Two painters, one writer and 24 paintings. Collaboration of Romero Britto, Christina Oiticica and Paulo Coelho.
The story of the second pilgrimage of Christina Oiticica along the Camino de Santiago – the road to Santiago de Compostela.
Author: Christina Oiticica Publication date: 2009 140 pages, richly illustrated Preface by Elias J. Torres Feijó, University of Santiago de Compostela and Paulo Coelho, Writer and Eternal Pilgrim Language: Trilingual Portuguese, Spanish, English
The great day of unearthing the Camino de Santiago paintings has arrived, at the patio of the University of Geography and History.
Elias Torres Feijo – Conrector of Culture, Carlos Calhom (the Via Galego Foundation’s President) and me at the Monte do Gozo and in Villafranca del Bierzo. The work that I had set out to do, has been accomplished.
It was with great excitement that I did all this and I want to thank everyone who helped me realizing this work. There were so many people that I’m afraid I may forget someone when I’d mention names.
I’d like to thank St. James, who gave us the inspiration.
More than two years of travelings along the Camino de Santiago have passed. I thank the Virgin Mary for her protection. I have experienced magical moments there, of communion with the nature, of distress when we encountered problems (like transporting a painting that didn’t fit in any car or van or interview where I would have to elaborate on the purpose of my work or when time was too short to do everything that I wanted to do).
But I always had friendly hands to help me.
This path never ends, it is the starting point of many paintings that will be spread all over the world.
My pilgrim’s path.
My arrival in Santiago meant that the pilgrimage of leaving my paintings with nature was done. But in some way i was not completely satisfied, and I knew that the process wasn’t really finished yet.
Recalling my 1990’s pilgrimage, and also the other many times I went to the Camino de Santiago together with my husband, i remembered that I had missed a location.
Villafranca del Bierzo, the emblematic location of the Church of Santiago, a romantic building from 1186. Its northern gate has four arches with a sculptural decoration called “the Gate of Forgiveness”. Pilgrims that were unable to accomplish the path received the same forgiveness here, as if they had gone through the Glory Portal in Santiago.
I also recalled the first time I went there. There was a shelter made out of plastic. I came back there a couple of times and each time I was there I met Jato and his wife Maricarmen. Jato, besides being a character, has powers in his hands. I have seen with my own eyes that he healed people, of of the healed being my mother.
I decided that I couldn’t leave without burying one of my paintings there. Since I was going to the Ponferrada exposition, I could take the “heart” that I had left in Villoria de Rioja with my hosts and friends Acácio and Orietta.
I put on the kimonos that I would bury in Santiago in honor of the sacred Kumano Path.
And so we leave, me, Acacio, Galia, a new friend that I had met the year before in Biarritz, and Juliana, my personal assistant.
On 3 October, we were in Puente la Reina to unearth the three pictures that had been in Eunate since May.
Then we dug up the copper plate that I had left there also in May, just behind the Hotel El Peregrino at the entrance of Puente la Reina. The passing pilgrims were clearly wondering about what was going on.
One more stage accomplished!
Then we went to the Ponferrada exposition.
We arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo in the late afternoon. Jato started to look for the best place to bury the “Heart”. He took his magic wand and started to walk slowly. Whenever his wand moved above it would indicate the best place for the burial. He did that in several directions.
Jato dug through the stone layer to the finer soil. There, on the water’s veil that came from the altar in the Church of Santiago, I placed my painting with gold pigment. And the grains of soil were put in many layers, from the finer grains to the rocks.
The “Heart” was left there.
Just before, Marcelo arrived from Santiago and Jato prepared a delicious dinner. A bottle of champagne was opened and we toasted to St. James.
13 june 2008
On the Road to Santiago we stopped at a very special place, a valley that is said to be visited by flying saucers. There also lives an alchemist who works with rocks and their energies. He grinds up the rocks from the region and travels around the world doing this work. People say that beings from outer space taught him this technique.
I was very impressed with the beauty of the colors and he gave me some of it. Once I was back home, many people asked me for a little bit of that colored rock dust. There were golden, silvery, pink, red and green dusts. It was a treasure. I was excited that I could use this material to make something beautiful once I’d be in Santiago. On the way, I had been thinking about putting the beautiful mineral powder in boxes so I bought a whole lot of them and left everything neatly stored for the next day when I’d be burying the first frames in Santiago de Compostela.
Despite having worked for several days and driven over 1000 kilometers, I couldn’t sleep that night. When I looked at the clock and realized it was already 5 a.m. Suddenly I intuitively realized that the rocks had an energy that was not compatible with me and my work, but only worked for the Alchemist. I opened the door, put the boxes outside and fell asleep immediately after that.
