ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

a visitation l


Oil on canvas. 24 x 20in. (61.5 x 51cm.) Signed and dated: ‘Colquhoun/45’ lower right. Provenance Sotheby’s, studio sale, 24 April 1985, lot 527. James Birch Fine Art, London. Exhibited London, Redfern Gallery, 1947, no. 76. Cambridge, Heffer Gallery, 1953, no. 6. Exeter, City Art Gallery, 1972, no. 7. London, Leva Gallery, 1974, no. 19, ill. b/w Penzance, Newlyn Gallery, 1975, (Summer), no. 1. Penzance, Newlyn Gallery, 1976, no. 15, (as 1943). London, Blond Fine Art, 1985, no. 42. Leeds, City Art Gallery, 1986, no. 13, ill. col. Wolverhampton, Art Gallery and Museum, 1995, no. 23, ill. col. Manchester, City Art Gallery, 2009, no. 35 (as 1944), ill. col. p. 120. Literature Remy, 1999, ill. col. pl. 125, discussed p. 246 (as 1944). Ratcliffe, 2007, ill. col. pl. 26. Colquhoun has used decalcomania to startling effect, to produce forms that seem to pre-date life. It is a painting about the generation of life from gaseous and liquid components. It is no accident that the lower forms resemble the retort of the chemist and the alembic of the alchemist: at the upper part of the painting, matter fizzes and spits with the spark that breathes life into matter. The globe-like forms may also be read as sephiroth, surmounted by Kether. Red and blue, the colours of the male and female principles, predominate. Art is born out of death. From the Palaeolithic hunters who drew magical representations of their quarry on cave walls to ensure a successful kill or the Egyptian sculptors who carved the portrait statues for the pharonic tombs in the promise of immortality, art has existed in the shadow of the Other World. In A Visitation I, however, Colquhoun takes art out of the mortuary and moves it into the delivery suite.