Michelle Franton talks about her painting of a fish


Michelle Franton — an artist from Australia — and I started corresponding after she came across an image I had drawn of Kayaking the Unconscious She talked about how her paintings are “irrational”. I asked Michelle to comment on this fish painting of hers:

The fish appeared during the painting of one of my cave images. It was an irrational but compelling impulse which, as is usual in my art practice, I followed.

I went in search of source material. There was a specific type of fish I had seen in my mind and I discovered that it was a primordial specimen. Many years and much research later I have realised that this fish is my initial visualisation of a the ‘terrible mother’ archetype I have been working with, specifically during my research and only recently identified as such.

During my research I also discovered that one of the negative faces of the mother archetype is represented by the ‘entwining animal….a large fish’. (Jung, 1990: 82) Interestingly the cave itself is the non-anthropomorphic symbol of the mother archetype because it represents the ‘womb’. And there is also the association of the ‘mother’ archetype with the uroborous. So in effect, this is my first significant brush with this archetype, manifested in one of its most primitive forms.

People who view this painting are disturbed by the fish illogically swimming in mid-air towards the cave entrance, myself included. Perhaps because it defies gravity or maybe because it is so very primitive and violently uncaring. This fish represents the darkness of an unconscious realm that humanity fears. The painting shows the chaotic and destructive aspect of the feminine being released from its own generative source in the cave of the womb. It unleashes the archetype of the terrible mother into the light of consciousness where it can no longer hide in the dark and be denied.

A Cave by The Sea; Michelle Frantom

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