Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Alchemical Furnace

These paintings were inspired by the powerful and wonderfully weird alchemical engravings of the 17th century, as well as my interest in Carl Jung’s work on the subject. The act of figurative painting itself is alchemy—mixing pigments with oils and making an image designed to trick the eye and seduce the viewer.  Although the bulk of these works use Northern Renaissance engravings as a starting point, their process is contemporary; the application of paint is immediate and expressive, and the colours are hallucinatory and strong. They are painted from a blending of my imagination and found images collaged together with my own photoshoots, largely with intimates and close friends. These works are a dreamscape fraught with the tension of self-transformation, and the sense that the characters themselves are about to wake. The themes of gender, sexuality as well as personal stories also help bring the subject into the 21st century.

To the mystics, alchemy was not about turning base metal into literal gold. It was about transcending the lower nature or using it as a catalyst for the transfiguration of the self. It was about self-realization, or psychological wholeness, as expounded by Jung. The nigredo, or blackening, is a stage of the alchemical process which is about death and decay, the shadow and the dark period which necessarily must come before the light can break, while the rubedo stage, the reddening, is when the impurities begin to be burned away through the heat of fire. In alchemy, Mercury, or the red man, is often present for this part of the process. The albedo, whitening, is when purification occurs—often shown in my work as a bride—and the final stage is citrinitas, the yellowing, when the gold emerges. With this stage comes the alchemist’s gold and goal, but this body of work celebrates the process of life in all stages, the individual’s part in self-creation, and the role of the artist as maker and thaumaturge, or alchemist. 

In this body of work, the characters are largely transpersonal and archetypal, often mythical. Feelings of sexual tension and danger are often present in my work, for they represent the powers and forces which drive us to create, the generative power which brings transformation and renewal. These dream-like narratives reveal the various incarnations of the many-faceted self. 

My project is a collection of works bringing the ideas behind alchemy into a contemporary light, full of hallucinatory colour and psychological implications. While the women in my paintings are nude, they are not sex objects, far from it, they are powerful, self-actualized women in process of transformation. They are open, free, growing and in tune with their sexuality, or whatever they wish to express. For me, in painting the purpose is the process, the joy of creation and discovery, traces of energy and life. It can be as simple as that. I want to create paintings that are as mysterious and puzzling as life is. My wish is for the viewer to be intrigued by the images, to enjoy their mystery and to potentially revel in seeing new aspects to them as long as they care to look.