Paracelsus identified three primes (tria prima) of alchemy. The Primes are related to the Law of the Triangle, in which two components come together to produce the third. In modern chemistry, you can’t combine the element sulfur and mercury to produce the compound table salt, yet alchemy recognized substances reacted to yield new products.
Perceived as you see fit
Child or divine
Gazing at the glow
The sulphurous sun
Hot and dry
And change making
Within the circle
The receptive reflection
The prime circle of salt
In reactive reciprocity
Dissolved and condensed
A unified compound
A balanced whole
The philosophers stone
Tria Prima, the Three Alchemy Primes
Sulfur – The fluid connecting the High and the Low. Sulfur was used to denote the expansive force, evaporation, and dissolution.
Mercury — The omnipresent spirit of life. Mercury was believed to transcend the liquid and solid states. The belief carried over into other areas, as mercury was thought to transcend life/death and heaven/earth.
Salt — Base matter. Salt represented the contractive force, condensation, and crystallization.
Metaphorical Meanings of the Three Primes
Aspect of Matter
Aspect of Psyche
Paracelsus devised the three primes from the alchemist’s Sulfur-Mercury Ratio, which was the belief that each metal was made from a specific ratio of sulfur and mercury and that a metal could be converted into any other metal by adding or removing sulfur. So, if one believed this to be true, it made sense lead could be converted into gold if the correct protocol could be found for adjusting the amount of sulfur.
Alchemists would work with the three primes using a process called Solve Et Coagula, which translates to mean dissolving and coagulating. Breaking apart materials so they could recombine was considered a method of purification. In modern chemistry, a similar process is used to purify elements and compounds through crystallization. Matter is either melted or else dissolved and then allowed to recombine to yield a product of higher purity than the source material.
Paracelsus also held the belief that all life consisted of three parts, which could be represented by the Primes, either literally or figuratively (modern alchemy). The three-fold nature is discussed in both Eastern and Western religious traditions. The concept of two joining together to become one is also related. Opposing masculine sulfur and feminine mercury would join to produce salt or the body.
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. “The Three Primes of Alchemy.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/tria-prima-three-primes-of-alchemy-603699.
This blood moon ‘Auspicium’ surrealist art print, translates from Latin as auspices. As most of these pieces it goes by several titles, the English being ‘Bad Omens Good Omens’. It is a Digital Collage I made in 2019/2020, it has ‘rose gold’ gilt edging and the sizes start at; 297x210mm (A4).
The book of Joel and revelation
Preacher of the blood moon
This blood moon
Sway over a desert
Depletion and disorientation
But what of polarity
And the space between?
The space for alchemy
Navigating by the sun
The flickering light
A master of metamorphosis
An alchemical vas
An object transformed
And a vessel of transformation
This is the beautiful hand finished ‘Auspicium’ blood moon surrealist art print on archival fine art paper with a print sealer for added protection. The edges have been hand gilded with ‘copper’ effect leaf. The print has then been mounted on unbleached cotton calico with starch paste.
Firstly I have used this process because it references the preservation of historical works on paper. Secondly I find it makes the print more robust. Thirdly it causes the paper to warp, making something 2D more 3D, or object like
Because of the combination of the above processes this print is robust enough and self supporting to not require framing. There is a small hanging wire on the reverse to suspend it from. These look really lovely just hung straight on the wall.
This is the ‘De Profundis Subconscious’ art print, which translates as ‘Depths of the Subconscious’ in true Jungian or shamanic fashion its about the journey within. Only after which can one have any hope of squaring the circle.
A night sky
Filled with the sparks of consciousness.
Never revealing its dark side from the comfort of ignorance.
But are we not compelled to to navigate
this uncharted territory?
To bring it into the light.
Shamans favour the Owl
A powerful guide
Carrying the moon forth from deep recesses of mind
Is with the ability to dwell in darkness
Carry that darkness out into the light.
Will you be mired
Hopelessly lost in the darkness
Squared with self knowledge.
This is the beautiful hand finished Jungian ‘De Profundis Subconscious’ art print on archival fine art paper with a print sealer for added protection. The edges have been hand gilded with ‘silver’ effect leaf. The print has then been mounted on unbleached cotton calico with starch paste.
