The Art of the Occult

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Cover art: Group X, No. 1, Altarpiece (1915) by Hilma af Klint. Design by Paileen Currie.

A surprise arrival in today’s post, the occult art compendium by S. Elizabeth which I would have wanted to read even if it didn’t contain one of my pictures:

From theosophy and kabbalah, to the zodiac and alchemy; spiritualism and ceremonial magic, to the elements and sacred geometry – The Art of the Occult introduces major occult themes and showcases the artists who have been influenced and led by them. Discover the symbolic and mythical images of the Pre-Raphaelites; the automatic drawing of Hilma af Klint and Madge Gill; Leonora Carrington’s surrealist interpretation of myth, alchemy and kabbalah; and much more.

Most of the books I’ve seen on this subject have either been very general and in need of an update (Thames and Hudson’s venerable Magic: The Western Tradition) or exhibition catalogues which are never comprehensive and become increasingly hard to find since they don’t get reprinted. The Art of the Occult is an ideal introduction to the subject for the curious reader, as well as being a useful overview for the aficionado (or initiate) which spans several hundred years of art and illustration, from the earliest occult manuscripts to contemporary works. Occult art is a house with many mansions, a form which can encompass photo-realism, Symbolism, Surrealism or total abstraction without the definition breaking down. The Art of the Occult contains a satisfyingly wide range of examples, 200 in all, and includes many artists whose work I hadn’t seen before. It also reinforces the origin of abstract art in occult concerns, a lineage that went unmentioned for many years by critics who couldn’t accept that their beloved “pure” idiom was tainted by mysticism.

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My piece is a portrait of the serpent-haired Abyzou, one of the Solomonic demons I depicted for The Demons of King Solomon in 2017. The picture was one of the better representations in a series I would have preferred to have more time to work on. I was pleased to see my contribution facing one of Elijah Burgher’s sigil drawings; I like Burgher’s art so he makes a good companion. This is the first and maybe the only book where my name is listed in an index between Pamela Colman Smith and Aleister Crowley.

The Art of the Occult will be published by White Lion Publishing on 13th of October, just in time for the annual spook-fest.

Update: Haute Macabre has a new post by S. Elizabeth showing more pages from the book’s interior plus the opportunity to win a copy.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Demons of King Solomon
Typefaces of the occult revival
The art of Frieda Harris, 1877–1962
The art of Fay Pomerance, 1912–2001
Songs for the Witch Woman
Wilfried Sätty: Artist of the occult
The art of Scott Treleaven

Weekend links 531

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Cover art by Ian Miller, 1979.

• Ray Bradbury was born 100 years ago today. Emily Temple expresses surprise that Truman Capote encouraged the publication of a Bradbury short story at Mademoiselle in 1946. I’m more surprised that Bradbury was paid $400 for his work; no wonder he was so eager to write for the non-genre magazines. Elsewhere: Ray Bradbury—The Illustrated Man: the BBC’s Omnibus arts strand profiled Bradbury in 1980 with enthusiastic assistance (narrating/reading/performing) from the man himself; Ray Bradbury book and magazine covers at Flickr.

Anna Smith asks whether Linda Fiorentino was the greatest femme fatale ever in The Last Seduction (1994). A substantial claim, especially for a neo-noir playing so self-consciously with the theme, but it’s a very good film, and one I’d like to see again.

• “Bad as a work of art, and morally bad…” Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita being reviewed by Kingsley Amis, a writer who preferred the peerless prose and stainless morals of Ian Fleming. Dan Sheehan looks at other contemporary reactions to Nabokov’s novel.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Mary Ellen Bute Day, and (how could I avoid it?) ClicketyClack presents…Brothers Quay Day.

• More from The Art of the Occult: S. Elizabeth offers a glimpse of the contents of her forthcoming book.

• Make the letter bigger: John Boardley on the development of the illuminated capital.

• In 1987 Anne Billson talked to Nicolas Roeg about his latest film, Castaway.

• Five controversial arthouse features from Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono.

• It’s that group again: Joe Banks on the strange world of Hawkwind.

C82: Works of Nicholas Rougeux.

Fahrenheit 451 (1982) by Hawkwind | Something Wicked This Way Comes (1996) by Barry Adamson | The Martian Chronicles (2007) by Dimension X

Weekend links 523

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One of Ian Miller‘s drawings from the illustrated edition of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, 1979.

• “I always said we were kind of an electronic punk band, really. We were never New Romantics, I don’t like it when we get lumped in with that.” Dave Ball of Soft Cell and The Grid talking to Duncan Seaman about his autobiography, Electronic Boy: My Life In and Out of Soft Cell. I’ll now be waiting impatiently for the unreleased Robert Fripp/Grid album to appear.

• “[Patricia] Highsmith’s writing—often eviscerating, always uncomfortable—has never been more relevant,” says Sarah Hilary.

• Ron Peck’s debut feature, Nighthawks (1978), is “a nuanced look at gay life in London,” says Melissa Anderson.

And then there are those figures who seem to flit around the edges of movements without ever being fully involved in any of them, who pursue their own eccentric paths no matter what is going on around them. These are the writers who make up the secret history of literature, the hidden history that’s not easily reduced to movements or trends, and who always waver on the verge of invisibility until you stumble by accident onto one of their books and realize how good they actually are, and wonder, Why wasn’t I told to read this before? But of course you already know the answer: You were not told because it doesn’t fit smoothly into the story those in authority made up about what literature is—it disrupts, it can’t be reduced to the literary equivalent of a meme.

