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Richard Lack’s Most Important Work

Richard Lack: Triptych

Richard Lack considered Triptych and The Interior Journey his most important works. He worked on these two series of paintings for over thirty years. He had learned of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung while studying with Boston artist R. H. Ives Gammell, who painted two significant and ground breaking series of paintings utilizing symbols and concepts developed by Jung: The Hound of Heaven and Fragments of an Uncompleted Cycle. Lack felt that he was building upon Gammell’s artistic foundation and further developing the depiction of universal ideas through symbolic imagery.

The artistry of Lack’s works is sophisticated, and he combined the methods of the Flemish and Venetian painters with brilliant, impressionist color to create works of decorative beauty and expressive power. He read and studied the writings of Jung throughout his life and spent much of his creative career developing the complex iconography of these symbolic paintings. C. G. Jung was an influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology. He is often considered the first modern psychologist to state that the human psyche is “by nature religious” and to explore it in depth. Though not the first to analyze dreams, he has become perhaps the most well known pioneer in the field of dream analysis. Although he was a theoretical psychologist and practicing clinician, he spent much of his life exploring other areas, including Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, sociology, as well as literature and the arts. Jung’s own symbolic images, recently published by his heirs, bear a striking resemblance to those created by Lack.

The Revelation to Saint John, 1980. Oil on panel, 67 x 38.

The Revelation to Saint John, 1980
Oil on panel, 67 x 38

Saint John’s vision of the destruction threatening our world in the final phase of the Christian era (Pisces) has proven to be prophetic in an uncanny way. In the words of Jung: “Since the Apocalypse we now know again that God is not only to be loved but also to be feared. This involves man in a new responsibility. He can no longer wiggle out of it on the plea of his littleness and nothingness, for the dark God has slipped the atom bomb into his hands and given him the power to empty out the vials of wrath on his fellow creatures. Since he has been granted an almost god-like power, he can no longer remain blind and unconscious. He must know something of God’s nature and of the metaphysical processes if he is to understand himself and thereby achieve gnosis of the Divine.”

Day of Wrath, 1990. Oil on canvas, 67 x 135.

Day of Wrath, 1990
Oil on canvas, 67 x 135

“This painting does not attempt to interpret the biblical text,” stated Lack. “Nuclear weapons are not only a horrific devices, but they are a symbol of transformation. Its image lies just below the surface of our daily lives, appearing in our art and in our dreams. To save our planet and us there must be a change of human consciousness. The invention of the bomb may lead us to a new level of human consciousness or lead us to our final destruction. It is up to us. The problem weighs with particular heaviness on the male psyche. The Neolithic warrior is outmoded and must be replaced. The dark male shadow figure represents power-lust and ego, and is accompanied by the beast representing the negative feminine, so often a hidden, destructive cataclysm. Meanwhile, the eye of God watches.”

Final Destruction, 1992. Oil on panel, 67 x 38.

Final Destruction, 1992
Oil on panel, 67 x 38

This panel takes a pessimistic view that man cannot come to grips with the destructive power of the bomb. The angel of the earth wails in agony as our planet is destroyed by fire. The light above the angel offers a glimmer of hope that humanity might yet bring to consciousness their dark shadow side and avoid impending doom. Lack planned an alternate panel with an optimistic view, but did not live to complete it.

Richard Lack: The Interior Journey

The Interior Journey

This series of five paintings depicts various stages in the transformation of the psyche, what Carl Jung called the individuation process. Individuation was the central concept of analytical psychology and Jung considered this process of integrating the conscious with the unconscious necessary for a person to become whole. Lack explains: “It is nature’s attempt to create balance and wholeness in a person as they journey through life. Individuation is an inner journey of getting acquainted with and accepting the hidden and non-acknowledged parts of the personality. It is both a conscious and an unconscious experience. I attempted to depict this process through traditional alchemical symbols as well as symbols arising from my imagination. The Interior Journey is my attempt to express the tension and confusion of modern humanity. The ultimate answers are hidden within each individual psyche.”

Descent into the Unconscious, 1988. Oil on canvas, 81 x 51.

Descent into the Unconscious, 1988
Oil on canvas, 81 x 51

This work depicts the times when we consciously seek answers in the depths and hope to discover possible paths for the future.

The Dreamer, 1990. Oil on canvas, 81 x 51.

The Dreamer, 1990
Oil on canvas, 81 x 51

Here the images question and challenge the psyche to become aware of unconscious content and possibilities for growth.

Trial by Fire, 1990. Oil on canvas, 81 x 51.

Trial by Fire, 1990
Oil on canvas, 81 x 51

In Trial by Fire we experience the devastation of rage and frustration and the power of aggression and greed.

Demons, 1996. Oil on canvas, 81 x 51.

Demons takes us into a world of fear, darkness and pain. There is a terror of the unknown, out of which we can rise more conscious persons through confronting and dealing with our trials.

Trial by Water, 1998. Oil on canvas, 81 x 51.

Trial by Water, 1998
Oil on canvas, 81 x 51

This painting expresses the temptation to save ourselves by sinking into the world of emotions, the childish desire to close our eyes, float, and give up the battle of transformation.

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