Firstly I have used this process because it references the preservation of historical works on paper. Secondly I find it makes the print more robust. Thirdly it causes the paper to warp, making something 2D more 3D, or object like.
Because of the combination of the above processes this print is robust enough and self supporting to not require framing. There is a small hanging wire on the reverse to suspend it from. These look really lovely just hung straight on the wall.
The practice of collage art is a technique of art creation. The word collage is derived from the French coller, “to glue” or “to stick together” It is used in many areas and contexts of the arts including; music, architecture, illustration, artist’s books, literature, fashion design, film and post-production. However, the primary focus of this post is its use in the visual arts. Particularly still imagery. Rather than the incorporation of collage techniques into moving image. I will leave that for another blog post.
Collage art can include an enormous range of materials and techniques. I am sure this is part of its appeal to many artists. These media can include portions of other artwork or texts, elements of drawing and painting, magazine and newspaper clippings, ribbons, paint, bits of coloured or handmade papers, photographs and other found objects, glued to a piece of paper or canvas.
My preference is not to glue the elements down. Because I prefer to photograph the composition when I am happy with it. This way I can alter my compositions as I see fit. Additionally this process enables me to reuse my image resources again and again. In an act of recycling.
“Collage allows the opening up of conscious, which is very direct…its also a way of looking at what you are consuming all the time.”
Canvas & Wood Collage Art
The painter John Walker is known for using ‘canvas collage’. This is a process of using glue to stick patches of separately painted canvases onto the surface of another or main painting canvas. Thus forming a new work. Kurt Schwitters is credited with pioneering the development of ‘wood collages’ in the 1920’s.
Whilst the craft became known as découpage in France – derived from the verb découper; ‘to cut out’. The most likely origin of this craft is thought to be East Siberian funerary art. These Nomadic tribes would use cut out felts to decorate the tombs of their deceased.
This is the process of placing a picture into / onto an object for the purpose of decoration. Often the images are cut and layered to add depth. Then the result is sealed or varnished for protection. Artist such as Pablo Picasso took decoupage in a more experimental and abstract direction in the early 20th century. Henri Matisse produced one of the most famous decoupage works titled ‘Blue Nude II’.
Much of my work to date can also be included in this category. However I choose to label it collage for simplicity, commonality and the broadly inclusive nature of the term. Also because I may begin to include other elements and media as the work develops. Which is already happening – see the featured image for this post.
So what is photomontage? Well it is a collage art made from photographs. Pieces and elements of several photographs are cut out and reassembled to form a new composition. This composition is then re-photographed to form a seamless photographic print.
An alternative method to this is accomplished with image editing software. This process is also referred to as compositing. The featured image for this post actually combines both of these methods. Because I assembled the image from cut-outs. Then I photographed and finished the piece by including shadows, tidying up cut marks etc. I did this using image editing software.
The Victorian method of ‘combination printing’ as used by Oscar Gustave Reijlander (1857) is also called photomontage. This is because it involved printing from more than one negative onto a single piece of photographic paper.
Despite the perception that digital technology has made compositing easy, much of the work produced is highly involved and rivals the demands of ‘traditional arts’.
This is another application of digital workflow whereby the collage process is done in a way that encourages the chance associations of disparate elements and their transformation to new meanings and suggestions, however subliminal. Another term for collage produced on computer is ‘ecollage’.
This is the process of assembling items like rocks, beads, buttons, coins, soil etc. This is done in order to form new wholes.
The process of combining small pieces of paper, tile, marble, stone, glass etc. Typically found in spiritual contexts such as; cathedrals, churches and temples. They are combined in such a way as to form a picture. Or patterns in buildings such as Roman villas.
History of Collage Art
Early precedents in Collage Art
The use of collage as a medium can be dated back to the invention of paper in China 200 BC. However its use increased in 10th century Japan. This is when calligraphers began to apply glued paper, using texts on surfaces, when writing their poems.
In Europe its use arose in the 13th century. Then in the 15th and 16th centuries when devotional painted panels which included gold leaf were used in the Gothic cathedrals. Precious stones, and metals were sometimes applied to religious images and icons as well as coats of arms. After this, Hans Christian Andersen used collage in his books produced in the 19th century. Amongst many others.
Cultural institutions have attributed collage as a formal process within the visual arts from 1912. This is due to its adoption by the likes of Picasso and Braque.
