by Timothy C. Ely
"Materia consists of alchemical images intrinsic to the transformation of matter. The transformation is slow, gentle, and non-corrosive. Inks were made by gently caramelizing certain carbon-based materials such as seaweed, so as to pay homage to the subtle arts of the East, and wood, to recognize with reverence the tradition of the wooden board binding. As in the alchemical tradition, the formulation and process is occluded and, as it requires much patience to generate a full spectrum ink that reads as black, few others are likely to replicate the experiments.
The drawing materials are inks, watercolors, metals, graphite and pastels – a balance of the wet and the dry. The paper is Arches cover toned to a light brown referencing the antique disciplines being studied. The paper was vat sized and resized in local areas to aid in the delivery of the drawings. The gas generator drawing required five sizings because the week of scratching an ink trail slightly eroded the surface. Ten days were needed for its resolution.
The book is sewn with a waxed, dyed linen thread on five linen cords laced into wooden boards. The boards came from a stash of mahogany that came to my family from my grandfather in 1959. It was kept clean and dry in the garage behind the freezer until 1995. After a generation, it happily found its way into my shop. I have made four books from it so far and it is spectacular. Stable, thin and workable, it provides an elegant surface for the homunculus serpent in the flask on the front board.
The boards of the book connect to the interior. The serpent is below the circle of the broken flask. The circle is bronze. Below the shattered flask is submerged the gold we all seek. A cribriform* gesture surrounds the flask. On the back board is the feminine opposite, a silver circle, a vessel of condensed moonlight. The boards link to the manuscript by a conventional English style leather-jointed endpaper, with a board paper and first leaf made of earth material on the paper base. Each action from board to end paper to flyleaves is a decent into the underworld, a motion toward softness done so by using plants and earth-derived pigments.
When the viewer reaches the Materia title page, a new material, copper, the metal associated with Venus is introduced. This begins the cycle all over again. In the manuscript the viewer will also find a page of red oxide cribriform,* which is an iron derivative and is associated with Mars.
Alchemy is a teaching process, an immersion into which compels me to look at objects, materials, and ideas and how their movements can be tracked – movements that go through time rather than space. Materia describes how materials change from one form to another. This change is on-going.
As the book was progressing, a theoretical description of the interaction of color began to emerge and the first visual jottings of these concepts are contained in Materia. This adds to the significance of the book. For me, it is a pivotal manuscript book and has been kept in my collection as a reference for over a decade. Now that I have the theoretical underpinnings of what I call "sliding color" nailed down, I can release it into the world.
7 folios, 15 by 11 inches closed, contained in a mahogany and basswood box- painted with iron oxide and ornamented in gold and bronze foil. Completed 1995."
*See Tables of Jupiter exhibition catalog.