Mud and Alchemy

paint mix green gold Andrew Conti

All sorcerers, conjurers, summoners, and alchemists are dead. We killed them, and with good reason. Too many layers of nonsense for anyone to rush their ill child to and expect results. Their work is now abandoned, and instead the artists and creatives take their place and fill their role.

For the visual artist – or specifically the painter – this comes in the form of being a knower of substances both familiar and exotic. Only the painter now knows what to do with dragons blood or the tears of virgins. The knowledge of the painter is an offshoot of the knowledge of alchemy. We take dirty muds and crushed rocks, and blend, bash, smash, rub and wipe them into golds and other assorted visions.

Chemistry took the knowledge of substances to the level of extreme categorization. The chemist broke down the properties of everything and stored them in beautiful tables that anyone could understand. In a sense they democratized the knowledge of substances, making it all clear, repeatable, and a knowledge capable of being shared.

But the other knowledge of alchemy has gone to the painters. The knowledge of substances as they are. Not in components or atomic structures, but in the forms they take that we hold and see. Honeys, creams, oils, bloods, glues. The sticky, tacky, slick, coarse, dry, pliable, plastic, or brittle.

The chemist will get you what you want with a substance. Make what you need, or a viable or even superior substitute. But to know a substance by the way our bodies and our eyes interact with it. Then you will need a painter.

This is the knowing that only comes from handling paint and its related mediums. The knowledge that comes from experience and experimentation.

This is what painting is. Last bastion of the substance lovers and the alchemists.