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Balance, J. - A.O.S. - Artist, Occultist, Sensualist (1)

Balance, J. - A.O.S. - Artist, Occultist, Sensualist (1)

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Published by John-Jack Holland

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Published by: John-Jack Holland on Mar 04, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Artist, Occultist, Sensualist
An Essay
 J. Balance
taken from the exhibition Catalogue
saw my first original Austin Osman Sparepainting hanging above the seething bookshelves of Atlantis, the occult bookshop that I spent my lateteens lurking inside. In fact there were several of his paintings and I could not believe my eyes. Untilthen I had only been aware of his name and hadbeen conscious of seeing the recurring and hauntingimage of “PAN”, which was actually a section of the late pastel called “The Vampires Are Coming.”This image was widely used in the seventies onseveral occult type book jackets and was a keyfigure in the promotion of the eclectic magazineseries ‘
 Man, Myth and Magic
ere were a clutch of excitingly vivid anddynamically coloured originals. My mouth wentdry, my head reeled and I was shocked into a stateof genuine awe. These were the real thing. Iremember a dual self-portrait in which the twofacing heads of Spare seemed to be locked intosome perpetual argument. There was an eeriestudy of a transported medium, her eyes neitheropen nor closed, and then there was a Martiancoloured astral landscape with a single figure of aseated satyr looking into the orange-red void. Iliked this one the most. Unfortunately I couldn’tafford to buy any of the pictures and very soonthey went to various acquaintances who couldafford them. I was desolated and vowed then toone day own one of my own. The painting with
the solitary satyr, soon vanished into its own hinterland after being left on a tube train bythe person charged to deliver it to Heathrow to begin its journey abroad to a new homewith a foreign buyer. But my appetite had been whetted. From that day on I sought outas much information about Austin Osman Spare as I could find and tried to see as manyoriginal works or reproductions as I could.
soon began to realise that this man was anextraordinary and prolific artist and that with each newimage a new facet was revealed, and the essentialmystery of the man deepened. Even the sound of hisname evoked something rarer and more exotic than thenormal. I wondered whether there was an Irishconnection as he sometimes signed himself Austin O’Spare. Friends asked was there a Persian connectionwith that curious middle name. Early photographs andpen and ink drawings of himself compounded themystery as I came across beautiful images of the artistas a tousled haired bare-footed aesthetic, as a savageand exotic Mongolshaman with skullsand altars, and as a Princely Magickian in thefashionable Japanese style of the era, bound up in therich apparel of his Sorceries. I began an ever evolvingquest to understand and appreciate the dynamic mysteryof his art and life.
his new exhibition of his work will give the visitor achance to acquaint themselves with the extraordinarysensual properties of the artist’s work. For I believethat the art of Austin Spare – more so than any otherartist I am aware of - is capable of existing on multiplelayers of interactive experience. The casual viewer willbe seduced and enthralled by the surface beauty of hisart and the way he handles the various media of hiscraft, while those familiar with his work may linger awhile and enter through the portals of the images into astrange and more vivid hyper-world. Spare provideswindows and doorways into the Spirits world – of this Ihave no doubt. And with practise and imagination wemay be granted access to Spares “storehouse of memories with an Ever-open door”.
his quality to Spare demonstrates the high imaginative frequency at which he works.These images cannot be taken lightly. Rarely have pastels been forced to create suchsumptuous crescendos and chaotic riots of colours as they were in his later pastel works.There can be few examples of draftsmanship in pen and ink as fine as the early magickaldrawing of spare, busy in the first opulent heights of his post Royal Academy flowering.Spare found himself in a starkly brilliant world of high Magick and decadence fueled byhis experiences with Aleister Crowley and the A.A. and his experiments with narcoticsand bi-sexuality.
here has been much speculation as to Spare’s sexual orientation. Later on in life hehad strong attachments to the women he knew, but in his youth, he seems to have hadstrong bi-sexual leanings, something that he shared with Aleister Crowley. For instancehow are we to interpret this passage from
The Focus of Life
:“The degenerate need women, dispose with that part of thyself. Give unto her all thy weaknesses, it is the sufferinghalf…Awake! The time has come for the new sexualities!To improve the species ye men must love one another…“Thou art that which thou dost prefer.”“…to supercede the sexualitites.”
t was a time when he consciouslyturned his back on fame and fortuneand instead chose the grim path of asceticism and sorcery. Thesedramatic themes were to weave inand out of his life like a crimsonthread as he constantly reinventedhimself and stove to find new waysto express his dedication to theartist/outsider. So take your time inlooking at this body of work. Try anexperiment and stop in front of oneof the Self-portraits and engage theattention of the eyes. Give the artistas opportunity to speak and you willhear him.
here are many thematic twists and turns in Spare’s work. There is wonderfully dark and brooding chthonic leaning in the early works, where fabulous animals prowl amongstthe dreaming humans. Snakes and dragons and other representations of primal forces

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