Trump L'Oeil: Tarot of Portmeirion
Imagine a well-shuffled Tarot deck formulating the blueprint for an eccentric village, every picture unfolding into picturesque architecture, every background transforming into real ground, every portent a literal signpost. The idiosyncratic coastal village of Portmeirion, Wales is exactly such a place—a Tarot deck made manifest in mortar and gold leaf. Around one corner, a statue of a cherubic Fool stands blithely on the edge of a rocky precipice. Down another path, the World sits atop the shoulders of a Hercules statue, while the God-Empress Frigga looks on. Elsewhere, St. Peter pontificates from a balcony like a true Hierophant, in the shadow of a soaring Italianate Tower. Taken together, the assorted facets of Portmeirion are eerily like an elaborate spread of divinatory cards—an esoteric pop-up book of sorts in which all the archetypes interrelate in three dimensions.
With its structures cascading down a lofty cliffside, the village’s winding, stepped paths of varying elevations provide innumerable vantage points to study the relative iconic connections. Archetypes may be adjacent or separate, above or below one another, all depending upon one’s standpoint. The village can be viewed as one elaborate allegorical story, told from multiple perspectives. As Tarot scholar L. W. De Laurence noted, allegory and symbol are inclusive of all nations and times. Hence, “the cards correspond to many types of ideas and things; they are universal and not particular.” As Portmeirion is a pastiche of architecture and ornaments from different cultures and eras, it’s a uniquely perfect setting for the Tarot archetypes to spring into life.
Like all works of art, the statues, paintings, and architecture of Portmeirion find their meanings in the beholder’s interpretation. Is the concrete planter emblazoned with a relief of a trident-wielding King Neptune a reflection of the King of Cups? Do the two Balinese dancers atop Ionic columns in the piazza epitomize the Two of Wands? Visitors must come to their own terms, according to the context of their situation and the call of intuition. This project is a proposed representation of the Tarot at play within Portmeirion, to serve as an inspiration to the unconventional traveler eager to read the signs and portents all around.
PRAISE FOR TRUMP L'OEIL: TAROT OF PORTMEIRION
“Excellent and stylish.”
“Step into another world of tarot, literally. A truly unique Tarot deck from a truly unique individual.”
“The architecture and ornamentation of Portmeirion solidifies into a delightful three-dimensional Tarot, thanks to the quirky vision of Craig Conley.”
“Not since Ciro Marchetti’s ‘Tarot of Dreams’ have I seen such an imaginative project, and so well presented. . . . A great deck for collectors, or for those that already have a solid Tarot base. This deck could easily be used for readings or meditation. It definitely opens up your mind!”
“Life sometimes brings us very pleasant surprises. . . . The deck itself is stunning. . . . Step out of your world for a few moments, and visit the world of Portmeirion!”
“Sometimes one muses on themes around which no one has yet created a tarot—a snake tarot, a drolleries tarot, an interplanetary and so on. But over the weekend I heard of a new tarot which I could never, even in my more expansive flights of fancy, have imagined—a Tarot of Portmeirion. To many people the word ‘Portmeirion’ will mean nothing, but they will, as soon as they see photographs, nevertheless immediately recognise this village constructed down a cliffside on the coast of North Wales. It is a wonderful folly of eccentric architecture created from 1925 onwards by the Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis. Well known as a tourist site in Britain, it came to international prominence through being the setting for the 1967 surrealistic television series The Prisoner which starred Patrick McGoohan. Now Craig Conley has created a tarot deck based on his photographs of architectural features from Portmeirion. In the world of tarot someone always trumps one's imagination by invisaging a deck which one could never have thought up oneself.”
“I love that a village can be so saturated with archetypal symbolism that Tarot images (as the author and photographer says) ‘pop up’ as one wanders through it. It is not unusual for me to see Tarot images as I go about my daily life, but all 78 and all clustered in one place? Delightful, delicious, delovely! As to how these Portmeirion images work as a Tarot deck? Quite well, I believe, though some knowledge of Tarot might be helpful. Unless one reads very intuitively, then this deck would work absolutely fine. Each [photograph] seems clearly suitable as a Tarot image, yet at the same time offers something unique.”
“The set of cards is very detailed, imaginative, and features some lovely images of Portmeirion.”
“The Tarot deck is well made. The photographs for each of the Major Arcana and the four suits are striking. The book that accompanies the deck is engaging and fun to read.”
“I have just been reviewing the companion book for Craig Conley’s “Trump L’Oeil: Tarot of Portmeirion”. I love the deck, which is based on the eccentric village of Portmeirion in Wales. The art, statues and architecture in this village are a fantasy world of thier own — every turn, every corner brings something unexpected. The companion book offers full-color photos for all 78 cards, along with a short interpretation for the Major Arcana cards. The really unique thing about this book is that each card is based on a particular structure or piece of art within the village, and a map that locates the art is included with each card. It is possible to visit this village; with this book, it is also possible to locate the inspiration for each card.”
About the Author
Craig Conley is a magic enthusiast and scholar. Recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation,” his intensive and eccentric research has led him to compile a true masterwork entitled Magic Words: A Dictionary. He has also authored One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, among other strange and unusual lexicons, and is a regular columnist for Pentacle magazine. Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size.
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