Cloister of the Faculty of Geography and History
I had arrived in Santiago. I couldn’t say that this would be the end of the pilgrimage, because I’d have to let Nature do its work on my paintings and come back to retrieve them. It was at this Cloister that I left one of my canvases and a copper plate. I decided to leave them blank and let past history penetrate them. So many stories have passed through here! It was with great excitement and the blessing of Santiago and the Virgin Mary that I left my work there that morning.
Soon after we went to Monte do Gozo. A very important stop on the Camino de Santiago. It is the place where pilgrims from all over the world will have the first glimpse of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. And all will feel a sense of joy. I left a copper plate and 2 canvases there, with the help of Angelo and Edinho.
I have always worked with feminine symbols, although in the beginning I did so subconsciously. I have always used the symbols of the nutrition of life, fertility, maternal spirituality and the feminine universe. This can be seen in my exhibitions such as “The Circle and the Dot, The Dot and The Circle”, “Stringing Pearls”, “The House of Time”, “Birth of Venus”, and in many other works that I have developed.
When I went to live in the Pyrenees, at first there was no room for a studio, because I lived in a hotel. At that time I had an exhibition in Paris and needed to paint big canvases, so I began to take them into the open fields. One day I noticed that a leaf had fallen on one of the paintings and tinted the paint. I liked that.
At that time I had bought a canvas measuring ten meters, and that is when the idea of the “Four Seasons” arose, a canvas that I took out into the woods and developed and elaborated and painted according to the seasons, always covering it with earth, tree branches and stones. At the same time I wanted to expand this project by leaving some paintings in dry river-beds later to be covered by water, others around tree trunks, and so on.
Being a pilgrim by nature – in fact I traveled the Road to Santiago in 1990 – I felt that my work had to break out of the four walls of the studio. I formed a partnership with nature, and my work began to reflect its fingerprints. I believe that this is a powerful partnership. Whenever I retrieve my work, no matter where – in the Amazon, in the Pyrenees or on the Road to Santiago – I am always moved by what the invisible hand of nature has done to my original paintings.
I think that this is incomparably unique art, for in each and every case the will of water and wind and the mystery of stone and earth interact with my work in a very special way.
I often take the painting ready to be placed under the ground, at other times I use materials from the place itself, as with the spring flowers on the Road to Santiago, and the wind and sea at Sète. I do my part of the work and then it returns to the earth, undergoes a period of telluric gestation and is then retrieved.
To work with the Earth is to work with the sacred, the Great Mother, the Immaculate Conception.
It is like a seed about to be transformed. The final product of all this is very important to me. The Road to Santiago kept ten of my paintings, and the Amazon and the Pyrenees kept one each, but for me it is not just the visual aspect that matters, but rather all the energy surrounding this transformation.
On the Road I began to work with metals. I want to use more and more resistant materials. This is just a beginning; we have to wait to be shown the fruits that time will yield.
I worked with copper, not by chance, because centuries ago the alchemists used the symbol ♀ – which also represents the planet Venus, the Greek Goddess Aphrodite and the feminine gender – to represent this metal.
13 May 2008
Burying in the ground
17 May 2008
I dug up the Heart and other paintings left at Cebreiro.
I returned to the Way to Santiago on 23 January 2008 to unearth the first, second and third stages. The paintings of the Virgin of the Pyrenees, Roncesvalles, Alto do Perdão, Santo Domingo de la Calçada, Viloria de Rioja, Saint Juan de Orteja, Saint Antan and Castrojerriz.
Four months had elapsed when we arrived in Saint Jean Pied-Port. Everything was covered in snow, the road that took us to Roncesvalles had been cleared, but when we looked on either side we could see snow a meter high. Even so, it was impossible to make it to the Virgin of the Pyrenees to dig up the paintings. The climb up is very steep and the very narrow road had been closed.
When we reached Roncesvalles we met our hospitable friends Orietta and Acácio. Right then it started to snow again and it grew intensely cold, but it gave me great pleasure to dig up the earth, the mixture of earth and snow, and it was so good to find the paintings!
I was a bit frustrated not to be able to remove the paintings of the Virgin of the Pyrenees… where my hand touches the sky. The different moments of interference in the canvases were subtle; I had laid one on top of the other, so those in the middle suffered less interference.
When we got to Alto del Perdón, there too the snow made it impossible for us to climb up.
I started to panic a little, thinking that I was not going to have any paintings for my exhibition in May.
We went back to the Templar Chapel that had impressed us so much the first time. The Virgin of Eunate is seated on the throne with the child Jesus in her lap. This time she held a sprig of wheat in her hand.
When we entered the chapel, there was a woman performing a strange dance, gyrating around herself like the Sufis do. With one hand pointing to the sky and the other to the earth … an alliance between the sky and the earth, the meeting of two energies, masculine and feminine, THE NEW ALLIANCE.
One day I lay down in a field of wheat in the French Pyrenees, feeling the earth underneath me and looking up at the sky. I had the feeling of perfect communion. When the energy of the sky descends to earth like Jesus, and the energy of the earth rises to the skies, the Great Mother.
