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Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? — Kelvin Grey

Film, 22min56. Shot on VHS around the Bay of Naples.

Music from 1000Pardons album ‘The Essence Of What Prevailed’. 2023.

Published in ISSUE X: CYCLES.

The film weaves together a painting series and installation based on the title of Paul Gauguin’s Magnum Opus ‘Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?’, with a personal reading of the Altar sutra, tarot readings and three locations around the Bay of Naples.

These are Torrefumo, near Pozzuoli in the North, Biaia di Ieranto which is opposite in the south, and the Ex Lanificio (wool mill) near the historical centre of Naples. The scenery, tarot readings and paintings are intended to reflect on the three existential questions.

Interestingly, the tarot readings related to not only the answers of the questions, but also the filming locations and the paintings themselves. When asking ‘Where do we come from?’ I pulled the Tower card which can literally mean disaster, earthquake, the expulsion of something, or a difficult birth. This relates well to the opening scenery of Torrefumo in Campi Flegrei, a large volcanic caldera. It also mirrors the painting process, because this painting was never completed. Secondly, when asking ‘What are we?’ I pulled the Devil card, which stands for obsession, passion, addiction, greed and desires. Aside from offering an apt image of humanity, it conveys well the painting which was a lengthy work. Finally, for ‘Where are we going?’ I pulled the Moon card, which represents the subconscious, intuition, confusion and uncertainty, as well as lunar cycles. This was fitting because the card depicts two towers, reminding us of the opening Tower card, yet with dogs howling at the moon and a river running into the sea. Coincidentally this parallels with the ending scene of the Baia di Ieranto that looks out to a lighthouse on Punta Campanella, and the faraglioni di Capri, three rock formations off the island of Capri. Perhaps most tellingly of all, each card was from the major arcana.

Above all, the soundtrack, ‘The Essence of What Prevailed’, was the sound I had been looking for yet unable to find, and fit perfectly with the length of the film. Each track follows the progression of the imagery and offers something that visuals alone could never achieve. Moreover, it is the first album from 1000Pardons and marks the beginning a collaboration that I hope will continue.


1. Where do we come from? (In relation to the Altar sutra this title is: Innate essence or Original

Nature. Tarot: The Tower)

2. What are we? (In relation to the Altar sutra this title is: Meritorious fields in the afflictional

sea of life and death. Tarot: The Devil)

3. Where are we going? (In relation to the Altar sutra the title is: The other shore of the river

of annoyances and afflictions - * ‘Maha prajna paramita’, Great wisdom to the other shore. Tarot: The Moon)

This can more simply be understood as; 1. Born, 2. Fix+Broken, 3. Vacuum

(In relation to the tarot as; The Tower, The Devil, The Moon)

The Essence of What Prevailed, album by 1000Pardons:

01 Opening, To The Other Shore

02 Meritorious Fields

03 The Essence Of What Prevailed

04 Written In Water

05 There Seemed A Certainty In Degradation

06 A Torch Eternally Burning

The overarching theme (or critique) of the work comes from:

1. Ultra mundane wisdom (beyond worldy wisdom) vs mundane wisdom (worldy wisdom)

2. Appearance vs Non Appearance*

• ‘All appearances are vain and delusive’ is a famous quotation from the Diamond sutra, aanother very important sutra in Chinese buddhism. Nonappearance is defined as transcending all appearances. Within the painting ‘What are we?’, there are frames, a seamist, smoke, mirrors and a golden cage. It should convey a feeling of illusion and confusion, therefore reflecting the assertion that ‘all appearances are vain and delusive’.

• My paintings are made from moments and images captured around Napoli and have intentionally

been created as ‘dream images’. This is inspired in part by another quotation in the Altar sutra; ‘Deliberation is considered as illusive’. I’ve therefore tried to depict an ‘intuitive illumination’. (This is a private and personal critique of where the art world is today, because every piece is ‘deliberate’, planned and executed as a design object, thereby removing all opportunities for intuition to intercept the work.)

• This takes me to my next point; language. In the art world today language comes either

before or in conjunction with a work, and nearly always in the form of ‘mundane wisdom’, or

‘worldy knowledge’. In creating the concept for this series, I realised that language comes after

the image, and it is not directly related to it. Language does not aid the images creation, but

maybe it answers a riddle after. Otherwise the image could be replaced by thought and concept

and would therefore be futile. More to the point ‘worldly knowledge’ could never answer

such great existential questions.

This idea can be summarised as follows:

1. Beyond language

2. Pull back to language

3. Dissociation and then association - push and pull to the world

The Tower - The Devil - The Moon



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