Lilliths at the Kanheri Caves
In November of 2015, during Vascio’s first night in Malad East, a suburb of Mumbai (the South Asian Subcontinent’s largest city), in the first interior space he entered, which he rapidly converted into a studio, he glanced upon this sculpture unremarkably left in a corner and facing the wall. Immediately and excitedly he resolved to depict this otherwise nearly nameless figurine due to associating it with an introspective scene in “La Gospella According to Lillith,” an intregal component of The Wanderings of Turtle Island.
In most Lillith-depictions and in many imaginations, She appears either in the realm of quabbalistic grimoire, esoterically lost upon those of us with Newtonian sensibilities; or, as trope, cameo, icon or allusion of unsavorily macabre dualism or subcultural fantasy fetish; or, in simplistically misleading overcorrections, a New Age-ish misandrist, entirely victimized and fluffy in Her undue vilification.
Here (excepting the two painted figures facing the viewer), The Lillith-Character anguishes Her discord within divinity before launching Her side of existential warfare to restore balance between the sexes and rekindle the animality that retains humankind’s vitality against its own oversocialization. In personifying certain fragments of lunar and feminine principles, She will radiate despite the alienation expansively threatening to stagnate and sink humanity in appalling milieus of ecocidal, xenocidal complacency.
Over the next several months, Vascio’s associations grew to prospectively colonize more of the already-illustrated “Gospella,” which sat boxed in another hemisphere. Unsurprisingly the oil painter, scarcely suffering any visual equivalent of “writer’s block,” could hardly curb the muse-induced production.
In The Wanderings of Turtle Island version of Lillith’s story, The Lillith-Character likely features as the subject of more sentences than She does in any other Lillith-mentioning storyline - while retaining literary fidelity to appropriately archaic sources.
However, regardless of perceived allegorical applicability, during the actual painting, thoughts of chronological placement or overarching narrativity got overwhelmingly suspended for an unbaggaged focus on each piece independently and how slight variations within an easily recognizable series strengthened the presentation as a whole – which the painter deemed a valid pursuit with or without the eventual premeditated integration of this “candidate series”. Thus, besides citing innuendo-laden “Lilliths,” Vascio also began unmysteriously referring to them as “The Lady on the Rocks.”
After most painting sessions, Vascio submitted each reworking to the critically sensitive rigors of Tui’s appraisal, which came technically informed by a fine visual art background. Almost daily, Vascio looked forward to this routine which he affectionately dubbed “The Tui Test.” As each piece tended to fail a few times, Vascio kept reworking until all but one passed. For that one non-passing but also non-failed piece, Tui ambivalently deferred back to the painter, who in a relief approaching flabbergasted exhaust, couldn’t bring himself to obfuscate the layers already obfuscating the layers beneath.
Sometime during The Tui Tests, Tui came to associate the painterly textures of these sculpture-depictions, as well as the sculpture itself, with the surfaces of the Kanheri Caves, (photographed here) which have held a special place in Tui’s heart ever since her childhood picnics there. Thus, when Tui again envisioned collaboration with Vascio, enclosing another compositionalizing dimension upon his works, Vascio readily agreed, noting incidentally that in some myth versions, Lillith resides in caves.
“Caves” here, very much understates the largely intact, ancient and partially subterranean extent of temples, dwelling and irrigation once carved into these hillsides by Buddhist monks. Surrounded by the verdant serenity of the forested “lungs of Mumbai,” the caves draw visitors from abroad and the smog-curtained metropolis on the horizon, commanding the labour of archeologists, and leaving a tactfully uninterrupted niche for the nearby working poor to quietly vend fruits and vegetables just outside their makeshift and informal housing.
During this shoot, bittersweetness permeated Vascio’s joyous sense of completion: for despite the intended permanence of these paintings and the endurant contours of these chiseled rockfaces, these photographs of a subtropically sunny and warm Indian February 2016 record an irretrievable phase: for this collection of “Lilliths,” will almost certainly never reoccupy a common vicinity as they disperse both into temporarily canonical iterations of “The Wanderings of Turtle Island” and the non-canonical “Wanderings” of the world.