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VITRIOL, 2015.  84.1cm x 178.8cm. Digital print. Photography/Typography/Illustration created in Adobe Illustrator and edited in Adobe Photoshop.

In chemistry, vitriol is a name for iron or copper sulphate salts and their derivative, sulfuric acid. In Hermetic alchemy, sulfuric acid, or oil of vitriol, was used in the synthesis of the lapis philosophorum — the Philosopher’s Stone. Due to a unique property of sulfuric acid which makes it incredibly corrosive to all organic tissue and metals—except for gold, on which it has no effect. The alchemical motto for vitriol is “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem,” “Visit the interior of the earth and rectifying (purifying) you will find the hidden stone.” From L’Azoth des Philosophes by the 15th Century alchemist Basilius Valentinus. Thus, the VITRIOL transmutation signifies a process of spiritual purification and dissolution. The Hermetic alchemists often describe entering the Earth’s interior via an Alchemical Mountain. This piece is based upon a personal, dream journey into the chthonic underworld during which the Alchemical Mountain appeared as a fleshy, uterine shaped structure, carved with pathways and covered with magical formulas inscribed upon its surface. The inscriptions were rendered in a highly decorative ‘lunar script’ signified by its complex arrangements of interlinking circles, crescent shapes and sharp, pointed blades. The scythes and blades embedded in the letterforms reflect the corrosive action of vitriolic acid which dissolves everything in ones being that is inessential to the alchemical Magnum Opus.
       Historically, there have been some notable woman who have performed laboratory alchemy. However, within forms of alchemy that encompass processes of internal, spiritual purification and physical transmutation using contemplation or sexual energy—the agency of women is usually defined in the archetypal role of Soror Mystica, i.e. the helpmate or assistant to the male alchemist.  The concept of a female alchemist acting as an independent or solo vessel using autopoietic processes to produce self-transformation is unknown in the Western magical tradition. Thus, the role of the female alchemist is synonymous with the struggle to liberate both the physical and subtle body from patriarchal ontologies, epistemologies, and economic-political constraints. The large size of the piece is chosen to bring the scale to approximate the size of the human body. The letterforms retrieved from the dream are filled with photographs taken of the artist’s body to illustrate how the body becomes a theatre, a setting in which each stage of the septenary process of VITRIOL is enmeshed with an ongoing challenge to cut away all that hinders one’s progress towards transformation. The pain inherent in each challenge in the alchemical process is confronted and assimilated, releasing tension and the healing, equilibrating balm of Eros within the body. After this tortuous process, the chrysopoeia can be reached. The process is shown by the dull, circular drop above the ‘L’ letterform which is repeated and transmuted through each of the letters above until it finally reappears as a golden sphere, crowning the ‘V’ shape with a lunar crescent.

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