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Paintings Website of Lee James Pantas

Queen of the Reef, by Lee James Pantas

Painting #6 Queen of the Reef

Prints available at artist's website

Fantasy Biology

Liza's Reef, coral reef artThis painting, Queen of the Reef (Reine du Recif), the sixth in the Liza's Reef series, is  my personal favorite and it captures  the enchanting beauty of the reef , shimmering and luminescent in the evening twilight, a magical place of sublime colors, cascading corals  and exotic life forms. 

Liza's Reef, coral reef artThe most exquisite fish I saw on the reef was the Ange De la Reine (Queen Angel). It is similar to other Queen Angelfish found throughout the South Pacific, but with a couple of very real differences. This species, according to the islanders, has the unusual chameleon-like ability of changing colors from its normal blue and green to purple and pink. The VanuaSemians insists it occurs  and is always connected to events that happen on the island rather than from  environmental cues.   They believe that  the Anges De la Reine are sympathetic to joyful things that happen to the people of the island -when they fell in love, when babies were born, when  festivals occurred and so on. That somehow the fish is connected in spirit with the islanders and this colorful metamorphosis is the result of that unity. Because of that, it had been given the highest status of all of the animals on the reef, and its image was used often in their sacred art.

Liza's Reef, coral reef artAnother unique characteristic of the  Liza's Reef Queen Angels are the presence on their foreheads of  a singular mark that matches the bright yellow color of their tail fins. Ra'miere said these small circular markings were a sign of great blessing and told me that these indicated the  fish were extremely important to Motu Mana, their Goddess of the Coral Reefs. Along those same lines, many cultures and religions throughout history, especially those of Egypt, China and India,  have portrayed marks like this as "third", all-seeing omniscient eyes, or as  symbols of vision and  spiritual development. Interestingly enough, from an artist's standpoint, yellow has always been used as a color that  symbolizes spirituality. It is, along with blue, one of  the most spiritual of all colors. In any event, these anterior marks seem to be distinguishing taxonomic characteristics of this species of Angelfish and are found on no other.

Liza's Reef, coral reef art

Liza's Reef, coral reef artA central mystery surrounding Liza's Reef is the  presence of miniature celestial phenomena that hover among the corals -planets, moons, comets, stars and galaxies that can be  seen by anyone who goes there. However, and this may be a clue to their nature, when approached closely within a few feet, they disappear. Ephemeral yet appearing to be solid, they are  completely unexplainable from  a scientific standpoint. The island legends of the Manuia tradition  do offer  an explanation nevertheless, and tell of how the reef changed overnight when shooting stars fell on it years ago, and link this genesis event directly to the stars that now crown the coral.

Liza's Reef, coral reef art

In my painting,  I have shown some of the bright  yellow and orange perforate corals that are so present on the reef. These are called   Corail de la Lumière de Soirée or Coral of the Evening Light by the VanuaSemians and they seemed to be everywhere on the reef. Their brilliant colors were easily seen from great distances, and give the reef at times a luminous supernatural appearance, especially at sunset.