Elijah Burgher

The Artwork of Elijah Burgher

Born in Kingston, New York in 1978, Elijah Burgher is an American artist who produces both figurative and abstract colored pencil drawings, paintings and prints of sigils. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and his Master of Fine Arts at Chicago’s Art Institute. Burgher currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany. His work is represented by the Horton Gallery in Dallas, New York’s contemporary PPOW Gallery, and Western Exhibitions in Chicago. 

In his work, Elijah Burgher uses ideas from occult and magic traditions to address queer sexuality, sub-cultural formations, and the history of abstraction. He also creates sigils, symbols of magical power, inspired by different esoteric systems, including the works of English illustrator and occultist Austin Osman Spare, who trained as a draughtsman at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington. Burgher’s sigils encode symbols of wishes and desires through their shape, and the compositions of their elements and color.

Burghers colored pencil drawings of nude male figures, often featuring images of friends,  illustrate scenes from his daily life and environment. Acting as ritual relics, they have an erotic quality that anchors their abstract components into reality. 

Elijah Burgher had solo exhibitions of his work in several galleries including the 2018 “Nudes in  the Forest” at the Ivan Gallery in Bucharest, Romania; “Bachelors” at New York’s Zieher Smith and Horton Gallery in 2016; and “Elijah Burgher, Topple the Table of Correspondences’ in 2011 at 2nd Floor Projects in San Francisco, among others. As a resident artist at Western Exhibitions in Chicago, Burgher has had several solo exhibitions in its gallery from 2012 to 2020. 

Burgher has also shown his work in multiple group exhibitions from 2000 to 2021, including the 2014 Gwangin Biennial, Asia’s most important contemporary art exhibition which was held in the Republic of Korea; New York City’s 2014 Whitney Biennial; “The Temptation of AA Bronson” exhibition held in 2013 at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, Netherlands; the 2020 “intimacy: New Queer Art from Berlin and Beyond” held at the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, Switzerland; and “Secret Language” held in 2021 at the Ivan Gallery in Bucharest, among others.

In 2011, Elijah Burgher held a Residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in New York City and a Fire Island Artist Residency in Long Island, New York.

Note: an interview with Elijah Burgher can be found at the Inside/Within web art archive located at: http://insidewithin.com/elijah-burgher/

Elijah Burgher’s works can be found at the P.P.O.W. Gallery site located at https://www.ppowgallery.com/artists/elijah-burgher#tab:thumbnails

Bottom Insert Image: Elijah Burgher,, “Bachelor with Demons (Sleezy)”, 2015, Colored Pencil on Paper

Denis Forkas

The Paintings of Denis Forkas

Born in 1977 in Kamyshin, a town on the Volga river, Denis Forkas Kostromitin is a Russian painter whose work explores religious and mythological symbolism in the tradition of ancient Mediterranean art. The son of a military officer, his childhood years were spent in various remote regions of the Soviet states. Forkas’s early nomadic existence with its isolation and lack of comforts led to self-education in artistic training and numerous sensory deprivation experiences, which later had a major impact on his artwork.

With little stimulus from the austere Soviet environment, Forkas eagerly consumed literature on the esoteric worlds of Egyptian and Greek mysticism and mythology. After the iron curtain’s collapse in 1991, new translations of literary works, including the esoteric writings of English occultist Aleister Crowley and French author Eliphas Levi, entered the Soviet states. Forkas studied these new volumes and the literature written by Western philosophers, which became available in the mid-1990s.

After the economic boom in the new century, Denis Forkas frequently visited China as a journalist, interpreter, and commercial representative. After meeting several painting masters in China, he was able to receive formal training for three years in traditional Eastern painting techniques, including those of the Xieyl and Gongbi art forms. 

Xieyl is a genre of Chinese traditional painting worked on xuan paper that uses either ink or layers of watercolor. This genre includes works of calligraphy, poem, painting and seal, of which freehand painting is the most influential and popular. Gongbi is a careful, realistic technique of Chinese painting, often highly-colored, that is worked  on xuan paper. This method uses highly-detailed brushstrokes that delineate details very precisely without interpretation or free expression on the part of the artist.

