Alchemists and philosophers determined that the world was created of four basic elements, and that for each, there existed a creature made of, and attuned to, that element.
Elemental brings together the four classical elements – earth, air, fire, water – as described by the 16th century alchemist, physician, astrologer and occultist Paracelsus. These elements (along with Aether – the “quintessence” or fifth element) were understood to be the basis not only of physical matter but of understanding existence itself. Correspondences could be made between the elements and astrology, astronomy, medicine (the humours), the seasons, the points of the compass – even temperament and human experience. And, for each element, there was believed to be a creature who embodied its qualities and for whom the element was its natural home.
Elemental is a tetrad of mixed-media quilts, designed and framed as a single artwork. The four grounds were tray-dyed as a single piece to create the central compass and the blending of colours – golden browns for earth, blues for air, hot orange for fire and deep green for water – across the quarters. These grounds are further worked with opaque and metallic paintsticks, both before and after machine quilting, and patterned with stencilled alchemical symbols and foiled text.
The elemental creatures were drawn and painted on paper before being transferred to fabric, worked with fabric paint, and then applied and machine embroidered in a range of variegated and metallic threads. They are finished with further painting after stitching and a sparkling fibre embellishment. The gnome features tribal tattoos and bronze hair while the sylph is painted in iridescent and pearlised white, blue and mauve, with frosty hair. The fiery salamander sports metallic stripes, and the undine’s scales are individually painted in a range of blue, green and gold.
Each of the four quadrants of this piece includes not only the creature but its corresponding compass direction, its alchemical symbol (in the outer corner) and the alchemical symbols for the corresponding season and signs of the zodiac.
The gnome embodies Earth – its season is winter, its time of day night, and its zodiacal signs are Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo. The sylph is a creature of Air – its season is spring, its time of day morning, and its zodiacal signs are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. The salamander is a Fire spirit – its season is summer, its time of day noon, and its zodiacal signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. The undine is the Water maiden – its season is autumn, its time of day evening, and its zodiacal signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces.
Elemental is 101cm x 101cm (40″ x 40″) and is float-mounted on a matte black background, with a black wooden frame.
Elemental is now sold and in a private collection.
Notecards and postcards showing images from this piece are available in the Stationery section of the shop.
Sold/Out of Stock - contact me for availability