Monday, 4 February 2013

Indoor Flowers

   This place is heavy with hyacinth scent; the days are stretching; sometimes the sun even shines a little.  On Saturday it was Chandeleur and so we held our coins and flipped our crêpes, to see if we could win ourselves a bit of fortune by following the odd old customs that coax magic from the calendar.  But the extra light and smell of spring flowers that are scattered about the windowsills and tables here are maybe magic enough. This time of year feels so alive.

   The other day I was quite surprised, though perhaps wrongly so, when I came across the above image, a manuscript illumination, from Splendor Solis.  It is a depiction of the alchemical symbol of the hermaphrodite, which stands for the union of opposites.  Here it brings forth a disk symbolizing the four elements, and an egg, which contains the fifth element of aether or quintessence.  In it I recognized quite a lot of similarities to the armoured, haloed and winged maquette that I made last year for Clive Hicks-Jenkins' delightful maquette show.

   My fascination with this striking old alchemical depiction, so strange and familiar at the same time, was then tempered somewhat by another discovery that also verged on this old idea as well.  I coincidentally began to read about the poignant art and personal history of Forrest Bess who pursued the ideal of the hermaphrodite in his life and art to quite an extreme and rather heartbreaking end.  Why these strange intersections of art and alchemy should appear to me at once is difficult to imagine.  It will seem even stranger, I am sure, in a short while when the print that I have been working on, that has been forever underway it seems, finally comes to light.    


  1. tease! i can't wait to see this print. it's exciting when all these things of similar ilk come towards you at once, it feels like a sign you're on the right track to something.
    i'm so happy to see these maquettes again, and very very excited to see where they are leading you.

  2. hehe I'm grinning over Zoe calling you a tease and I agree how wonderful it can be when happenchance steps in with new discoveries on a topic that is occupying our thoughts. Looking forward to the light falling upon your print.

  3. That IS interesting!! And now I am quite curious about the print you are working on...

    I'm needing more snow outside... but ready to bring a few blooms inside to hold my dreams of sprouting and becoming.

  4. Living in a place of eternal summer, you must take my word that windowsill hyacinths are far sweeter.We are moving north for just that experience. such a lovely thing, flowers wintering indoors.
    Your winged creature, a favorite, certainly bears a striking similarity to his/her illuminated cousin. You are right, there is something deeply familiar about the figures .
    Will need to look into the artist you mentioned .
    Looking forward to your new print.

  5. Sorry, I didn't mean to be a tease! It just occurred to me that if post came right before the one about the new print (which, it turns out, will be the case) it would dominate everyone's interpretation of the next print. That would be fine, of course, just it wasn't my intention.

    Thanks everyone for sharing some interest in these strange little coincidences and windowsill flower love!

    You know I was just looking at the blog of someone from L.A. and they had a table set with mimosas and other wonderful flowers and they were giving recipes for mole sauce and all of it looked *so* wonderful. I love seasons, and northern places, but how charming light and warmth and bright colours can be!
    When are you moving? That's so exciting!

  6. I am so glad that your comment today has led me back to this post - for days afterwards, I thought about dualities and imagined what the hermaphrodite means (I'd imagined something like Plato's account in the Symposium of a man/woman in union)- and I'd meant to look into it further (which I hope now to do). Some symbols are so fertile for the imagination... In any case I wanted to stop by 'in person' to thank you for the very kind words you left, and to wish you a happy, if belated, new year, too!