After leaving China, Forkas settled in Moscow to concentrate on his career path as a professional artist. His early work was inspired by German Expressionism and the late nineteenth-century Symbolist movement, which emphasized the reality of the created paint surface itself. These paintings by Forkas were influenced by the early abstract, experimental works of Wassily Kandinsky that, in an immediate way, were an expression of Kandinsky’s inner feelings.

Denis Forkas’s new work, still in the artistic traditions of ancient Near East civilizations, draw their inspiration from early Renaissance and  seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. Drifting away from the earlier predominant symbolist style, Forkas’s paintings became influenced by the works of Belgian painter Fernand Khnopff, who carried symbolism’s recurring themes into his portraits, and Russian painter Mikhail Vrubel, whose paintings in the latter portion of his life displayed a glowing, otherworldly mosaic effect that fit within the Byzantine tradition.

Since 2007, Forkas has privately taught the techniques of painting and drawing to students and has participated in various local and international exhibitions, including the October 2014 Image Show in London. Forkas has produced many drawings and paintings that have been featured as album covers for international music releases. Currently living and working in Moscow, he has contributed both work and an interview for the esoteric publisher Fulgur Press.

Contact information and a small gallery of work by Forkas can be found at his website located at: www.denisforkas.com

For those interested, a list of album cover art by Denis Forkas can be found at the Encyclopaedia Mettalum site located at: https://www.metal-archives.com/artists/Denis_Forkas_Kostromitin/436114

Second Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “The Hanged Man / Gift of Prometheus”, 2017, Acrylics and Gilding on Paper, 41.5 x 29.5 cm

Third Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “Saglokratlok II”, 2017, Ink and Gouache on Paper, 24.1 x 18.5 cm

Bottom Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “Between Two Worlds (Study for a Recurring Dream of Ichor Baptism Fashioned as a Portico Fresco Cartoon)”, 2016, Acrylics on Paper on Hardboard, 23.7 x 22.5 cm

Calendar: September 27

A Year: Day to Day Men: 27th of September

Flesh and Silver Claws

September 27, 1885 was the birthdate of magician Harry Blackstone, Sr.

Born Harry Bouton in Chicago, Illinois, Harry Blackstone was a famed magician and illusionist. He was in the model of courtly, elegant predecessors such as Howard Thurston and Harry Keller, and the last of that group in America. Blackstone customarily wore white tie and tails while performing, and traveled with a sizable cast of assistants and large-scale illusions. His stage show was presented to the accompaniment of a pit orchestra.

One of Blackstone Senior’s especially effective illusions was called the Kellar Levitation billed as “The Dream of Princess Karnac”. A woman would lay on a couch, uncovered unlike other magicians’ versions, and rise up in the air. In another illusion,  a woman stepped into a cabinet in front of many tubular incandescent bulbs. Blackstone would suddenly push the perforated front of the cabinet backwood so the bulbs protruded through the holes in the front of the box. The cabinet was then revolved, revealing the woman impaled by the blinding filaments.

His “Sawing a Woman in Half” illusion involved an electric circular saw some three to four feet in diameter mounted in an open frame. Blackstone demonstrated the efficacy of the device by sawing noisily through a piece of lumber. Then a female assistant was placed on the saw table in full view, as wide metal restraints were clamped upon her midsection. The saw table was pulled by a motor through the saw blade.The blade whirred and appeared to pass through her body. As ripping sounds were heard, the woman shrieked, and particles were scattered by the whirring blade. When the blade stopped she, of course, rose unharmed.

“The Floating Light Bulb”, was perhaps Blackstone’s signature piece. In a darkened theatre, Blackstone would take a lighted bulb from a lamp and float it, still glowing, through a small hoop. He would then come down from the stage and the lamp would float out over the heads of the audience. This illusion was passed to Blackstone’s son, also Harry Blackstone, and then after his son’s death to the Dutch illusionist Hans Klok.

Harry Blackstone Sr. spent the last years of his life performing at the Magic Castle, a magical attraction in Hollywood, California. He died at the age of 80 in Hollywood on November 16, 1965. Blackstone was interred In Colon, Michigan where the main street was renamed Blackstone Avenue in his honor.

In 1985, on the 100th anniversary of his father’s birth, Harry Blackstone Jr. donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. the original floating light bulb, which Thomas Edison designed and built, and the original Casadega Cabinet, used in the “Dancing Handkerchief” illusion. This was the first ever donation accepted by the Smithsonian in the field of magic.

