"In the Footsteps of Hermes Trismegistus"
David Martin is the recipient of the 2006 RSA Alastair Salvesen Scholarship.
He is currently travelling and updating his exploits and images onto a web blog which you can follow at DAVID MARTIN
Some background to the project:
Hermes Trismegistus is very hard to pin down. He is supposed to have been the original teacher of the Ancient Art of Alchemy- the Art of Transforming the World (crudely diluted within popular culture to the art of turning dirt into Gold). He is perhaps divine; definitely immortal, and very elusive.
He is first written of in the Ptolemaic Dynasty (Egyptian dynasty, of which Cleopatra was a Queen) - Started by Alexander the Great a few centuries before the time of Christ. At this time, Alexander brought ideas of ancient Greece together with those of ancient Egypt. Hermes Trismegistus is reckoned to be a syncretism, a combination of the Greek Hermes, the god of journeys and thresholds, andthe Egyptian Thoth, the god of Writing and hieroglyphics. And Secrets.
When the Ptolenaic dynasty fell to the Romans, the centre of it's power, Alexandria, in Egypt began its decline. Eventually the great library was burned by marauding fanatical Christians, angry at the mystical content of much of the Alchemical manuscripts and magic books. From that time on, Alchemy was passed on only to a select few, the Initiates. The knowledge was passed on by word, from Master to Apprentice and was a fiercely guarded secret.
The Apprentice, in order to complete his training had to leave his Master, and go on a quest. On this quest it was hoped he would come to complete knowledge of the Art. (This quest, like many aspects of alchemy, was often used as a metaphor for the process of transformation of the Prima Materia, the dirt, the stuff of the earth, into the Philosopher's Stone. The substance that transforms all matter into something eternal.
From this point, Hermes Trismegistus becomes a Rumour. A Myth. A Shifting Shadow, The centre of Alchemical study was burned to the ground, and now the learning and ideas migrate. The first place they take hold of is the Arab Civilisations that dramatically transform into the cult of Mohammed centred in the Arabian peninsula, and the Levant (modern-day Syria, Jordan and Palestine.) Then, afwith Christendom's renewed interest in the 'Holy Lands' it seems that the rumour of Hermes Trismegistus infiltrates into the Christian Empire, and its massive centre of learning, Constantinople. With the fall of Constantinople in the 15th Century to the Turks, the great libraries and educated Christians flee and disperse into eastern Europe, carrying the knowlege of Hermes trismegistus with them, all the way to the Renaissance of central Europe.
I want to trace his journey, in the hope that i can see something of his passing. Something of the deep timeless transformation of the world, from dirt, matter, chaos, into something approaching the eternal.
RSA Alastair Salvesen Scholarship
David will exhibit works completed in response to this journey at the Royal Scottish Academy 16 March - 15 April 2007
please contact us using the above link if you wish to be kept up to date about David's exhibition or are interested in applying for this travel scholarship for 2007.