Denis Forkas Kostromitin

Featured image above: The Slant Serpent, The Tortuous Serpent, 2012-2013, Egg tempera, acrylics, gilding and ink on prepared wood block 

Denis Forkas Kostromitin is a Russian artist, currently living in Moscow, who has studied in China under traditional teachers. His paintings are dark, textural and hold a wealth of symbolism.

On speaking of Gilbert Durand, sociologist and anthropologist he says:

“Durand suggested breaking with the European Logos-centric tradition and going beyond the object-subject system. According to his hypothesis, our world (‘our’ being the subject and ‘world’ the external objects) is the fruit of imagination. Imagination is born from the fact of death, as a reflection of mortality – we exist ergo we are mortal ergo we imagine ergo we exist. The ever-unfolding vista of Mythos takes shapes of images, symbols, rituals, customs, social relations, poetry, games and legends. Imagination fills the space (or rather time) between itself and the realm of non-existence with things we see, hear, feel, create, destroy, hope for, dream about, etc.
If imagination is a reflection of mortality, its scale and intensity would probably be set by the proximity of death. This ‘(life)time’ would be a continuously changing value balance between Mythos and Logos and responding to the slightest changes in Mythos.”
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p134

I like this idea of the interplay between Mythos and Logos and the way Logos has to change according to shifts in Mythos.

Etna, acrylics on paper

DFC talks about his sigil construction technique and how it differs from that developed by Austin Osman Spare. His experience in use of eastern calligraphic techniques (especially farsi) have influenced his sigil creation and given it a very fluid form.

He also talks of art as an initiatory experience that allows artist and viewer to be in a place where everybody speaks the same symbolic language:

“I believe that art helps us transcend cultural barriers and brings us to the ‘plateau of initiation’, where everyone and everything speaks the same language. In my sigil work I attempt to establish immediate connection between Logos and Mythos. These auxiliary artistic elements serve as shortcuts to the ‘plateau’.”
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p139

M L K (Moloch) Tempera, blood, charcoal and graphite on paper 50 x 50cm 2011M L K (Moloch) Tempera, blood, charcoal and graphite on paper 50 x 50cm 2011

On the artist as ‘channel’ or ‘conduit’ for ideas and messages (this is something I will be exploring further in a future blog post):

“This striking recurrence phenomenon made me take a closer look as my own art and I soon discovered that I, too, had been passing on a message that wasn’t entirely own.”
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p137

“At the heart of Poïesis (hi-lighting my own) is metaphor, a vessel that can project idea ideas from one conceptual domain onto another; it allows us to manipulate imagination. I believe metaphorical projection and transcendence is the main function of religious rituals, and I choose to base my practice on the assumption that ritual is, in fact, a metaphor.
The purpose of my practice is to restructure Logos through a ritualised performance addressing Mythos and emerge with pristine artefacts of imagination.”
(bolding my own)
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p137

On talking of the use of sigil to convey messages to the unconscious in esoteric artwork (see Austin Osman Spare for further info on this topic) DFK has this to say:

“The power of sigils lies in their mystery, as the cryptic ornamentation stirs waters of the unconscious. This is why it is so much easier for the viewer to experience the spell than the artist. Unconscious puzzle-solving is the key element that opens the great cache of the Mythos.”
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p142

ABPA A , 2014, ink on paperΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ, 2014, Ink on paper

Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England.


“I believe that art helps us transcend cultural barriers and brings us to the ‘plateau of initiation’, where everyone and everything speaks the same language.”

Denis Forkas Kostromitin
Ansell. R (Ed.), 2013, Abraxas Issue 3, Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica, London, England. p139

The Hierophant – Harris and Crowley Thoth tarot

Between 1938 and 1943 Aleister Crowley worked with Lady Frieda Harris to create a series of 78 paintings for the Thoth Tarot. Crowley sketched basic ideas for the cards with the symbolism and imagery that he envisioned and Harris brought them to life as paintings in gouache and watercolour. These paintings are absolutely abundant in esoteric symbolism but have an added element brought my Harris; her interest in Projective Geometry.

