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Caput Mortuum — After the Fire

Virtual Tour
Oct 22, 2022
21st October
18:00 - 20:00

Artizan Collective CIC

Nov 6, 2022

Caput Mortuum — After the Fire

Caput Mortuum  —  After the Fire

Strands of Influence

Keith Frake makes a welcome return to Artizan for a solo show introducing new works, this time to be hosted at the Artizan Collective gallery on Fleet Street.

The title of this exhibition refers to the main strands of influence that effect and inform his work.

‘Fire is the main element that energises and transforms the materials I use. Fire has the capacity both to destroy and create, to calm and produce fear. It can be used to harden, strengthen and also make materials more fragile, fragile to the point where the material becomes lifeless and falls apart to become ash. I use the process of calcination, to introduce the element of unpredictability and instability into the work. I mainly use melting, boiling, scorching, burning and drying, by directing flame onto the work either by blow torch or by putting objects into a bonfire, incinerator or burner.

I also use caustic substances to burn and blister surfaces to produce colour variations. The materials I use are predominantly ash, clay, lead, various other metals, bitumen paint and beeswax.’

The Latin term Caput Mortuum is an alchemical reference meaning both ‘Dead Head’ and ‘Worthless Remains’. Dead Head has historical links to Egyptian burial practices, especially the head of the Mummy and its brown colouring. The Dead Head symbol is three dots in the shape of a triangle.

The theme of ‘worthless remains’, is an important element within Keith’s work.

The ‘Remains’ are the residue of the initial Alchemical process of Nigredo. Nigredo is blackness, chaos, the epitome of decay, putrefaction, and decomposition. The process is the first in a refining sequence where the prima materia is purified and transformed. The material is cooked, sublimated into a uniform black matter; what remains is the Caput Mortuum. In Alchemy the residue is discarded,Keith, however reintroduce the substance back into the work process.

Within the alchemy tradition this sequence of transformation goes through 4 stages: Nigredo, Albedo, Citrinitas finally Rubedo – black, white, yellow and red. Rubedo signified the final purifying stage of the Magnum Opus the colour red being strongly associated with both gold and the Philosophers stone. For many Alchemists however the process was more about a path to a form of spiritual enlightenment or self-knowledge akin to what Carl Jung later described as a ‘process of individuation’.

The union of these two themes has culminated in the work for this exhibition.

With thanks to Neil Wells for his help and technical expertise.

Exhibiting Artists