Mixed Media Hermetic Paintings by Betsy Block

Betsy Block is a Rhode Island artist working in the Hermetic Tradition. This tradition concerns the metaphysical and mysterious inner nature of matter as first described by the ancient alchemists, such as the legendary Hermes Trismegistus, whose name derives from the Greek equivalent of Mercury, god of messages and things hidden. In the art of this tradition since medieval times, there exists an underlying symbolism in its objects and the movement of its figures, meant to secretly convey the procedures and formulae used to effect the transformation of matter from base metals to precious ones. Each step of the process actually represents the cycle of life itself -- from its reproduction by previous states of being, to the birth of a new Form, through the process of maturation of the element, to reach ripeness, then death and dissolution.

"’Alchemy provides a kind of anatomy of individuation’," Block quotes from Jungian psychoanalyst Edward Edinger. "’It’s images will be most meaningful to those who have had a personal experience of the unconscious.’ The entire alchemical process could well represent the individuation process of the single individual, though no individual ever attains to the richness and scope of that symbolism.’"

"Nobody taught me about these principles at school," says Block about herself. "And no one gave me any clues about the possible meaning of these objects that appeared in my paintings, as if they came from a dream fully formed. Later, I discovered the writings and engravings of the Hermetic scientists that spoke to me with strikingly similar ideas. Not a single detail is meaningless, the chthonic images correspond to another timeless dimension, which we may find deep within ourselves."

"A lot of what I do comes out of conflict. It’s the way for me to work it out and ultimately resolve it. I consider myself the medium. This Darkness, darker than darkness, is the first sign that one is on the right path: the alchemical aphorism says: ‘No generation without corruption.’ I refer to my technique as palimpsest -- having diverse layers apparent beneath the surface. Along with tempera and oil paints, I use
found objects like eggshells, hair, and bones."


The York Square Cinema Gallery

Exhibition: August 4 - September 1, 2001

   Gallery curator, Johnes Ruta, (203) 387-4933, azothgallery@comcast.net

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