In recent times Nevill Drury has given lectures at the University of Newcastle, the University of Queensland and the Australian Museum, Sydney, and he has been booked by ADFAS (Australian Decorative & Fine Arts Society) to lecture on Australian art at various venues around Australia. He also conducted a Summer School on the Western Esoteric Tradition at the University of Tasmania with Professor Doug Ezzy in January 2010 (a new Summer School is planned there for 2012). Nevill has two quite specific specializations – contemporary Australian art and the Western magical tradition – and he offers Powerpoint presentations on the following topics:
Inside Australian Art Publishing
In 1981 Nevill Drury co-founded Craftsman’s Press with Geoffrey King and Judy Hungerford with the aim of producing high quality limited edition publications on Australian contemporary artists. After producing award-winning titles on Justin O’Brien, Charles Blackman, Lloyd Rees and Brian Dunlop, Nevill proposed a change of direction for the company and Craftsman House was born in 1985. One of the specializations of the new imprint was to publish mainstream art books on contemporary mid-career artists whose work deserved recognition. Over the next twenty years Craftsman House would develop as Australia’s leading publisher of contemporary art and craft, producing the first major publications on such artists as John Olsen, Margaret Olley, Tim Storrier, Colin Lanceley, Robert Juniper, Alun Leach-Jones, John Firth-Smith, John Wolseley, Wendy Stavrianos, William Robinson, Imants Tillers and Roy de Maistre – among many others. Craftsman House also published the first scholarly monograph on an Aboriginal artist – Dr Vivien Johnson’s authoritative book on Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. This was followed by publications on major Aboriginal artists like Emily Kngwarreye, Gordon Bennett and Michael Jagamara Nelson. Craftsman House also published an overview of the art of the Utopia community, northeast of Alice Springs. Following its acquisition in 1989 by the international book company, Gordon and Breach, Craftsman House also published a number of contemporary art books on various European countries as well as on the art of different regions of the United States like Texas, New Mexico, Southern California and the Northwest – all exported to the world from Australia!
In this presentation Nevill will provide an overview of the art publishing process from an insider perspective – in his capacity as an art publisher and editor for nearly twenty years.
Spirituality in Contemporary Australian Art
The concept of ‘spirituality’ conveys more than formal religious faith or belief – it relates to the sacred and transcendental dimensions of human awareness and touches directly on the fundamental mystery which underlies the process of creation. Artists relate to this mystery in different ways – sometimes within the context of a religious tradition, such as Christianity or Buddhism, but just as often in an instinctual, non-doctrinal way. Some artists find the sacred within the earth, within rites of passage and transformation or within archetypal mythologies from both East and West. The artists discussed here have sought spiritual meaning within a range of contexts and perspectives – from Roman Catholicism and Afro-Christianity through to Goddess imagery, alchemical symbolism and Buddhist meditation. This lecture will include work by the following artists: John Coburn, William Ferguson, Leonard French, Alan Oldfield, Inga Hunter, Rover Thomas, Kate Briscoe, Tim Johnson, Anne Judell, Sebastian di Mauro and Ted Snell – and others – in a Powerpoint presentation.
The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton
Rosaleen Norton achieved notoriety in 1950s Australia as a controversial pagan worshipper and artist who performed mysterious occult rituals in her secret Kings Cross coven. Norton’s provocative visionary artworks soon plunged her into legal controversy that would last for most of her life. Norton claimed to be an initiated follower of the Great God Pan and also revered other ancient figures, most notably Hecate, Lilith and Lucifer. Norton encountered these mythic beings as experientially real on the ‘inner planes’ which she accessed while in a state of self-induced trance. Many of her most significant artworks were based on these magical encounters. This lecture will be accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation of some of Norton’s most significant paintings and drawings.
The Western Magical Tradition:
The Pagan Cosmology of Rosaleen Norton
During the 1950s and ‘60s, Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979) was well known in Sydney as ‘the notorious, Pan-worshipping Witch of Kings Cross’ and was portrayed in the popular media as a wicked bohemian figure from Sydney’s red-light district. Norton’s provocative ‘pagan’ art, exhibited first at the University of Melbourne Library in 1949 and later in the Apollyon and Kashmir coffee-shops in Sydney’s Kings Cross, plunged her into ongoing legal controversy. Frequently accused by tabloid journalists of being a Devil-worshipper, Norton was a pantheist and practising witch who paid homage to a range of ancient pagan deities associated with the primal forces of Nature and the Underworld. The latter included Pan and Hecate, to whom she dedicated her ritual altars. However, in addition to being a pagan ritualist, Norton was also a natural trance artist. She began experimenting with self-hypnosis in 1940, at the age of 23, and as a result of her visionary explorations of trance states began to portray a wide range of supernatural beings in her paintings and drawings. Norton believed that the Great God Pan, the principal deity in her personal magical pantheon, was not simply a figure from ancient Greek mythology but a vibrant and living archetypal ‘presence’ in the world. By paying ritual homage to Pan, Norton believed that she was responding to the Earth as a sacred, living organism. To this extent she can be considered a significant precursor of those members of the environmental and Goddess spirituality movements who, since the late 1970s, have affirmed the need to ‘re-sacralize’ the planet. This presentation explores various aspects of Norton’s personal cosmology, including her affinity with Pan, Hecate and other pagan deities, as well as her inspirational references to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.
