In 1977, a series of 78 strange enamel works were exhibited in a small gallery in Cornwall. The vibrant images were modestly grouped together in five large frames. For the curious viewer the artist provided a page of explanation, affirming that these ‘psycho-morphological’ studies were, in fact, designs for a Taro. Within a few weeks, the exhibition was gone.
Such was the first and last appearance of Ithell Colquhoun’s revolutionary explorations of the Taro As Colour. The product of a lifetime of esoteric study and art practice, Colquhoun’s bold project seeks to dispense with the figurative narratives of the traditional tarot and re-imagines the forces behind each card as pure colour. Drawing from the pioneering work of Moina Mathers and Florence Farr in the 1890s, Colquhoun integrates the esoteric teachings of the Golden Dawn with Surrealist automatic techniques to produce a design for a taro deck that remains unique in Western esotericism. Setting aside the role of the tarot in fortune-telling, through the power of pure colour Colquhoun invites us to reach for transcendence.
Published here as a book for the first time, Taro As Colour draws upon newly commissioned photography to present Colquhoun’s magical designs in vivid colour. Printed using the latest techniques of six-colour offset lithography, the original cards are augmented with gold and silver inks and gloss coated to better emulate the original enamels. Colquhoun’s original essay is also accompanied by a scholarly introduction by Amy Hale, who explores the background, approach and theory behind this extraordinary body of work.