After last week’s post about Wilfried Sätty‘s illustrated Poe, I thought I’d follow it up with this 1970 interview from Man, Myth & Magic, a part-work publication which built weekly into a seven-volume “illustrated encyclopedia of the occult”. In the back of each issue there was a two-page feature, Frontiers of Belief, usually featuring more topical material, and issue 36 had Sätty as its subject. The interview captures him just after he’d been building his reputation as one of San Francisco’s psychedelic poster artists and just before the book collections of his collage work started to appear. The description of his working methods inevitably plays up the occult associations but helps to give a little insight into the artist. The first two pictures here are from the published article to which I added a couple of the album covers he produced in the 1970s. There’s also a poster for an exhibition with friend and fellow artist David Singer whose lettering adorned many of Sätty’s posters.
A note about Sätty’s name: he was known as Wilfried Podriech when he came to America but changed his name to Sätty thereafter. This surname is often reproduced without an umlaut over the “a” which I regard as an error. When Jay Babcock, Richard Pleuger and I visited David Singer to discuss Sätty’s work (and see some of Singer’s own) we were informed that Sätty’s adopted name was intended to be reminiscent of the Egyptian Pharaohonic name Seti. The umlaut over the “a” gives the pronunciation setty; without it would be satty.
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ARTIST OF THE OCCULT by Robert W. Neubert
Alchemy can be a state of being according to Sätty, a German-born artist who now lives in San Francisco; and he believes that this concept can be extended to art. In his attempts to plumb the depths of the subconscious he makes use of his collection of occult works, including a 17th century alchemical text and a book of healing and magic published in 1648.
Blue and orange flames flicker from an ancient urn and throw dancing shadows about a dimly-lit subterranean chamber in San Francisco, California. Old, dark-hued tapestries hang from the walls and low ceiling, and occult art objects are crammed into every corner. Baroque harpsichord music filters through the incense-scented air.
Descending a wooden ladder into the nearly black chamber is a tall, lanky man with flowing brown hair, a dark blue Western-styled shirt, and grey flared slacks. He carries under his arm a mystical-looking montage he has recently created and run off on a lithograph press.
The montage is in poster form, and it is a haunting collection of Renaissance and medieval themes, incredible in its intensity, colour and creativity.
Sätty photographed for Man, Myth & Magic (1970).
The artist is Sätty, a German-born montage-maker with a dream—a dream of plumbing the depths of the subconscious by utilizing alchemy and mysticism in his work.
Alchemy is essential to his creativity, he says. But the 31-year-old artist’s definition of alchemy has a broader meaning than the classic textbook definition of transmuting base metals into gold. He is one of the first non-commercial poster makers, and his work far transcends the psychedelic art used to advertise San Francisco rock and roll dances.
“Alchemy can be a state of being,” he says. “There is such a thing as visual or intellectual or artistic alchemy. The undeveloped mind may be considered akin to lead, the fully-realized mind as gold. And the same is true of art. Much of contemporary art is lead.”