Distinguishing the Right-Hand and Left-Hand Paths in 20th Century Western Magic
Scholars who have studied the history of esotericism, and the rebirth of 20th century Western magic in particular, generally agree on the significance and influence of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – an esoteric organisation founded in England in 1888. The founders of the Golden Dawn – all of whom were Freemasons – drew on the Kabbalah, Alchemy, Rosicrucianism and the medieval Tarot and practised various forms of ceremonial and visionary magic as part of an essentially gnostic quest for self-knowledge and spiritual rebirth. The ceremonial magicians of the Golden Dawn were theurgists, or practitioners of ‘high magic’ – their ritual grades were linked directly to the sephiroth, or emanations, represented on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and their magical quest was conceived in terms of a spiritual ascent toward the transcendent Godhead. The ultimate purpose of this theurgic magic, according to influential practitioner and writer Dr Israel Regardie, was to attain a state of peaceful ecstasy and ‘melt to a oneness with Ain Soph’. This essentially mystical approach to 20th century Western magic is often referred to in the literature, by practitioners and scholars alike, as the magic of the Right-Hand Path. However, following the fragmentation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn around 1900, the practice of ceremonial magic in the West became increasingly dominated by the occult doctrines of one of its former members, Aleister Crowley. Crowley’s esoteric doctrine of Thelema (Greek: ‘will’) was highly individualistic and sought to bend the spiritual universe to the magical will. Crowley’s magick (Crowley’s own unique spelling) was also based on a unique and controversial approach to sexuality. Crowley saw himself as the incarnate Lord of the New Aeon, and his Thelemic magick would subsequently influence such organisations as the European Ordo Templi Orientis and the American Temple of Set. It also influenced the rise of modern Wicca (contemporary witchcraft) in Britain in the years immediately following World War Two.
The Left-Hand Path in 20th century Western magic is closely associated with Aleister Crowley and the various occult organisations and groups associated with his legacy. There is a strong emphasis in all forms of Left-Hand Path magic on individual mastery and self-empowerment. Here the magical self does not ‘merge’ or ‘experience union’ with the Godhead, as in the Hermetic and mystical traditions, but remains distinct and separate from God: indeed, the magical practitioner may even seek to become a deity in his or her own right. The Left-Hand Path is also associated with ‘antinomianism’ – the act of ‘going against the grain’ – and with a chthonic approach to magic that pays homage to pagan deities symbolising fertility and primal ecstasy. This presentation contrasts the Right-Hand and Left-Hand Paths and explores their significance in modern esotericism. I also present a ‘spectrum’ model of modern magic which replaces the extreme polarities of ‘white’ and ‘black’ magic with a sequence that allows for various shades of grey.
Comparing the visionary art of Austin Osman Spare and Rosaleen Norton
Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956) and Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979) were both visionary artists whose paintings and drawings derived directly from their experience of magical trance states. Their artworks teem with chthonic images and occult symbols that allow a range of direct comparisons to be made, with regard to both their artistic processes and their individual magical perspectives. Both artists are significant ‘visionary outsiders’ in the context of the 20th century Western esoteric tradition. Spare and Norton never actually met – indeed, as far as we know, neither was aware of the other’s existence. However, both artists employed magical sigils in order to enter trance states which in turn directly influenced the nature of their visionary artworks , both were familiar with the Kabbalah, Jungian psychology, Theosophy, and Eastern mysticism, and both were fascinated by the sigils, or ‘seals’ found in medieval magical grimoires. Spare, who was British, and Norton, who was Australian (though born in New Zealand), were both influenced by the occult doctrines and ritual practices of the well known ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Spare knew Crowley personally and was briefly a member of his esoteric order, the Argenteum Astrum, c.1910. Norton, meanwhile, was involved with the British musical conductor Sir Eugene Goossens in sex-magic practices based on Crowley’s concept of Thelema – these controversial ritual activities, which took place in Sydney during the 1950s, would subsequently give rise to a public scandal that had a devastating effect on Goossens’ personal and professional life as a musical conductor, though this is not a central theme in this presentation.
Spare and Norton can be regarded as representative of the Left-Hand Path in modern Western magic. Both artists – in their own unique and distinctive ways – explored chthonic imagery associated with what some magical practitioners have called ‘the Nightside Tradition’. Others have labelled their art more specifically ‘evil’ or ‘demonic’ though this judgement, in itself, is a matter for debate. This lecture considers the nature of the Left-Hand Path in modern Western esotericism and is accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation of artworks from both Spare and Norton. The presentation includes an exploration of their unique magical perspectives, their creative and visionary processes, and their contribution to the 20th century Western esoteric tradition.
Nevill's contact information is on the Contact page.