Alchemical Colours and the Dirt

Fifteenth century alchemical process followed a sequence of colour changes as the work progressed. Black (nigredo), White (albedo), Yellow (citrinitis) and Red (rubedo).

Now coloured, the flags in the landscape indicate that this is an alchemical image, with a blue one at the centre of the cross representing the quintessence.

The eponymous character demonstrates her mastery of the elements and understanding of the organization of the natural world, much like Della Porta’s description of a Magician in his book “Natural Magic”.

“I think that Magick is nothing else but the survey of the whole course of nature, for whilst we consider the heavens, the stars, the elements, how they are moved, and how they are changed, by this means we find out the hidden secrets of living creatures, of plants, of metals and of their generation and corruption; so that this whole science seems merely to depend upon the view of nature.”

2, Porta, John Baptista. Natural Magic. London, 1658. Kessinger Facsimile edition.

I’ve glazed the foreground mud landscape with a mix of Olive Green and  Van Dyke Brown, deliberately making the colours shift in density and colour to create a vibrant surface. I ragged off much of the paint so the base coat of sandy brown came through, making the surface deeper and quite complex. I think one more layer should do it. In the process of ragging the paint I came across a great method of making grassy patterns that I can use later in other works. It’s important to mentally file away little tricks and techniques that you notice while working, even if they aren’t useful in the work you’re doing when you find them.

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
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