An alchemical analysis of an art work

Untitled by Itsuko Azuma

This image is by the Japanese artist Itsuko Azuma (1953 – ) and is Untitled. In it I see a treatment of the alchemical processes calcinatio, solutio, and coagulatio. While the images of solutio are in the forefront, I begin with the vessel itself, patterned after Raffaelle Monti’s sculpture of the veiled Vestal virgin and the first noticeable process of calcinatio. The Vestal virgins tended an eternal fire and in this image we see that she tends to and releases that eternal inner fire of the heart itself. From her heart, liquid (which I am interpreting as the blue blood of the veins) runs down into the vessel, a baptism of blood, which Edinger (1991) says is “equivalent to a baptism by fire” (p. 38). This salty life-water becomes a solutio in the base of the vessel, at the level of the womb and the first solution of life, dissolving the forms and structures there. Here is where I find a poststructuralist nod since we don’t see a human or animal at the center in need of dissolution, but rather what appears to be man-made structures and shows that, as Stanton Marlan (2005) says in the Black Sun, the poststructuralist subject is “primarily an effect of larger collective forces: historic, economic, or linguist” (The philosopher’s stone: self, subject, and soul, para. 2) all aspects of logos. This makes the solutio especially meaningful because it is a return to the realm of affect, or emotion, something primary and preformal. Hillman (2015) says, in Alchemical Psychology, solutio, “affects stone by reducing all its parts into consistent and equalized homogeneity” (p. 259). In this image, the structure of our human centered perspective dissolves to allow for a union with its opposite, nature. The coagulatio is the churning motion of the waters at the base of the structure and from which, I imagine, the new position is formed, the trees which seem to be taking over the man-made structures. I also see aspects of the sublimatio in the leaves that are taking to the wind, but there’s not enough space to give that any treatment in this post.

Azuma, I. (2017). Untitled [Digital image]. Retrieved January 22, 2021, from

Edinger, E. (1991). Anatomy of the psyche: Alchemical symbolism in psychotherapy. Open Court

Hillman, J. (2015). Alchemical psychology. Spring Publications: Thompson.

Marlan, S. (2005). The black sun: the alchemy and art of darkness. Texas A&M University Press: College Station.

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