On that day I felt that this place was open for me to do my work. I fetched a roll of canvas and said to Paula: “I’m going to do a large painting.” I measured the North portal, the entrance to the chapel. A woman appeared, with a soft, sweet expression on her face, and asked what I was doing. “I work with nature, the energy of the ‘Great Mother’. I’m starting a big painting.” She asked if I worked with earth and I said yes.
I began making the impression of the stones on the ground, as if they were stamps. Then I went over to the South portal. It was so windy there that I had to hold the canvas down with heavy stones. I discovered the vertical lines on the ground. I went to the East portal, where the altar stands, and then to the West portal. The columns and some stones traced the ground. I carried the big canvas to the land surrounding the chapel and painted with the earth. I placed stones and spread natural pigments and left it there for one night.
The next day we were going to fetch the canvas and leave for Madrid and Jerusalem. When we arrived, some cars were parked and we guessed there was going to be a Mass. We entered the church and saw some people holding lit candles. It was the feast of the day of the light that came to the world. We were very moved by this inspired Mass.
The lady who had been there the day before was called Mariam. She invited us to have some hot soup; she was a hostess in Saint Mary of Eunate. I called her over to see the result of my work. She is a painter too and uses earth for her textures. This meeting was very special.
27 January, SAN ANTON, CASTROJERÍZ , SAINT JUAN DE ORTEGA E VILLORIA DE RIOJA
On the 27th we went to San Anton to fetch a painting that I had left there. It was easy to find, but the same thing happened as with the Santo Domingo canvas.
Next we went to Castrojeriz. The wind was so strong it made one hallucinate. I had only ever experienced a wind like that twenty years ago in Ireland, when some ships sank and many people drowned.
The Castrojeriz paintings vanished without even a trace, just as in the two previous places. I was petrified, and thought: I’m not going to have any paintings for the exhibit on the 13th of March!
On the 30th of January we went to Saint Juan de Orteja. Now the road that was closed earlier was cleared and we could get through. But there the same thing had happened. This time, however, there were traces, but the Road had taken the pictures. And these paintings were precisely the ones that I put in the publicity leaflet, and they no longer exist.
In January it was really difficult to recover the paintings at Alto do Perdão and Virgem do Caminho. I would pick them up in March.
The next day I decided to go to Viloria de Rioja and do some work for a night in the – now totally destroyed – house where Saint Dominic was born. I also took the canvas that I had wrapped around the tree in Santo Domingo de La Calzada. And I also worked on two other smaller paintings, one in tones of blue and the other in green. For the first time I worked on the Road with fire. I left these pictures there for one night.
SANTO DOMINGO DE LA CALÇADA
We stayed several nights in Santo Domingo. On the first night it continued to snow so heavily that the next day Orietta and Acácio were marooned in their village.
We went down to where I had left the long canvas with the story of the Saint in the dry river-bed. We tried to find it, but gave up because the snow kept falling.
Then we decided to make a picture with the snow that would fall during the night, so I rolled another canvas around a tree and we stretched the stick to mark the creases, just like we do in a woodcut. This was deep integration between work, snow, cold and nature.
The strong energy of that moment made Paula and me feel nothing else besides the effort made by working for three hours in the cold, with the snow falling on top of us.
The next day I returned with Acácio to try to retrieve the canvas in the river. It had stopped snowing, and with him it was easy to find the picture.
The canvas had a different material from the others that I had used up till then, and although I had worked with several materials, this had never happened before. The whole part of the canvas that I had painted peeled off like bark, leaving only the cloth, and leaving me deeply disappointed.
To make up for that, the other paintings that I had left out for the snow to work on, plus the one I had wrapped around the tree, turned out magnificent.
We went to Viloria de Rioja, where Acácio and Orietta have a hostel, and where I had also left five paintings. Despite the snow, it was an easy place to dig them up.
I feel that my pictures seek energy from the earth, just as we feel when we do cundaline exercises and feel the earth’s energy rising through our feet and hands and passing through our body. The energy of the Great Mother.
Camino de Santiago, November-December 2007
Today I find myself here again in Cebreiro, 17 years later.
I love this place, for it was here that Paulo found his sword. This is where the transubstantiation of bread into flesh and wine into blood took place.
I left a heart here, near a stone wall, and the other paintings further ahead. In front of these paintings stands a wall with two letters and a book between the stones. I also left another eight paintings buried, worked with leaves and shells, and another three inside a bush, untouched, because it rains and snows here, so I want to see how this will interfere with the blank canvases.
Yesterday I was in León and made arrangements for four exhibitions: one there, another in Astorga, then Ponferrada and Bembibre.
On 29 November I was in Puente la Reina, where I unearthed the painting I had done in a field of sunflowers. And I also left six more with flowers and shells, which I plan to dig up in May.
Tomorrow, God willing, I reach Santiago.
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