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Calligraffiti of Fire

Brion Gysin

Calligraffiti Of Fire was based upon a small ten-panel fold-out makimono, upon which Gysin had drawn with Japanese oil pastels. Both the form and the theme of this work, Summer Fires 1965, were decisive, but in attempting to make a final large work — "I had always wanted to paint a big picture" — Gysin was seeking to transcend the earlier picture and to leave a definitive statement of his vision and his powers, a permanent, lasting work in paint on canvas which would make up for the exigencies and vagaries of fate, and his own auto-destructive proclivities. This time, the work would remain, as evidence and validation. It would be the artist's final work, a summa which would stand as testament to a visual art which had been an illustrious vocation rather than a glittering career. Gysin's lack of a studio and his financial problems had made the painting and storing of large works impossible and Calligraffiti of Fire is inevitably a form of redress — see what might have been, if life had been less arbitrary, and fate more kind. The painting would exemplify everything which prosaic, cruel circumstance had denied — big enough to fill a gallery, large enough to encapsulate a life. (Ian MacFadyen)

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