That’s the kind of writer Pierre Klossowski (1905–2001) is. He is not a joiner. He has his own particular and often peculiar concerns, and pursues them. He does not particularly welcome you in. The content of his writing, too, has the feel of a gnostic text, as if you are reading something that, if only you were properly initiated, you would understand in a different way. In that sense his work has an esoteric or occult quality to it—and likewise in the sense that it returns again and again to the intersection of religion and pornography, the sacred and the profane.

Brian Evenson on The Suspended Vocation by Pierre Klossowski

• Chad Van Gaalen creates a psychedelic animation for Seductive Fantasy by the Sun Ra Arkestra.

• More sneak peeks from the forthcoming The Art Of The Occult by S. Elizabeth.

• More Robert Fripp: Richard Metzger on Fripp’s sui generis solo album, Exposure.

Pamela Hutchinson on the pleasures of David Lynch’s YouTube channel.

• Mix of the week: a second Jon Hassell tribute mix by Dave Maier.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Ferdinand presents…Dark Entries Day.

15 fascinating art documentaries to watch now.

Soft Power by Patten.

• RIP Milton Glaser.

hauntología

Aquarium (1992) by The Grid (with Robert Fripp) | Soft Power (2005) by Ladytron | The Martian Chronicles (2007) by Dimension X

Weekend links 509

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The Art of the Occult: A Visual Sourcebook for the Modern Mystic by S. Elizabeth. The book will be published in September by White Lion Publishing, and includes some work of mine.

• “The structure of the film as a memory palace consists of scenes intercutting different movies, depicting similar situations lived by the same actors in similar locations and, yes, similar sexual positions building over the course of its run-time.” Memory Palace: on Ask Any Buddy and the Golden Age of Gay Porn. Caden Mark Gardner writes on a kaleidoscopic, experimental archive piece of gay pornography. • Related: Paul P., the artist making dreamy paintings from vintage gay erotica.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Terry Southern The Magic Christian (1959), and Bill Hsu presents…High Anxiety: tense, dark films from 2010-2019 (for fans of Robert Aickman and Brian Evenson).

Green (1986) by Hiroshi Yoshimura, a welcome reissue of an album of minimal electronica. More green: The Green Fog by Guy Maddin has been on Vimeo for a while.

• Mixes of the week: Time is on our hands by Beautify Junkyards, and Textural Hominini Cognition by The Ephemeral Man.

• How John Waters and Mink Stole made Pink Flamingos, and Mink Stole on the inside story of John Waters’ greatest films.

Viktor Wynd: “I was offered a mummified arm—but I didn’t have €2,000 on me”.

• At Dangerous Minds: the solitary Surrealism of Gertrude Abercrombie.

Cats and Domino

Webcam in Italia

The Green Chinese Table (1988) by Seigen Ono | Green Water (1996) by Coil | Green Evil (1997) by Paul Schütze

Weekend links 372

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Battistero della Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo (2017) by Mattia Mognetti.

• “Mumbo Jumbo: a dazzling classic finally gets the recognition it deserves.” Jonathan McAloon on Ishmael Reed’s unique novel being reissued as a Penguin Modern Classic.

• Amanda Gefter talks to Donald D. Hoffman, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, about “the evolutionary argument against reality”.

• Geeta Dayal on composer Raymond Scott. A new compilation, Three Willow Park, collects more of Scott’s electronic music from the 1960s.

Nagle critiques the follies of campus identity politics and social media liberalism not from the right, but as a left-leaning feminist. As she elucidates point after reasonable point, it feels as if a grown-up has finally entered the room. Like Mark Fisher, the Marxist critic who was savaged by his putative comrades for decrying “the stench of bad conscience and witch-hunting moralism” of the online left, Nagle has no sympathy for Twitter/Tumblr liberalism’s “cult of fragility and victimhood mixed with a vicious culture of group attacks, group shaming, and attempts to destroy the reputations and lives of others”. It is reassuring to find a self-described feminist disdaining the “hysterical” liberal call-out culture, and acknowledging that it has produced “a breeding ground for an online backlash of irreverent mockery and anti-PC”. Without joining the forces of reaction or losing sight of the vileness of the alt-right, she writes of “the deep intellectual rot of contemporary political progressivism”; “the moral self-flattery of … a tired liberal intellectual conformity”; and “the hysteria and faux-politics of liberal Internet culture”.

Rob Doyle reviewing Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 501 by Ryan Elliott, and ReMelodiya vol. 1 by Laurent Fairon.

Sumit Paul-Choudhury on the slime mould instruments that make sweet music.

The Wire Salon: an audience with photographer and writer Val Wilmer.

Simon McCallum‘s list of 10 great lesser-known British LGBT films.

Zaria Gorvett on the ghostly radio station that no one claims to run.

S. Elizabeth reposted her Coilhouse interview with me from 2010.

• “Boys are selling sex in Japan. Who is buying?” Boys For Sale

• At Spoon & Tamago: Ando Tadao’s Hill of Buddha.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Gisèle Vienne Day.

Sun Ra is now on Bandcamp.

Shaolin Buddha Finger (1994) by Depth Charge | Atomic Buddha (1998) by Techno Animal | Psycho Buddha (2001) by Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.