by Peter Cedrowen Taylor


The gallery, though developed from a mortuary chapel, had the feeling of temple-space, albeit of another worldly kind, as when one steps through a veil, and indeed, the entrance was constructed to that effect and directly in line was the altar-piece ‘Homage’, a Gigeresque Pan, with penis and balls dangling over a cross and as provocative as any of my shamanic friend Steve Mitchell’s ‘dark black art’. But provocative of what?


The feelings are hard to articulate. I make first for the Stonehenge Skull – sculpted from the original sarsen, with whom I have worked in ritual dance and ceremony, and odd to see him here in glass case, this working talisman, transmitter and receiver of prayers and songs, revered and loved, and wryly smiling and bestowing such blessing equally on all who come by. Thus re-assured, I walk the walls where this dark eroticism passes a light touch over some deeper mind membrane, slightly disturbing, as if awakening something better not awakened, and yet, better not neglected.


And to see all of the work over the past two years, assembled, is also a journey with another mind, awakening first to dark art, but then also great beauty, form and colour in contrasting upper world exotic and erotic flowers next the metallic powers of half-alien flesh. And then to humour with what must eventually become a classic – the melancholy devil on his sanctuary loo reading the Financial Times. I could see it on the FT boardroom wall – when things evolve that far! And for me, this humour is the saving grace – of something in me and in relationship also, as if I had worried of the whereabouts of my artist friend.


I know this man better now, and a little more of the artist journey – like that of a mutual shamanic compadre, in his blues-singer phase, digging deep into the pains of impossible love to turn a song of celebration – it is the same journey, finding not audible tones in the strings of the heart, but the visible metaphor that pulls out the same dark chords and whispers ‘don’t bury me again – raise me up’. Every line of taught muscle, iron sinew, every round of clitoral pearl, folds of vulva, sliding penetration that half-reluctant draws the eye first through the black and the red, then toward the divinity of turquoise – the perfect chalice for high tea with my Dark Angel.


I have come through. Through from uncomfortable doubt, a little concern, and distant admiration to something warm and light and a genuine embrace of my friend’s dark side – as well as my own.


Pandemonium: the dark black art of S. V. Mitchell
An exhibition at the Mortuary Chapel,
Walcott Street, Bath.