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Mythology, Astrology, and Space

by Jason Cawood

A preoccupation with the Gods and Goddesses of classical mythology can be traced through the many decades of Filer’s art practice, an interest that runs parallel with adjacent motifs of astrology, constellations and the space beyond our world (both real and imaginary.) Her work in linocut printing, in particular, seemed to be a medium where Filer explored her fascination with ancient Greek and Roman myths. These stark white on dark background prints depict such figures as Europa, Penelope, and Odysseus in a style similar to Jean Cocteau’s drawings from around the same time (1950s and 60s.) Mythological figures associated with spring were a favourite of Filer’s as they appear multiple times as her subject matter.

Elsewhere we see evidence of an attraction to zodiac signs, such as a series from 1969 that is most likely several design proposals for a stained glass window. Astrological signs form an arc around a cluster of circles accompanied by the phrases “The Sun to Rule the Day” and “The Moon to Rule the Night.” Depictions of constellations appear throughout the 1960s and 70s, notably in several large watercolours where connections between the stars are traced out against dark blue skies. Likewise, heavenly bodies like the sun, the moon, comets, and planets repeatedly appear as prominent elements. Take for example the felt-tipped marker “Eclipse” series from 1979 which features abstract circular bisected by darker shapes, or the cardboard triptychs from the late 60s where stylized (yet unmistakable) planetary orbs hang in the sky.

Finally, we find more traces of Filer’s penchant for all things space-related in the poster series “Eyewitness to Space,” which was part of her personal collection and was included in the donation to the University of Regina as artist ephemera. This rare set of 10 commemorative posters accompanied the landmark exhibition “Eyewitness to Space” at the National Gallery, Washington, DC in 1965. Each panel showcases several paintings and drawings by noteworthy American artists who were commissioned by NASA to document, in their own unique styles, the United States’ space program.