I dipped my hand into paint and then allowed the paint to drip onto the canvas below. Periodically I would roll up the scroll at one end, covering up the paint, and unroll at the other end, revealing fresh paper, before resuming the drip painting. Over the course of the performance I created four scrolls, each with a different colour of paint. I started with black paint, followed by white, then red and finally gold.
Prima Materia is a performance piece that involves the simultaneous creation and destruction of the painting space. The old is continuously destroyed to make way for the new. The artist is painting in a style reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s action painting, dripping from above, but the use of body rather than brush hints at a connection to Yves Klein’s anthropometries. This work unites two disparate streams of the artist’s practice to create something new.
Prima Materia is a development of previous work by Tom Isaacs from the exhibition Critical Tension. The series of work exhibited in Critical Tension explored the notion of the physical evidence left over after a performance. It began with an investigation of painting and performance practices and their interrelation, before moving into a more general investigation of the artist’s relationship to performance documentation and artifacts. Prima Materia continues this line of thought by working within the tradition of abstract painting to create an art object which differs radically from the traditional painting.
Prima Materia is also connected to the more spiritual stream of the artist’s practice. In this performance the colours used, Black, White, Red and Gold, relate to the different stages of the alchemists Magnum Opus (great work). Alchemy is a philosophic tradition whose best known goal is the transmutation of base metals into gold. However, esoteric and hermetic traditions interpret this claim as a metaphor for personal transformation and purification, also known as ‘internal’ alchemy. Through his performance practice, Isaacs is proposing a similar reinterpretation of the practice of art making. Inspired by Joseph Beuys, the proto-typical artist-alchemist, and Alex Grey, author of ‘The Mission of Art’, Isaacs aims to promote and embody the dual-office of artist-as-alchemist and to argue for the role of spirituality in the creation and experiencing of art.