Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Avis Alchemicus" Series

This series is about alchemical transformation, a fascinating process. I had always thought it was merely about trying to turn things into gold and get rich quick (and occasionally it was). But, not only was alchemy a forerunner of modern chemistry, it was a deeply spiritual practice. A great book on the subject is Max Ernst and Alchemy: A Magician In Search Of Myth, by M. E. Warlick. Jung has also written on the subject, and modern scholars interpret alchemy as a process of psychological growth and transformation.

For the series, I started by finding some scraps of wood, meant to be discarded, and set about to transform (alchemy is all about transformation) them into something of beauty and meaning. These four wood blocks came with a table I purchased--they were inserted for packing purposes and intended to be thrown away.

Each of the four paintings embodies a different color, and each color represents one of the four stages of alchemical transformation. The four stages are listed below, with brief descriptions:

  • nigredo, blackening (putrefaction): corruption, dissolution. I mixed the paint with ash in this image to represent the burnt-out nature of the beginning of this process. Starting out with nothing, but with the beginnings of a trail (the red string) we can follow all the way to perfection.
  • albedo, whitening: purification, burnout of impurity; the moon, female. I represented this with a white egret in moonlight. A little bit of ash remains in the paint.
  • citrinitas, yellowing: spiritualization, enlightenment; the sun, male. The goldfinch lives among thorns and hardship, but it's yellow gold light indicates it's proximity to divine Light. The background here is painted with gold.
  • rubedo, reddening: unification of man with god, unification of the limited with the unlimited. The red cardinal appears in average daylight. Achieving unity and health allows one to live more fully in the divine light of the everyday world.

It's a beautiful sequence of spiritual growth, and one that resonates with me. 

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