However it was used by the Victorians in the 1860’s in the form of photocollage. But many cultural institutions categorise this use as ‘hobbyist’. In response to this it is argued that they were a facilitator of Victorian aristocratic collective portraiture, and proof of female erudition. In addition to this it presented a new mode of artistic representation. Because it questioned the way in which photography is ‘truthful’. It did this by demonstrating an image can be produced beyond the single initial capture of the lens.
Tate & Guggenheim
The Tate gallery state collage “was first used as an artists’ technique in the twentieth century”.
In addition to this the Guggenheim Museum roots it in the beginnings of Modernism. Stating that it “entails much more than the idea of gluing something onto something else”. Writing in an essay it also considered; “collage was part of a methodical re-examination of the relation between painting and sculpture”, and these new works “gave each medium some of the characteristics of the other,”.
Some of the elements added to paintings included newspaper clippings referencing external events such as the Balkans war. By including wider references the content of the art was enriched and looked beyond itself.
The Guggenheim Museum essay considered that by “Emphasizing concept and process over end product, collage has brought the incongruous into meaningful congress with the ordinary.” This is an important statement because it references so much of what Modernism triggered in its art and the art that followed. And continues to this day.
So as I have referenced in the previous section many ‘authorities’ on art recognise the use of collage as an established medium with the visual arts from beginning of the 20th century and the emergence of ‘Modernism’. Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso coined the term Papier colle at this time. Just as it became a distinctive part of modern art.
The Cubist painter Georges Braque started using it in his charcoal drawings by adding pieces of cut out simulated oak-grain wallpaper. Being the experimenter and appropriator that he was. It is said that when Picasso saw this he began adding elements of collage to his cubist oil paintings.
Notice the use of cheap, everyday, “non-art” materials, such as newspaper, cardboard, and wallpaper, in these collages. Using these materials subverts the expectation that art is made from archival, specialized materials like oil paint or bronze; it also calls into question the need for an artist to have extreme technical skill; and finally, it begins to blur the lines between high and low art, as well as art and life. These aspects of collage were picked up on and more strongly emphasized by the members of the Dada “anti-art” movement, which including Francis Picabia, Hannah Hoch, Hans Arp, Raoul Hausmann, and many others. (3)
The Dadaists found the medium ideal to express their ideas too. One of the movements pioneers was the German artist Hannah Höch. Her piece ‘Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany’ 1919 was collage. Because it was made with an assemblage of pasted papers.
The collective and disparate nature of the method is well suited to surrealism. Because the inclusion of elements from many sources is full of potential for unusual juxtapositions and the exploration of the subconscious.
At the beginnings of the the surrealist movements Marcel Mariën used a technique named ‘etrécissements’. This involved cutting away parts of an image to make a new reading. This is in opposition to the additive method of collage making.
Another alternative collage method employed by the Romanian surrealist Gherasim Luca, is known as ‘Cubomania’. This is when a picture is cut into squares and the squares are then reassembled without regard for the original image. (2)
Like their paintings, Abstract Expressionists’ collages emphasise colour, composition, and emotion. They did this by using simplified silhouettes, blocks of cut-and-glued colour, and free-floating, painted lines, the artists added (literal) layers of dimensionality to their trade mark aesthetic. (3)
In 1956, the British artist Richard Hamilton is credited with helping establish the Pop Art movement in 1956. This was done with his eye-catching collage, ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’. Featuring carefully-selected clippings from American magazines, this piece incorporates what are termed pop culture-related motifs. These include “Man, Woman, Food, History, Newspapers, Cinema, Domestic Appliances, Cars, Space, Comics, TV, Telephone, Information.” (3)
In addition to setting the scene for Pop Art subject matter, this piece also inspired other members of the movement to explore collage art. (3)
The practice of collage is still popular today. Because it can now draw on a hugely diverse history. Both for its inspiration and new directions. It is still a vibrant exciting medium to work in.
Many of these artists still choose the analogue method. This method uses cut out pieces. Which are then arranged into compositions by hand. Whilst others choose digital software tools to collect and compose their creations.
