Notebook: Page 10
Catching up + looking ahead . . .
As many of you know—I’m making my way through remaining items in my 1988-ish list of Tarot-related notes. And here we are at:
On the one hand, I’d love to spend a lot of time learning more about Ithell Colquhoun’s life and work. She was clearly a fascinating person—multi-talented, prolific, eccentric. You can get a flavor from the references in her Wikipedia bio:
If you want to find out more, I’d suggest (based on a very quick scan) starting with the Michael Grenfell study “Artistic Biography as Field Theory: the Case of Ithell Colquhoun – Magician, Surrealist, Feminist?”
But as intriguing as all this seems, I find myself realizing that Ithell is one more case of a certain pattern—women drawn to art and esotericism in the early part of the 20th century, deeply involved for a time, subsequently forgotten, and recently “rediscovered.”
Which doesn’t make her less interesting, of course. Just less surprising.
And given that I have limited time to construct this post, I’ll jump straight to what’s most relevant: her Tarot deck.
Here’s an brief introduction from the publisher, Fulgur Press . . .
In 1977, the Newlyn Gallery in Cornwall exhibited a series of 78 taro designs quite unlike any previous. Ithell Colquhoun’s bold project seeks to dispense with the figurative narratives of the traditional taro and re-imagines the forces behind each card as pure colour. Drawing from the pioneering work of Moina Mathers and Florence Farr in the 1890s, Colquhoun integrates the esoteric teachings of the Golden Dawn with surrealist semi-automatic techniques to produce a design for a taro deck that remains unique in Western esotericism.
Originally produced as a small limited edition of 100 copies by Adam McLean (Alchemy Web Bookshop, Glasgow), this rare deck has long been highly prized by collectors of taro. Our new edition is reproduced from high-quality digital photographic files of the individual designs that we commissioned in 2017.
If “Fulgur Press” seems familiar—that’s because they also published Leonora Carrington’s surrealist Tarot.
Taro as Colour means exactly what it says: the Tarot archetypes expressed purely in terms of color, with no representational elements. Personally, I love it, since color is perhaps my most potent connection to the material world.
Here’s an excerpt from Annar Veröld’s review of the deck:
The cards themselves are quite large, almost palm-sized, measuring 15.4 by 10.6 centimeters. This makes them challenging to shuffle gracefully, and though several aspects of this deck make it less-than-ideal for a “formal” Tarot reading, the size of the cards is probably the most formidable deterrent.
But once you take a look at the first card, you’ll understand and forgive the size — the images contain a depth and profundity you’ll want to pour yourself into. So many of the images do indeed look like nebulas, or portals to another dimension. How you’ll wish these were life-sized doorways, because the urge to step inside is all-consuming!
The first time I opened my deck, I was excited but extremely overwhelmed, so let me reassure you: this deck reminds me of some of my favorite types of poems — wild and untamable, but grounded with structure and pattern.
In the deck, you’ll see that the Swords (air) are primarily pale yellow, the Cups (water) are deep blue, the Wands (fire) are scarlet, and the Disks / Pentacles (earth) are indigo.
This review appeared in Typewriter Tarot, a “Sanctuary & Community for Creative Spirits.” I only had a brief look—but it strikes me as a handsome website, with an unusual approach.
Tomorrow’s Page will focus on Arnell Ando’s work as an artist and publisher.
On Monday, I’ll share some notes for two essays I’d been planning, along with my wish list for new developments in the Tarot world. And then . . .
Stay tuned! C