Project for Aesthetics of Western Esotericism: exploring lost connections between Hermetic-Cabalist traditions and the cultural icons of Western European heritage. Conceived, Founded and Directed by Zhenya Gershman and John Slifko
Western Esotericism: A Concise History (SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions) [Antoine Faivre, Christine Rhone] on Amazon.com. *FREE* super saver shipping on qualifying offers.
John Slifko's insight:
The remarkable Antoine Faivre in his career at the Sorbonne in Paris started and gave the highest credibility to the new, emerging field of the academic study of the Western Esoteric Tradition. The field is still growing. This book is a must introduction to the field of study now called somewhat formally The Western Esoteric Tradition.
The ESSWE is a learned society, established in 2005 to advance the academic study of the various manifestations of Western esotericism from late antiquity to the present, and to secure the future development of the field.
John Slifko's insight:
In addition to the European site there are important national centers where the Western Esoteric Tradition is being studied. Additional links will be forthcomming.
Zhenya Gershman uses oil on canvas, traditional materials in a unique and innovative style of seeing a person represented across time. Zhenya’s work is featured in such preeminent private and public collections as Donald Simon (20th century masterworks), The J. Paul Getty Research Institute (collector’s archives), and Richard Weisman (American Modern and Contemporary art).
John Slifko's insight:
This body of work reflects the idea of the alchemical portrait.
The exact relationship between the operative Masons and more modern speculative Freemasons still has historical pages that need to be turned and discoveries to be made. The aesthetic-moral orientation and intellectual reflection in time, place and unique medium need to be examined together, not as the separate value spheres of art (the work of the heart, eye , feet and hands), ethics, and science.
AWE may present at the international conference for the Association for the Study of Esotericism. Here is the abstract for the featured paper.
The Alchemy of a Portrait
“Artist, you are a mage: art is the great mystery, it only proves our immortality”
Joséphin Péladan, L’Art Idealiste et Mystique, 1894
The portrait genre was born out of a primal urge of conquering the biggest obstacle of life – namely death. In such a way, the esoteric and creative practices are linked by the mutual fascination with the ephemeral. Just as the alchemist is preoccupied with the magical properties of the elements, the transformation and witnessing of the divine presence, the portrait artist is engaged with the transference of the living subject into paint or what a great mystic Joséphin Péladan calls “making our dreams flesh”. A medieval artist’s studio would look no different from that of an alchemist: one would find rare minerals purchased from apothecary, a grinding stone, various thinning agents, collections of curiosities from skull and bones to other natural wonders, an array of measuring tools such as compass, square, scale, and a sand clock, fascinating manuscripts full of peculiar designs and secret recipes. The “alchemical portrait” is a practice of capturing the soul, the presence, the breath of the subject in the fluidity of paint; the transmutation of fleeting into permanent, the invisible into visible. It surpasses the pedestrian portrait which embellishes the truth resulting with a distorted image that flatters, aggrandizes, or perpetuates an inflated identity.
My artistic practice stems from the impulse of transferring the presence of the subject into a “living” portrait, however unflattering it may seem. It is based on a series of reflections; a collaboration between the model, artist, and the viewer, with the art work acting as a connecting agent in time and space. According to alchemy and to the kabala, the mirror has a power to reflect the image of the divine. The alchemical portrait can indeed act as such a mirror allowing the viewer to penetrate the mysteries of realities. This presentation illuminates a complex painting process derived from decades dedicated to practicing an esoteric approach to portraiture. My painting technique has allowed me to apply metaphysical questions to physical manifestation exploring the tools of capturing the essence in paint and witnessing the moment of this transference. The inspiration for this approach is rooted in historic lineage that can be traced in paintings, literature, and science. From Egyptian Fayum portraits that were to literally take over the faces of the dead, the biblical account of Veronica Veil or the magical portrait of Christ, the impulse behind iconoclasm to assassinate representation as if it were an actual living person, to the “observer” theory in quantum physics which demonstrates the physical change in matter caused by the act of contemplation – the power of representation becomes evident. This phenomenon was best described by Nikolai Gogol in his novel “The Portrait”: “He went up to the portrait again, so as to study those wondrous eyes, and noticed with horror that they were indeed staring at him. This was no longer a copy from nature, this was the strange aliveness that would radiate from the face of a dead man rising from the grave.”
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