Deborah Westmancoat is a British contemporary painter based in Somerset, UK. She has a long term interest in alchemy and the philosophical sciences and how they help us to understand landscape and our place within it, particularly how the traditionally held metaphysical stages of alchemy: nigredo (blackness), albedo (whiteness), citrinitas (yellowing) and rubredo (redness) might appear within the natural environment.
Paintings begin in the quiet places where these stages become apparent and are made as a direct result of first hand experience within the landscape. Samples of site and weather specific waters – flood, rain, hailstones, dew, frost and snow melt – are collected and combined with ink and locally found elements to record the peculiarities, mysteries and attitudes of water held within the British landscape, particularly around the South West of England.
Informed by local flooding, recent works focused on a visual understanding of nigredo, the dark, formless first state of alchemy, as experienced through the element of water. Paintings became experiments in understanding the nature of immersion, how to lose oneself in the work and absent oneself from the outcome. As part of the making process, panels were repeatedly immersed in black writing ink and local flood waters. Each time the previous story was washed away and a new story ‘written’ upon the surface. These durational works were an attempt to understand the nature of beginnings, of how the movement of water can alter the ‘known’ over time, and how our psyche is affected by the temporary loss of the familiar in our environment.
Current paintings investigate the second stage of alchemy, albedo, introducing the transformational action of albedic light and order. Particular virtues and qualities of form and light observed within streams, icicles, hoar frost and hailstorms have been the catalyst for new works which use collected samples of each to express the inherent beauty and dynamism of water in these specific places and forms.
Part of The Learned Pig’s Wolf Crossing editorial season, spring/summer 2017.