Acid Renaissance update: The Oracle and the Sexton

Artwork by Paul Watson

Following on from April’s blog post, lockdown continues to force my Acid Renaissance series of artwork into different directions. Photography has been temporarily abandoned, as has in-person life-drawing.

Instead I’m currently concentrating on drawing using photographs of life-models (or in one case myself) as reference material. This feels very different to drawing a life-model who is present in the room, but with the current Coronavirus lockdown restrictions it’s the only available option at the moment, and probably will continue to be so for the coming weeks unless there are any life-models in Brighton who have back gardens that could be used for life-drawing that aren’t overlooked by either neighbours or the public!

The Oracle at Delphi

In early May I finished The Oracle at Delphi, an A2-sized (420mm × 594mm, or 16.5″ × 23.4″ if you prefer inches) drawing in traditional Sanguine Conté à Paris pencil and white chalk.

The Oracle herself is drawn from a photograph I took of a life-model back in July last year as a reference “sketch” for this very idea. Originally it was probably going to be a photographic piece, but with hindsight drawing probably suits the subject better.

This is the second Oracle in the Acid Renaissance series (the first, one of the earliest pieces in the series, places the series in the near future, with a laptop just visible to her left). And while Acid Renaissance concerns itself with Albion’s near future, various Ancient Greek concepts run through it (the drawing Bacchanalia beneath the Wind Turbines being one very obvious one, although the wind turbines are clearly my own addition).

The Sexton in the Necropolis

Towards the end of this month I finished The Sexton in the Necropolis, a fairly large (760mm × 700mm / 29.9″ × 27.5″) charcoal and chalk drawing.

I have always thought the job of a sexton would be a strangely lonely and introspective one, although I'm sure the reality is far more mundane.

Lacking a model I used a photograph of myself, so in one way this becomes a self-portrait embedded within the series. The Necropolis was strongly inspired by two recent walks around Woodvale Cemetery in Brighton where I took numerous photographs some of which can be found in this Twitter thread.

Woodvale cemetery is set in a shallow valley, shaded by trees, and many of the gravestones and other structures are fallen or shrouded with ivy. Cow parsley grows in abundance between the graves at this time of year.

What I didn’t know until I followed a couple of links preparing to write this post was that it was in Woodvale cemetery in 1947 that Aleister Crowley was cremated. According to the Wikipedia article on the cemetery (which in turn cites the 2010 book Bizarre Brighton by Christopher Horlock):

About 20 of his followers attended the service; as soon as Crowley’s coffin was brought out, they “began chanting black magic incantations, to the astonishment of the attendants and undertakers”, and Louis Wilkinson read excerpts from the Gnostic Mass, The Book of the Law, and “Hymn to Pan”. Following newspaper reports that a Black Mass had been held at the ceremony, the council moved to ban the practice at the chapel: councillors described the events as “a desecration of consecrated ground” and stated that they had offended the whole town.

I’m not particularly a fan of Crowley, but this little fact did add yet another post-completion layer to the drawing for me.