Alchemy and After
Painting’s secret ambition is to conjure the immaterial from the material, rendering non-visible worlds visible. In this, artists are like alchemists, transforming materials to invoke higher realities and reveal new worlds-within-worlds. But today’s “alchemy” is mostly about technology; science is no longer linked to magic or the spiritual significance that alchemists once found in nature and the elements. The natural world has long lost its enchantment and its meaning. Modern humanity, along with the chemistry of the planet itself, is beginning to register the damages caused by a purely materialistic worldview addicted to commercialism.
These paintings were created using liquefied coal tar (a by-product of oil refining) combined with shredded gold leaf. I think of the tar as the ultimate base matter, or “prima materia” in alchemists’ terms: dark, toxic, pulling things down into dissolution and decay – as well as a signifier for industrialization and the fossil fuels that drive it. In the gold I see the opposite – a precious, relatively “pure” metal invested with spiritual overtones – and paradoxically a fitting symbol of the commercialization of nature as well. The titles are adapted from esoteric and alchemical texts including Eliphas Levi’s Doctrine and Ritual of Transcendental Magic (1856).
I hope this work evokes dynamic forces of darkness and light, dissolution and rebirth.
My goal is to transmute our failure to transcend our flaws into a kind of equilibrated cosmic beauty, however raw, a beauty that both attracts and repels, like the materials themselves.
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Opening Reception FRIDAY, NOV. 5
Golden Pear, tar, oil on canvas 8×10 inches
Jacob’s Ladder, tar and gold leaf, 48″ x 24″
Earth (O darkness veiled by Splendor! Who Concealest the Marvellous Seeds of Stars!), 24″ tar on wood
Air (Whose breath gives and takes away the form of all things), 24″ tar and gold leaf on wood
Abraxas, 12″ diameter, tar and gold lead
Water (left), Fire (right), tar and gold leaf on wood, 12 inches
As Above, So Below, tar and gold leaf, approx.24″ x 8″
Burning Whaler, 36″ x 24,” oil and tar on canvas
Plunging Rose (top) 16″ x 8,” tar and oil on wood / State of Preservation (bottom) 8″ x 8,” tar, pine needles, oak leaves