Primordial Waters

Lapis lazuli and azurite in gum arabic, 23.75 ct gold on paper. 56x56cm.

Date12 September 2018
Category, ,

The image of this piece, made up of rings of blue 40 mîms dotted with gold, was in my head long before I could put a title to it.

The letter mîm is doubly primordial, with its egg shape and watery associations: the name of the letter actually comes from the ancient Egyptian word for water, mem, shared with Hebrew and Phoenician, and related to Arabic mâ’.

Mîm is also one of only 3 letters that begin and end with the same sound, and as such, symbolize the full circle away from and then back to the Source. (To mention only one thing; Ibn Arabi wrote a whole treatise about their significance.)

Each circle is made up of 40 letters, in accordance to its numerological value.

I have completely abandoned synthetic pigments by now: the materials are genuine lapis lazuli, and studio-ground azurite, with 23.75ct gold leaf: a palette inspired by pharaonic jewellery (where the combination was lapis lazuli, turquoise and gold). After some practice, I found the right balance with the binder to be able to use mineral pigments with a reed pen on watercolour paper. The natural pigments settle organically, rather than spreading evenly as a synthetic colour might: I leave them to their own devices, and the resulting textures add to the life and depth of the overall pattern.

Creation process

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A penny for your thoughts...