Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Sacred Union


I've written about Agostino Arrivabene before, here and here, and his work still has a somewhat preternatural hold on me. Perhaps it's because he uses some of the same obsessions in his work that I use in my own: Eleusinian Mysteries ( The rituals performed to honor the phases of Demeter &Persephone), Alchemy, Psychological Alchemy, amongst others, as well as how he considers his paintings to be a "room of curiosities" a kinship I feel in regards to my own work.... strange objects culled from personal travels: whether these sojourns have been to other countries/ cultures, or whilst diving into the shadow self, emerging with a jar filled with opposites: light & dark. 

There is so much below the surface of his works that snare me... &; then there are the works themselves, created using ancient techniques. Agostino actually grinds raw pigments to make his own paint and uses the outmoded technique of mischtechnik ( layers of egg tempera mixed with oil paint in this case ) to create luminous, translucent layers. The surfaces of his work have this amazingly visceral quality that is hard to decipher in photographs, something I feel adds to the physical presence of the work as an object.  

The title of this new body of work is 'Hierogamy', which opens on March 3rd in NYC at Cara Gallery,  has roots in Alchemy as well as in ancient fertility rituals in the Middle East, Greece, India etc. In these rituals, the 'sacred marriage' is either a symbolic or sexual union between a man and a woman as stand ins for the God & Goddess. In these rituals, the pair are 'purified', a feats is had, and then the union takes place in nocturnal secret. The next day, celebrations for the union "which guarantees the fertility of the land, the prosperity of the community, and the continuation of the cosmos" occur. (1) In Alchemical terms, "Hierogamy recalls the Alchemic myth of the Hermaphrodite, namely the being that encapsulates all, an entity that encompasses everything."(2) The union between the sacred opposites of male and female in alchemy is essentially the ultimate phase of the work, known as the 'chymical wedding' resulting in 'the philosopher's stone.'

Certainly there is a lot of transformation going on in Agostino's work, a merging with nature, a merging with another to produce transformation, conjured with regards to both application and dark beauty. I'm excited to see this body of work in person.

1. Footnote source. 
2. Footnote source. 

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