The programme provides an ongoing platform for modern and contemporary artists who explore magical traditions through lived experience. It comprises themed exhibitions, lectures, performances, film-screenings, workshops and publications. I:MAGE has been created to provide a curatorial focus for ideas surrounding embodiment, agency and relevance. The aim of the programme is to explore the idea of ‘esoteric art’ as a movement and distinct category within modern and contemporary art.
…there are an increasing number of artists who are working in a particular way, with particular iconography, and with particular intent. Their work enchants and casts glamours. It is pregnant with esoteric purpose and meaning. It would seem to evoke otherness.
Such works are glaringly at odds with modernity and popular art criticism. As a consequence, contemporary esoteric art has too often been subsumed into other categories. It has been considered post-symbolist art, art brut, surrealist art, outsider art, magical realism, neo-romanticism, or visionary art – to name but a few. But while these categories are useful, they do not seem adequate to express the broad scope and inner complexities of this esoteric imagery.
How then, might we define it? Surprisingly, not all esoteric art is figurative, nor is it necessarily laden with occult symbols. It does not seem bound by media, or geography. Nor is it limited to a single political – or indeed spiritual – ideology. And when Kandinsky called for the artist to be the priest of beauty, did he consider the inner needs of Austin Spare, or Leonora Carrington? Their art is decidedly esoteric, but not spiritual in any conventional sense. It is curious then that both art and magic claim the power to evoke. In a primal way, they are intimately connected. And amid the noise of modernity, this is the voice that quietly speaks to us.
Introduction to I:MAGE catalogue, May 9th 2013.
I:MAGE – Travelling with Unfamiliar Spirits
Curated by Livia Filotico and Robert Ansell
Cobb Gallery, London
October 21-November 2, 2014
I:MAGE – An Inaugural Exhibition of Esoteric Artists
Curated by Robert Ansell
Store Street Gallery, London
May 19-25, 2013