Circulatsio, Ascent and Descent

painting and drawing

I am one month into a Sea Change: a change from painting to drawing, but also a change from one world to another. The word “circulatsio” from Alchemy, means a move through different conditions, a progression of consciousness. My image comes from Michael Meade, whose work has been an important influence in my life and who describes a sort of mythic subway that visits different stations in turn, that circulates through its route, defining and reawakening its territory by tending to each stop. In addition to the path around the perimeter, it moves above and below the plane in a wave-like cycle, which in Meade and Jung and Alchemy is described as Ascent and Descent.






Ascent may represent a high angle, a view from above, perspective that seeks and believes in unity and wholeness and clarity of understanding, brightness, optimism, the center and the spotlight or solar orientation, fire and heat, the Puer, spirit, and transcendence. These are mostly pretty wonderful things, but as Meade eloquently explores, also one-sided, missing the qualities of soul and vulnerable to a fall to earth.

This analogy is not pure or perfect. The qualities inherent in painting and drawing do not stay neatly separate, but for me the core understandings resonate. The qualities I enumerated as Ascent are more closely linked for me to painting. Drawing on the other hand is about shadow and the margins rather than the center. It is about feeling one’s way by touch and by error, stumbling blind, emerging from the fertile swamp or soil rather than staking out a claim upon it. It is about water and earth, about being lost and wandering, not knowing but guessing or intuiting, the qualities of stain and mark, texture and gesture, immanence rather than transcendence.

It is interesting that the processes and materials of drawing seem so closely tied to earth and water and Descent: scratching, marking, staining, digging, immersion in ash and soil-like substances. Paper itself is an earth-grown material that involves soaking and beating and pressing.

I have a temptation to unite these qualities of drawing and painting, to integrate Descent and Ascent. Perhaps. But more likely the tension between them is necessary and meaningful and the movement around the center is life giving.

Michael Meade CD, book, CD

Note: Michael Meade is represented by many videos on YouTube. The particular works I reference are his recorded talk The Water of Life, the book of the same name, and the CD set Alchemy of Fire which appears on his own website In addition Meade is featured regularly on the Huffington Post.

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