religious connotations, skies from their immovability. The works of Natalia Mela are also distant meteorites of these skies, the children of a glance. Which view this world as a potential «metamorphosis». In the final analysis, what is heroism if it is not the state you reach after pushing yourself to the furthest extremes of your being? In the end, what is the 'pallekari', this image of the handsome, brave youth? Here, standing next to Hermes, on equal terms and carrying the same weapons, we have the warrior, Akritas.
In other words, let us move directly to the sense of form, as it stands solidly, in front of you, with all the armoury of myth, sharing the same body landscape as you. It is as if these bodies and these faces have been shaped by the calm transparency of light, early one summer’s morning. They converse with us, just as they had once talked as gods with the heroes of the Odyssey, and there is no need for translation.
Thus, they stand before you, transforming the space around them to a homeric shore, the homeric shore that each of us carries in the depths of our soul. We have attained a feeling of liberation and fulfillment: perhaps most importantly, a final, optimistic interpretation of the human condition.