Chung Ling Soo

Artist Unknown, “Chung Ling Soo”, 1908 Advertising Poster

This rare 1908 poster advertised a tour of the talented magician Chung Ling Soo. It is one of eight different known posters of the magician’s tours.

Born William Ellsworth Robinson in Westchester County, New York in 1861,Chung Ling Soo was a behind-the-scenes designer of magic tricks for headliners Harry Keller and Alexander Herrmann before he struck out on his own. Around 1900, while in Europe, he adopted the Chung Ling Soo persona.

Robinson went to great lengths to preserve the illusion, limiting his speech on stage to the occasional bit of broken English and relying on an interpreter to talk to journalists. Robinson in his persona of Chung Ling Soo performed a bullet catch trick at a show in London, England in 1918; it was one of the big theatrical showpieces of his performances. Instead of catching the bullet on a plate, the bullet hit his chest. Robinson died a few days later at the age of 56.

Robert Buratti

Robert Buratti, “The Hierophant”, Date Unknown, Ink and Pen on Paper, 15.7 x 11.8 Inches

This work is part of the Arcana Series by Robert Buratti and was inspired by “The Hierophant” card of the Thoth tarot deck. Buratti’s work is chiefly concerned with the role of the spiritual within contemporary art, and the talismanic and transformational power of the image. Influenced by the approach and experimentation of artists such as James Gleeson, Andre Breton, Aleister Crowley, Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso, Buratti’s work seeks a balance between the seen and unseen, the technical and the intuitive.

Kellar the Magician

Keller the Magician Poster, “Levitation”, 1900-1909

Harry Kellar was an American magician, a predecessor of Harry Houdini and a successor of Robert Heller and Isaiah Hughes, under whom he apprenticed. Referred to as the “Dean of American Magicians”, he is shown here performing one his most memorable stage illusions, the “Levitation of Princess Karnac”.

Remedios Varo

Remedios Varo, “Creating with Astral Rays”, 1955, Oil on Canvas

The visionary lone painter, Remedios Varo, typically portrays herself sitting at a desk engaged in magical work, embarking on a journey to unlock true meaning, or dissolving completely into the environment that surrounds her. As a well-studied alchemist, seeker, and naturalist, however dreamlike her imagery may appear, it is in fact reality observed more clearly; Varo painted deep, intuitive, and multi-sensory pictures in hope to inspire learning and promote better individual balance in an interconnected universe.

Interestingly, and understandably, it was not until the last 13 years of the artist’s life, having fled war-torn Europe, found home in Mexico (amongst a community of other displaced Surrealists) and finally become free of ongoing financial constraints, that Varo was able to paint prolifically. Every work completed by Varo demonstrates profound technical skill and an extraordinary insight into human nature.

Although an avid believer in the inter-relatedness of all things and people, including the inter-weave of sound, light and image, her paintings are not typically populated by multiple figures. Instead we are usually introduced to an isolated creaturely hybrid thinker/artist character, reminiscent of St. Jerome in his study or a wise crone wandering in search of new discoveries.Varo repeatedly situates mystical machines in her pictures.

While in most cases such industrial looking devices function to make products that can be touched, held, and made use of, Varo’s structures are here to process that which we cannot see. As our emotions and psychological lives are intangible and invisible, it is useful to investigate them within some kind of known parameters, i.e. within a previously encountered system. Therefore, such apparatus, however made strange, help us to communicate what would be otherwise unspeakable ideas.

Phyllis Stapler

Phyllis Stapler, “The Moon Hare”

“Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamic of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problems and solutions sown are directly valid for all mankind.”

         Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Calendar: June 19

A Year: Day to Day Men: 19th of June

The Sky Encompassing the Earth

On June 19, 1603, Merga Bien, a citizen of the town of Fulda, Germany, was arrested and accused of witchcraft.

Merga Bien was a German woman born in the town of Fulda Germany. She was married three times and was the heiress of her first two husbands upon their deaths. In 1588, she married Blasius Bien and moved from the city; but they returned to Fulda after a conflict with her husband’s employers.

