ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe


c. 1944

Watercolour and ink. 11¾ x 8½in. (30.1 x 21.7cm.) Titled verso. Provenance NT, then the British Museum: Accession No: 1990-11-9-146. Exhibited London, Tate Britain, 2011, no. 121. as “Mausoleum: Male Genitalia” ill. col. Colquhoun here presents a ceremonial structure, seemingly from a different world. Firmly planted in the ground, the slender form rises like a metallic skeleton, encased within an encircling egg-shaped force field of red and blue channels which emerge from similarly coloured feathery forms. A cloud of droplets forms at the apex of the encircling channels and coalesces over the figure. The skeletal structure links the underworld, the domain of the dead, with the earth’s surface, the domain of the living, and reaches into the sky, the domain of the spirit. It forms a vertical connection between the components of a tiered cosmos. It refers to generation and, through the colours, to the male and female genders. A related drawing in which the skeletal figure is more human and less metallic, is with the NT. The catalogue for the Tate Britain exhibition gives the title as “Mausoleum: Male Genitalia”. This is a conflation of the artist’s title and the BM’s own catalogue description, but it allows the author of the Tate catalogue entry to give rein to fantasies about the alleged semen-like consistency of the paint.