The Arms of the Art


The Arms of the Art (2000).

An addendum to the Splendor Solis post. The Arms of the Art was a drawing I did in 2000 intended to inaugurate a series of pencil improvisations based on the Splendor Solis alchemical plates. As things turned out I only managed the first in the series (the picture it uses as a starting point is here) and about half of the second one which is languishing in a pad somewhere. Nothing in this drawing was planned or sketched beforehand, it was all done directly onto the paper, the idea being that I’d take the basic symbols or elements of each plate as a starting point and see what emerged once I began moving the pencil around. What usually emerges in these situations is a kind of abstracted landscape of hybrid forms that could be either mineral, organic or something in between. Some of the paintings I was doing in the 1990s followed a similar process, the challenge being to see how far you can develop things without the result becoming either too pictorial or too abstract; the painting below is an earlier example. I still like the idea of re-interpreting the Splendor Solis, and if I didn’t have other projects in progress I might be prepared to try it again. Maybe later.


Eidolon (1997).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Splendor Solis

5 thoughts on “The Arms of the Art”

  1. Hopefully you ‘do’ try it later, I really like that one.

    I have my doubts as to what degree this actually exists with people claiming to have done it and since you made no such claims, I’ll just assume that this isn’t, but it reminds me very much of what is usually pegged as automatic art, which I very often like.

    I can accept Spare’s notions of it, because he was so far out there relative to what most try to do in art. I hear others, also talented, talking about their art being automatic, yet in discussing it, they clearly have some significant degree of recollection actually doing it. How on earth then can it truly be automatic?

    Nevertheless, I like that kind of art very much and this reminds me of it.

  2. Thanks everyone.

    Wiley: I’ve never really tried automatic art, I always prefer to be directing the outcome. With automatism (which is a Surrealist as well as an occult process) you’re trying to evade the conscious mind entirely. That’s possible up to a point but you’re still subject to whatever technical ability you possess, and very often the hand wants to retreat to performing familiar exercises, as with Nick’s comment about doodling skulls. You see this even with Picasso in the Clouzot documentary Le Mystère Picasso. There’s a sequence where they have Picasso doing improvised painting on a sheet of glass. What emerges in that instance is the kind of things Picasso tended to draw over and over: horses, bulls and so on, what you might call his default images.

    If you want a chance element to provide the impetus for a drawing it’s easier to make a lot of random marks at the very beginning then slowly build those up into something substantial by interpreting them. This is a process the Surrealists also used, Max Ernst especially, with the frottage and decalcomania techniques. Few people are aware that Aubrey Beardsley often used to work the same way, covering the paper with a mass of fine pencil squiggles which he’d then draw over in ink. Many of my Lovecraft pictures used these kinds of techniques as a means of avoiding a calculated approach to something that was supposed to be chaotic and unearthly.

  3. John: I’ve noticed that with a lot of your Lovecraft pictures. This quality, actually even more so than the fact that they are Lovecraftian in aesthetic, is what I find so striking about them. I remember in an interview you had with EsoTerra, you said about a few specific artists, Spare I remember being one of, whose works exude an atmosphere of ‘other-ness’. Works of yours carried out in this style, resembling while not necessarily being automatic art, are very strong in this ‘other-ness’ arena.

Comments are closed.

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading