Myth and mystery

John Farrugia’s Egyptian art explores ancient myth and modern-day mystery

John Farrugia at Esoteric.

John Farrugia at Esoteric.

Photo By David Robert

In 1997, John Farrugia traveled to Egypt, touring over a dozen temples. While there, he took photos of scenes and symbols etched on walls deep inside the temples, not anticipating that, once back home, he would paint his own vibrant, colorful versions of Egyptian art.

These pieces, along with a handful of Farrugia’s earlier landscape works, are now on display at Esoteric Coffeehouse and Gallery. Farrugia’s art creates bridges between a modern Western culture and an ancient East, of which we still have a relatively infant understanding.

“It helps me understand my life now—this life we’re living—[an understanding] I can’t get from anywhere else,” he says. “There’s a big story behind the story we’ve been presented.”

Farrugia, a Maine native who now teaches fifth grade at Agnes Risley Elementary School, became interested in ancient Egyptian culture through his studies in metaphysics. He is intrigued by the connections that ancient Egypt seemed to have with planetary bodies and “off-planet groups” and by their fascination with life beyond the tomb.

“The Egyptians really understood life, passing and that you move from this life to other realities, other dimensions of reality,” he says. “They were very much focused on death in what I would say is a constructive way.”

One of Farrugia’s paintings is a rendering of the scarab beetle, an insect that buries its eggs in a “pile of dung,” so that new life arises out of the refuse.

“The scarab beetle is a really great example of that [life/death cycle],” he says. “It’s really a beautiful symbol. It’s a sacred symbol … that from death and destruction, life comes.”

Farrugia’s “Trinity” portrays the resurrection of Osiris. The painting’s interior panel, which depicts the resurrection, is framed by a clouded night sky. This sky scene was actually inspired by the skies in Nevada—a place that “in many ways looks like Egypt,” he says. Between the clouds are two luminous dots, signifying Orion’s belt. Farrugia says that Egypt seemed to have a peculiar connection to certain planetary systems, a connection that was stronger and stranger than mere astronomical curiosity.

“They were very much connected to Orion," Farrugia says. "They had an extremely advanced understanding of astronomy. … It really does give definition to what’s going on now, who we are as a species and what we’re doing."