This blog post is not about guitar, not even about music, instead it is about a piece of art – Alchemy by Brett Whiteley, the painting that gave its name to Dire Straits’ first live album in 1984, and appeared on the cover.
Brett Whiteley (1939 – 1992) was an Australian artist who is represented in the collections of all the large Australian galleries.
For your pleasure, here is a collection of some of Whiteley’s paintings. Interestingly one of his most famous pictures – The Jacaranda Tree (1977) – which sold for almost $ 2 million, cannot be found in the whole web.
These pictures appear on the screen courtesy of the estate of Brett Whiteley. More info on http://www.brettwhiteley.org
The original Alchemy painting was done between 1972 and 1973. It was composed of many different elements on 18 wood panels.
Alchemy is the ancient progress to transform ordinary components into gold. Transformation – “Alchemy is seen as an allegory of life’s journey, from birth to death, and the ultimate transmutation. It wanders from darkly sexual surrealist forms through beautiful Australian landscapes with native animals and birds, to the flashing sun against a golden sky.”
The parts on the Dire Straits Alchemy cover can be found on the right. The guitar and the lips and some other details of the cover are not original.
This is what the Wikipedia writes about it:
Part of his work Alchemy was featured on the cover of the Dire Straits live album Alchemy although it had the addition of a guitar with lips held by a hand. Alchemy is the ancient process of turning ordinary compounds into gold.The original painting, done between 1972 and 1973 was composed of many different elements and on 18 wood panels 203cm x 1615cm x 9cm. Reading from left to right it begins with an exploding sun from a portrait of Yukio Mishima that Whiteley had started but never completed. The famed author Mishima had committed seppuku in 1970 and the literary mythology that arose of his apparent final vision of enlightenment in the form of the exploding sun,as he pressed the knife into his body inspired and became the basis for this work. In terms of media it used everything from feathers and part of a birds nest to a glass eye, shell, plugs and brain in a work that becomes a transmutation of sexual organic landscapes and mindscapes. It has been regarded as a self-portrait, a giant outpouring of energy and ideas brought forth over a long period of time.According to art writer Bruce James the self conscious inclusion of the austere pronoun ‘IT’ that also makes up part of the work compacts life, passion, death and faith in a single empowering word and unites the notional wings of an altarpiece to nascent addiction. Alchemy
Very interesting, thanks Ingo. The artwork is now held in the NSW art gallery. Next time there’s a whitely exhibition on, I’ll go and check it out in person. A pilgrimage in honour of an album cover!
This works reminds me strangely of Pink Floyd… Particularly “Balmoral” – there are some definite Floyd indluences there (or vice versa?). Talking of which, The Wall at the O2 was stunning earlier this year..!
That is interesting that The Jacaranda Tree can’t be found anywhere on the web. You can find virtually everything these days. I wonder how it has stayed “hidden” for so long…
i know!! i have been searching for it everywhere for an art assignment and cant find it anywhere!!! this is the only page that has it on it!
Wow brett whiteley must have been very busy!!!! Its so amazing that he actually paints these beautiful paintings with not much effort!!
No offence but i could even draw better than this!! its looks like its just a bunch of scribbles on the page, a 5 year old could do that!! its just crazy that his work is so what they call’fabulous, amazing or whaaaaaa!!!’its not even that good!! its kinda like picasos paintings, it look sooooo disturbing and just a 5 year olds drawing for their mum!! i am just in shock…
Are u fuking kiding me. Bretts paintings are sooo amazing and u could soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo not paint better than him. if ur soooo good u should be famous, why arent u, huh?? and after u are dissing brett, u start throwing dirt on picaso!! u are sooo not cool and u probably paint wayyyyy worst than a 5 year old. Yep i am throwing dirt at u!!:) U back off pretty girl (probably nottt) and keep those things in ur mind!! FUK OFFFFF!!!!
[name removed] HAD MY MATE KILLED SO SHE COULD GET HER HANDS ON A ORIGINAL COLAGE OF THE DIRE STRAITS ALCHEMY ALBUM WHICH WAS NOT CATALOGED CAUSE IT WAS THOWN OUT. SHE LIED AN SAID HER HOUSE GOT ROBBED 2 YEARS PRIOR. BUT SHE STUFFED UP BECAUSE MY FRIEND HAD, HAD IT FOR 10YEARS. UNFORTUNATELY HE WAS FOUND LYING ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD DYING FROM A HIT TO THE BACK OF HIS HEAD AN LATER PAST AWAY. THE THINGS SOME PEOLPLE WOULD FOR ALL MIGHTY EVIL DOLLAR. IN MEMORY OF [name removed]. GOD BLESS HIS SOUL. AMEN.
Any pilgrims planning on having a look at Alchemy, just note – it is NOT on display in the NSW Art Gallery, but is in the Whiteley Studio, Surrey Hills, a short walk from Central Station in Sydney. No photos are allowed 🙁 but you can walk right up to the work, and examine it in detail… a wonderful experience.