The Hierophant trump is one of my favourite paintings in the series:
This is trump number 5, roman numeral V, the hebrew letter is Vau (the nail). Around the head of the Hierophant are 9 nails affixing a serpent above a rose and a dove. The astrological equivalent is Taurus, the elephants and the bull seen behind the Hierophant show the Taurian nature of the card. The colours are oranges, browns, reds; the colours of earth. the Hierophant himself is an Initiator and he carries the child Horus in a pentagram over his heart. The woman who stands in front of him is ‘girt with a sword’ and represents Babalon, the Scarlet Woman who ushers in a new Aeon. At each corner are the Powers of The Sphinx, the guardians of the shrine of initiation: To know, To will, To dare and to keep Silent, represented as eagle, bull, lion and man. They also represent the 4 elements. The Hierophant carries a wand with three rings, potentially representing the 3 Aeons and he makes a sign of benediction (seen in the traditional ‘Pope’ trump) that is also a V.
In the large hexagram and the 2 smaller pentagrams you can observe Harris’s inclusion of Projective Geometry showing the movement of a potential geometry through space.

The richness of the imagery is occulted to most viewers of this painting who are not familiar with the symbolism and it’s meanings. But despite the potential lack of specific understanding, the familiarity with the colours, animals, shapes and forms could lead a viewer to have a dialogue with the artwork and receive an innate understanding of the messages within the work: the colours are earthy, the animals are strong and forceful, the Hierophant is imposing and solid, these clues all convey ideas to the viewer. With greater involvement in the ritual aspects of the symbols, comes a differing perspective on the painting and a different experience when interacting with it. Each symbol has a wealth of meaning that adds layers to the understanding of the artwork. For example, a casual viewer might see 9 nails, but an initiated viewer will see the Hebrew letter Vau and the number 9 which opens up all the symbolism associated with both of those symbols as well as the symbol of the nail. The symbols unfold before the viewer like a fractal pattern.

Jesse Bransford

(Featured image: Magic Square: Mars (For Albertus Magus), Jesse Bransford, 2006. Latex, marker and graphite on wall at Galerie Schmidt Maczollek)

Jesse Bransford’s work is an interesting mixture of esoteric symbology, geometric (almost scientific) diagramatic imagery and ‘Pollokian’ organic paint and ink splatters. He is a Prof of Art at New York University and has exhibited internationally.

His work is particularly relevant to my research because of his extensive use of occulted symbology and it’s integration into diagrammatic or infographic art works.

Sic Itur Ad Astra, 2009

He talks about the use of and understanding of symbols in a context where the viewer might understand the meaning, or think they understand the meaning, and the effect that has as opposed to the effect of creating the artwork on himself as the artist:

PG: “And when you’re making this work, are you conscious of the effect you hope to have on the viewer, or transformation you’re trying to manifest in them, magical or otherwise? Or is it more about having your own experience of making the work and communising with your own angels, as it were?”
JB: “I have had moments where understanding of the work was transparent, where people have been open and receptive to it. On the other hand I think a lot of people are unwilling to engage when they see certain signs or symbols they think they understand. That’s the blessing and the curse of symbols, they are only as open as the viewer seeing them … Right now there seems to be a real calibration going on in the work between my legibility to the viewer and the self-knowledge and understanding I get from the work.”
Abraxas Journal of Esoteric Studies – Issue 3 Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica pg 28, Interviewed by Pam Grossman.