Whilst others, myself included, combine a range of techniques and hybrids, to produce their work. Incorporating analogue and digital methods. As well as combining still and moving imagery. Here are several contemporary collages and collage makers;
When collage uses existing works, the result is typically named a ‘derivative work’. The collage then has a copyright. This is separate from any copyrights pertaining to the original incorporated works. (5)
In copyright law, a ‘derivative work’ is an expressive creation that includes major copyrightable elements of an original. Or previously created first work (the ‘underlying work’). The derivative work becomes a second, separate work independent in form from the first. The transformation, modification or adaptation of the work must be substantial. It must bear its author’s personality sufficiently to be original. Then it will be protected by copyright. Generally speaking collage falls into this protection.
Most countries’ legal systems seek to protect both original and derivative works. They grant authors the right to impede or otherwise control their integrity and the author’s commercial interests. Derivative works and their authors benefit in turn from the full protection of copyright. Without prejudicing the rights of the original work’s author.
For copyright protection to attach to a later, allegedly derivative work. It must display some originality of its own. It cannot be a rote, uncreative variation on the earlier, underlying work. The latter work must contain sufficient new expression. Which is over and above that embodied in the earlier work. In order for the latter work to satisfy copyright law’s requirement of originality. (5)
One of the great aspects of collage can be its simplicity. Because you can make it with found and otherwise waste material. In an act of recycling. As the John Stezaker quote at the start of this piece says…”its also a way of looking at what you are consuming all the time.”
This simplicity carries through to the tools you need to make it as well. Typically you can make fantastic collage with just a pair of scissors and some glue or double sided tape. If you want to get more involved with the process then this list should get you started;
Three different sizes of scissors; small (nail scissors), medium (typical round the house type) large (think wallpaper scissors).
A metal straight edge (it holds up to sharp blades better).
Good quality craft knife. Worth the small investment, as you will be using it a lot. Better than a scalpel, because it is more comfortable to hold and apply pressure with for longer period of time. A scalpel is essentially made for cutting flesh, requiring less pressure and less extended use.
Cutting matt. It will stop you ruining the table top. Also its better than a sheet of cardboard. Because it offers the right amount of resistance to the blade. This makes accurate cutting easier. I use an A3 size. Go for bigger rather than smaller if you can. Otherwise you are constantly running out of space and having to keep repositioning the workpiece.
Obviously you will need a pc or tablet of some description to run the necessary software. Unless you will be sourcing all your imagery from the web you will need a way of getting imagery onto the computer. This is where a camera or scanner will be useful. The camera will also be handy to document your work and turn it into a seamless print. Especially if you are following the analogue route.
Next you are going to need software to make the collage with. There are a lot of programs our there that will do the job. They range from free, reasonable, expensive, through to – pay us rent forever!
For the scope of this article I am just going to point out three possible options;
Corel Paint Shop Pro – Windows, Mac
Adobe Photoshop Elements – Windows, Mac
Gimp – Windows, Mac. Linux
You will need to do some research and testing for yourself to see which suits your way of working and level of familiarity / expertise with these types of software. DO NOT be fooled into thinking you have to pay for the program for it to be any use. I use Gimp – which is free and does all or more than you are likely to need. I switched from Adobe products recently. Partly because, I switched to the Linux operating system. Partly because, I do not want to be paying Adobe rent forever, to use their products.
Well that wraps up my overview of collage and its usage through culture and art history. I hope you found it interesting and informative. Thanks for reading. Please visit regularly for new and inspiring content.
Tenuous boundaries of the pathless forestEnclosingYet beyond the realms of consciousness
The sunThe light of consciousnessAnd enlightenmentThe abeyant wholeness of the psyche
AcuteThe owls wingsMoving between light and darkAt will
Carrying this sunDown form its overviewTo our earthly perspective
Beware of imprudenceFor this orb
Carried upon the owls wingsCan be the bringer of destructionFrom the dark
To burn all in its pathWith an atrocious heat.
With prudenceTo all that face itA maternal gaze
Bringing the spark of creativityThe potential of fecundityAnd regenerative healing
This is my digital collage / photomontage – ‘Winged Sun Disk’. I printed it on textured ‘fine art’ paper and edged it with gold leaf. Because it is not framed I finished it with print sealer.
I stuck the print down using wheat starch paste. Which is pH neutral and removable, onto unbleached cotton calico fabric. Firstly I have used this process because it references the preservation of historical works on paper. Secondly I find it makes the print more robust. Thirdly it also causes the paper to warp. Therefore giving the effect of making something 2D more 3D, or object like.