At that time, Prince Abbot Balthasar von Dembach, a Benedictine monk born into a family of knights, returned to power in 1602 after a long exile. Twenty six years earlier he had been forced to abdicate by an alliance of magistrates and knights against his religious prosecutions of the Protestant movement. Upon his return, Balthasar continued his policy of counter-reformation and achieved a complete restoration of Catholicism in the city and the principality.

Starting in 1602, Balthasar von Dembach ordered an investigation of witchcraft in the city and started trials which were presided over by Balthasar Nuss, who had attached himself to the abbot during his exile and was now appointed judge. In March 1603, the first arrests of  suspected witchcraft practitioners occurred in the city. On 19 June of that year, Merga Bien was arrested and put in jail.

Her husband protested before the High Judge in Speyer, a city at the center of the Reformation movement, and pointed out that she was pregnant; but Merga Bien was not released. In jail, Merga Bien was forced by coercion to confess to the murder of her second husband and her children with him and one member of the family of her husband’s employers, and that she had taken part in a sabbath of Satan.

Merga Bien’s pregnancy was considered an aggravating circumstance; she and her husband had had no children although they had been married for fourteen years. She was forced to confess that her current pregnancy was the result of intercourse with the Devil.

Merga Bien was judged guilty of witchcraft and was burned alive at the stake in Fulda in the autumn of 1603. The Fulda witch trials continued from 1603 until 1605, resulting in the deaths of approximately 250 people. After Balthasar von Dembach’s death in 1606, the presiding judge Nuss was arrested by the new Prince-Abbot and spent 12 years in prison before being beheaded in 1618.

The Book of Soyga

Illustration from the Book of Soyga

The “Book of Soyga”, also titled “Aldaraia”, is a 16th-century Latin treatise on magic, Elizabethan scholar John Dee is known to have possessed one copy of this work. After John Dee’s death, the book was thought to be lost. However in 1994, two manuscripts were located in the British Library (Sloane MS. 8) and the Bodleian Library (Bodley MS. 908), written under the title “Aldaraia sive Soyga Vocor”, by Deborah Harkness, a scholar on the life of John Dee.

The Sloane 8 version from the British Library is also described as “Tractatus Astrologico Magicus”.  Both versions of “Aldaraia sive Soyga Vocor” differ only slightly.

Magical Staves

Magical Staves from Iceland

Icelandic magical staves (sigils) are symbols credited with magical effect preserved in various grimoires dating from the 17th century and later. According to the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, the effects credited to most of the staves were very relevant to the average Icelanders of the time, who were mostly substitence farmers and had to deal with harsh climatic conditions.

Reblogged with thanks to http://chaosophia218.tumblr.com

Deer Antler Ritual Mjolnir

Troll Blood, Deer Antler Ritual Mjolnir

Troll Blood is a craftsman for Bear Claw Handcraft, who works with antler, bone, leather, hides, wood and metal. Mjolnir is the name for the god Thor’s hammer. Though most famous for as a weapon, Mjolnir played a role in Norse religious practices and rituals, used in formal ceremonies to bless marriages, births and funerals, as described in the Old Norse 13th century work of literature “Snorra Edda”. This work is ascribed to the Icelandic scholar and historian Snorri Sturluson.

The Fak Hongs

Artist Unknown,  Circa-1930 Stone lLthograph for the Magician Troupe  “The Fak Hongs”

In the first decades of the twentieth-century, a type of magic show known as the “Oriental Magician” was very popular. The early exploration of China at the turn of the century by Europeans provided material for practicing magicians to incorporate into their performances. A type of magic show known as the “Oriental Magician”, in which Western magicians donned stereotypical oriental attire, became very popular throughout Europe. 

One of these was the magician Fak Hong, a European who performed in Japanese robes and haircut similar to those of samurai warriors. Renowned throughout Europe during the 1920s and 1930s, his troupe, the Fak-Hongs”, dressed as Asian mystics and performed such magic as levitation and cutting women in half. 

Due to his show’s popularity, Fak Hong formed a second troupe which was led by the illusionist Chang, the stage name of Juan José Pablo Jesorum, a native of Panama. The two groups, now known collectively as “Chang and Fak-Hong’s United Magicians” successfully toured Europe, America, and South America. Several of their performances highlighted illusions such as “Invisible Man”, “Hari-Kari”, “Noah’s Ark”, and “Night in Tokyo”.