Transmission, III=260 (Mercurious) 2007

He also talks about another aspect of his work which is very interesting to me, and that is of movement in the creation of the work. Any work with a significant ritual aspect is influenced by the physicality of the ritual and the movements associated with that ritual:

JB: “I’ve made a very careful point to keep my practice moving, to use the way I make things as much as an exploration and experiment as the research I’ve done. It’s made me realise how much effect the trace of the body can project. For example most talismanic magic seems to want to happen at a desk, sitting down. I would guess it’s because the objects tend to be hand-held and more intimate. Other forms need more of the body involved, and some of the application processes I’ve used probably have more in common with dance than with painting.”
Abraxas Journal of Esoteric Studies – Issue 3 Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica pg 28, Interviewed by Pam Grossman.

Radiance, 2005, Kevin Bruk Gallery

Mercurious for Sol, 2007

The Fourth Pyramid, 2013

Abraxas Journal of Esoteric Studies – Issue 3 Spring 2013, Fulgur Esoterica pg 15-31
Artist Interview, Kari Adelaide, Huffington Post Arts and Culture, March 6 2014


Thoughts on the borders between art and design, from “Design and Art” Ed. Alex Coles, Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT Press, 2007

“The interface between art and design is by no means a new subject. Within Modernism it has its roots in the late nineteenth century in writings of the British critic John Ruskin and the artist and designer William Morris, and in the twentieth century, early avant-garde movements such as Soviet Constructivism, De Stijl in the Netherlands and the Bauhaus at Dessau. In different ways , they responded to the technological and political implications of industrialisation by fostering new relationships between the autonomous sphere of art and the mass-produced culture of industrial design. The result was a new form of practice wherein traditional boundaries between disciplines were renegotiated.”
p10, Alex Coles, Beyond Designart

“Once an artist decides on a goal to pursue his or her creative process looks very much like a design process. Artists have effectively turned their self-made challenge into a partly determined design problem. And the temporarily turn themselves into designers. So the border between art and design is permeable, and not just from art towards design.”
p12, Alex Coles, Beyond Designart, Kees Dorst quoted

– This process is very interesting to me. As a commercial designer I am used to working from a brief that is given by a client, so I am very much concerned with solving their issues rather than exploring my own questions. But in my personal art practice I still create a brief for myself even in as much as I start out with an idea, a question or a goal. I very rarely start working with no ‘plan of attack’ when creating art, so in that sense I am creating my own ‘brief’ and ‘process’ that is not dissimilar to that used when creating a design piece.

“No design can exist in isolation. It is always related, sometimes in very complex ways, to an entire constellation of influencing situations and attitudes. What we call a good design is one which achieves integrity – that is, unity or wholeness – in balanced relation to its environment.”
p19, George Nelson, Good Design: What is it for, 1957

“The purpose of good design is to ornament existence, not to substitute for it.”
p 22, George Nelson, Good Design: What is it for, 1957

“The words design, machine, technology, are and art are closely related to one another, one term being unthinkable without the others, and they all derive from the same existential view of the world. However, this internal connection has been denied for centuries (at least since the Renaissance). Modern bourgeois culture made a sharp division between the world of art and that of technology and machines; hence culture was s[plit into two mutually exclusive branches: one scientific, quantifiable and ‘hard’, the other aesthetic, evaluative and ‘soft’. This unfortunate split started to become irreversible towards the end of the nineteenth century. In the gap the word design formed a bridge between the two. It could do this since it is an expression of the internal connection between art and technology. Hence in contemporary life, design more or less indicates the site where art and technology (along with their respective evaluative and scientific ways of thinking) come together as equals, making a new form of culture possible.”
p56, Vilén Flusser, About the Word Design, 1993

“Design is becoming more elaborately layered, more spectacular, more pervasive in our lives. Design, rather than art, is foremost now in embodying the visual spirit of the age. Millions get by without going anywhere near an art gallery, but everyone is touched in some way by design. Perhaps what we are seeing in the inexorable rise of design is the gradual reunification of art, in the pre-modernist, ‘decorative’ sense, and everyday life.”
p99, Rick Poynor, Art’s Little Brother, 2005

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