Title Language and Origins
My artwork has accrued several titles along the way. Firstly ‘The Winged Truth of Consciousness’. Along with its Latin translation ‘Ales Veritatis Conscientia’.
Then simply its historical name ‘Winged Sun Disk’. In this post I have used the Latin translation. Which is ‘Solis Orbis Alis’.
The Sun is sometimes referred to by its Latin name Sol or by its Greek name Helios. Whilst the English word sun stems from Proto-Germanic sunnǭ.
Why did I choose Latin? Because it is an old language tracing its roots to the Phonetician Alphabet, which in turn is derived from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet. This is the oldest fully matured alphabet, and ultimately derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Also, Latin roots are used in English descriptions of theology, the sciences, and medicine to name a few.
This is also found in ancient Egypt, Sumerian, Mesopotamian, Hittite, Anatolian, and Persian (Zoroastrian) civilisations. It is also found in the South American and Australian symbolism of remote cultures. It was also adopted by the Christian church in the Victorian era, who used it to symbolise the life-giving power of God. Because of this it is clearly a widely used symbolic theme. Albeit with many variations of presentation.
Winged Sun Disk – Origins and Meaning
There are many theories as to its origins. Because I’m not here to speculate on their veracity, I’ve simply listed several below;
A representation of the sun at the time of eclipse. Because the wings (and sometimes tail) of the bird display elements of the solar corona. Because it is visible at the moment of total eclipse.
Because of the symbols context, placement and similarity across the globe. The plasma physicist Anthony Peratt has carried out laboratory experiments and a survey of petroglyphs. This has led him to conclude that the past has witnessed the formation of a heaven-reaching plasma discharge tube, precipitated by a large influx of charged particles from space and an increased solar wind
The more frequent interpretation of this symbol is its comparison with the sky, the sun, solar power and renewal of life or divinity, majesty, power and eternity of the spirit.
The early use of the Winged Sun Disk in Egypt is on the 4th dynasty coffin of Queen Hetepheres – 2500BC. From the 8th Century BC it was found on Hebrew seals. As well as in ancient Greece as the knob of the Staff of Hermes.
The winged sun disk is similar to another ancient symbol the Zoroastrian ‘fravahar’ found in Persia, latterly Iran. Another version of the Winged Sun Disk is the Winged Scarab with a sun above its head. This symbol was associated with Egyptian ancient god of the rising sun, Khepri (“He who is Coming into Being”) who is associated with rebirth, resurrection and new life as a winged scarab.
The astonishing aspect of this variant of the symbol is its discovery in 2018, amongst hundreds of petroglyphs (rock carvings). These were found in the Ratnagiri and Rajapur area of the state of Maharashtra in western India. The petroglyphs have been etched on the rusty-red coloured laterite rocks that dominate the flat hilltops of the Konkan coastline.
Director of the Maharashtra State Archaeology Department, Tejas Garge, is quoted as saying; “Our first deduction from examining these petroglyphs is that they were created around 10,000 BC,”Source
So its origins appear to lie in a far earlier epoch than we would dare to have imagined.
Winged Sun Disk – Latter Day Use
In his book ‘Symbolism of the Gods of the Egyptians and the Light They Throw on Freemasonry’, the neurologist and oculist Thomas Milton Stewart wrote; that the winged sun disk denoted “’to become – to be – to create’, and that it was a part of symbolical ornamentation of every temple, displayed over every gate and doorway,”
This books demonstrates the symbol has a more contemporary history as well. Through its use by the Freemasons. As well as Rosicrucianism, Thelema, Theosophy and the Unity Church.
Its adoption doesn’t stop with spiritual organisations ether. The corporate world sees value in it too. Because variations of the symbol are used as a trademark logo on vehicles produced by the Chrysler Corporation, Mini, Bentley Motors, Lagonda (Aston Martin) and Harley Davidson (Source Wikipedia).
Furthermore it is seen in popular culture. For instance; Kubrick’s ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ – 1968. ‘Alien’ – 1979. It is the ‘Golden Snitch’ in Harry Potter – 2001/2010. As well as too many others to mention here.
Symbols help elucidate our psyche. They do this through our responses to them.
I will be posting more content related to this in the future. As well as making versions of this available to buy. So please contact me or come back for more interesting stuff.