Cuore Smeraldino, (Smeraldic Heart) this little painting is called. I purchase it after we exhibited Matteo Bergamasco's paintings in San Francisco in 2007. I immediately loved his work, it’s the fantastical I’m drawn to.
His imagery popped into my mind, when I thought about what would create an interesting correlation to the Alchemist Experience Dinner I created as a graduation project for an Advanced Food + Design course. In the archive, I found this PR text by Bonelli Contemporary in Los Angeles for the exhibition GOLD! in 2008:
“The title of the exhibition Gold followed by an exclamation point (!) refers to the discovery of a treasure, an unexpected find made after an extended exploration. In particular gold is light, perfection, accomplishment and therefore often considered the image of the divine. Gold is the culminating point of the alchemist process and it expresses the deep implications that this vortex represents.”
That makes sense!
Alchemy, commonly referred to the ancient natural sciences, is also mentioned in all kinds of new age spiritual schools and psychology. C.G. Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, believed in a dual nature of alchemy: chemistry/natural philosophy and mystical components as well. He referred to the stages of the alchemy (making gold, or turning common metals into noble ones) as a guide for individuation, and as a metaphor to the transcendent nature of our psyche.
The painting Cuore Smeraldino is from a series, Bergamasco called an Etherial Portal, in which he aimed to convey the possibility of personal change, allowing new and freed perception to access new reality layers. Multicolored portals or doors become symbols of a dimensional gateway, a threshold beyond with new spaces and worlds appearing.
Our culture these days promotes a kind of quickly attained individualism. It seems fake and contrived, as if people can shop for outrageous creative ideas. Is our Self more and more formed by aspects on the outside: well designed for social media platforms, with believes and realities, one can orientate themselves after? I find it fascinating watching people so confidently stating all kinds of bs ...
AND LET'S MAKE THAT CLEAR: THE EARTH IS ROUND!
What does that have to do with Matteo's work? Because, art (all forms) is the place where ideas can be turned upside down, taken down the rabbit hole, examined, explored, transformed into mesmerizing visuals and stories, prompt a critical scientific investigation, and point to a collective reality that makes sense.
Artists need to keep the ability to dive deep into inner realms of creativity, thought and imagination, without fearing to appear 'off', 'strange', 'not to be taken seriously'? I believe anybody is an artist, who lives or practices exactly that. Creative and imaginary thinking remains to be a substantial building block to our human psyche, making us true individuals. We live this when being 3, 4, or 5 years old, discovering our world in multiple realities.
LET'S TREASURE THIS PLACE IN OUR PSYCHE
Matteo’s work reminds me of intelligent and fantastic science fiction. Hyper spaces, where I look at sound. And my little Smeraldic heart looks like a fantastic depiction of an alchemy process, or a wonderful, naively painted version of what might go on inside the neuron fusion tanks and tubes at Cern.
FINDING THE OPUS MAGNUM
During the Advanced Food + Design course with Marije Vogelzang, we looked at all kind of aspects of how food can be used as an artistic medium. Because it’s ephemeral, its often bound to an experience one can have, rather the something to view or listen to over a longer period of time.
As my graduation project, I created an experience dinner, called Life Celebration Dinner. It tool some time and thought to come up with this idea. At first, I wanted to figure out how to internalizes a dream by eating it. This still roams my mind and might follow soon. Then I attended a glass molding workshop and created vessels made from vegetables. The sugar turnip turned out looking like a heart. The next thought was, that I let people drink out of it, and that let to the association of an elixir. From there on – a no-brainer– it was alchemy.
Not knowing much about it, I was surprised to learn, that C.G. Jung had used alchemy as a metaphoric tool to illuminate the processes our psyche goes through to becoming an individual. I choose the Jungian approach, as I’m much more interested and knowledgeable in psychology and less in chemistry.
In alchemy, four colors are assigned to the four stages leading to transformation: Black for the first phase Nigredo. White for Albedo. Yellow for Citrinitas. Red for Rubedo. When you have gone through all four phases, you achieved the Opus Magnum, your individuation, you true and authentic self.
How can this become a culinary experience?
Nigredo, the first phase, is the purification phase. It’s about cleaning body and mind of toxins and negativity, preparing to receive the new, positive and life prolonging elements.
Black? That surprised me. I imagine purification with washing, water, no color, clear, flushing etc. But in alchemy it is about absorption. One has to look into darkness to find light. This was an easy bridge to food: activated charcoal, which absorbs and binds toxins in your gut and is a powerful detoxifier. Rice! also an absorbent for bacteria, toxins, etc.
When reading about the second phase, Albedo, terms like Tinctura alba - an elixir of immortality or Leukosis, the whitening, bringing light and clarity, are mentioned.
Further: Ablutio –– the washing away of impurities, follows the purifying step to Nigredo. And Tinctura alba –– creating an elixir of immortality. Leukosis –– the whitening, bringing light and clarity.
A Tinctura Alba, an elixir is mixed by all participants and shared as a life invigoration cocktail.
The third phase, the Citrinitas, was dropped at some point in natural science alchemy, but Jung refers to it as an important phase. After all: it frees the soul from the white state of psychological reflection and insight, and is considered to be the dawning of the “solar light” inherent in one’s being.
You become gold!
I create a Panacea – a dish to cure any disease, with fermented, healthy and fresh foods, packed with vitamins and nutrients. It’s not immediately clear what guests are eating, the food is abstracted. This spikes the taste sense and refines awareness.
The last phase, Rubedo, leads to the Opus Magnum. In Rubedo one achieves wholeness by attempting a psycho-spiritual element to create a coherent sense of self before one re-enter to the world. The substances redden your tongue and the process rages as a red dragon against yourself. You attain true and spiritual individuation.
You meet your Self Archetype.