Emergence

Emergence

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Acrylic on board, 18" x 24", framed under glass.

A symbol which can be defined in words is no longer a symbol.

Coincidence is the superstition of the scientific mind.

The title of the painting is reminiscent of Mesoamerican mythology and the seven caves of emergence, from which the first humans ascended to the surface, leaving their origins inside the earth.

The main image for the painting ‘Emergence’ is taken from an alchemical manuscript illumination from ‘Splendor Solis’, text by Saloman Trismosin, 1582. There are 22 paintings depicting the chemical and spiritual quest for the philosophers’ stone. Although I cannot begin to explain the intended meaning of these images, I find them and all alchemical lore to be,quite frankly, fascinating. The image on card #8 shows a patchwork style red,white and black male figure, emerging from a muddy stream or morass. He is about to be greeted by a golden crowned and winged angel holding a red robe or towel. A vast pastoral distance is implied in the background; the image is framed by an arch, and animals, birds and flowers are portrayed in the golden border.

As I studied this scene, a different interpretation strongly occurred to me, to make the image of the man all red, and rising from a red pool.

I decided to follow this inclination, and to add other elements that seemed to complement the original idea. All the constituent parts of this tableau are images that I find compelling on their own, and I alter their meanings (implied or intuited) by juxtaposing them in different combinations.

The inverted tree is an alchemical symbol- its roots are in the air, partaking of heavenly sustenance. "Psychologically, the inverted tree symbolizes the unfolding of the soul, the expansion of consciousness", (from a ‘Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery’, by Lyndy Abraham).

Other alchemical elements include the sun surrounded by stars and the uroborous and clouds, the basic design of which I saw in a diagram. I added the snake eating its’ own tail- a symbol of infinity, among other things – it just looked right. Also, the alchemical tree, 12 moon faces surmounted by sun, another encountered illustration which I found intriguing.

The violets in the bushes around the red pool are a reference to Attis, the dying god and consort of the Goddess Cybele. The pine tree is also among his imagery.

The red pool is reminiscent of blood, although not depicted specifically. It reminds me of Odysseus and the blood pool he used to contact the dead. Red is symbolic of life- in China, it is an auspicious color used for wedding dresses and new years’ gift giving envelopes. I find it powerfully evocative of creation and renewal.

The frog and cup motif is my own creation. Frogs are amphibians, living in both water and on land, and as such are poignant environmental barometers. Mutations and decline in the frog populations are indicative of environmental degradation.

The white coffee cup is a modern interpretation of the mythological cup, chalice, vessel, Celtic cauldron of immortality, and Holy Grail. It is also a symbol of water, elixir, the emotional and intuitive, and abundance.

The idea for the combination of these two images and the implied action is completely intuitive.

Generally, all the other elements are aspects of renewal, transformation and regeneration. Solve et Coagula, dissolve and coagulate, separate and combine- this is the basis of alchemy, an outline of my creative process, and a description of the origins of this painting.