For the uninitiated, Alessandro Cagliastro (also known as Joseph Balsamo) was a self styled occultist from the 1800’s who developed the disreputable distinction of being a charlatan or as Thomas Carlyle put it- ‘the Prince of Quacks’. His reputation wasn’t helped by his legacy as a forger par excellence, or by his connection to the Marie Antoinette Diamond Necklace affair. There’s something of case for him being a forebearer of Crowley’s however, a kind of 0.1 version and in fact, the great beast himself claimed Cagliastro to be one of his early manifestations.
He is also the author of the esoteric manuscript, The Most Holy Trinosophia, and was the founder of the lodge for the rite of Egyptian Freemasonry, which would prove to be curtains for the old magus when the inquisition put him on a charge of being one of its paternal members.
Here, I have him seated at an altar for the knights of Malta,surrounded by his props and uncorking a djinn- no doubt spinning tales of treasures in the distant Mount Pellegrino, to the duped cracked skull of Marano. Yet there’s an overshadowing menace bearing down on the com media dell’arte. Something which is always peering from beneath the surface, a primal fear of dark foreboding and ancient rite as represented by the seven headed dragon of Babylon.
It’s the notion of something ancient being played out over time, a return to the themes I touched on in the Man/son series, and it’s given me something of a flavor of what my next body of work will look like.
Cagliastro’s Feast will be on show during the Dark Matters show,at Bash Fine Art from this coming weekend through the 26th November.
This one may seem a lot less po-faced, even pop surreal I suppose, but no less vitriolic, particularly when I recall the two family members, the friend, and the idol lost in its ruthless wake this past year.
The Big ‘C’ is like a plague one dare not say fully, for fear of invoking a death sentence, it’s there a lurking, malevolent, silent, conspiracy of the bodies betrayal, a festering paranoia in every breath you inhale.
I wanted to evoke some of that in this piece which will be part of a special group show called simply ‘Cancer’ at Hyaena Gallery from October 1st through October 30th.