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.