‘The second Greatest poet of Warwickshire – William Shakespeare.’
That was the opinion of a certain Edward Alexander Crowley, known latterly as the ‘wickedest man in the world’, Aleister Crowley. The above comment came from Crowley as he inferred that it was he, himself, was the best poet that the county of Warwickshire had ever proffered. A comment that raised a huge number of eyebrows at the time. This was probably best highlighted by the fact that he had to publish his ‘works’ abroad as they were considered too indecent and offensive to be published in Britain.
But why are we talking about such a unique fellow at this time?
Well, the first weekend of August brought the ‘Art in the Park’ festival in the Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa. An event that Pipistrelle Art attended and very much enjoyed.
But what has this to do with the self-proclaimed ‘Great Beast’ Crowley?….Well, in the year 1875 he was born on the 12th of October at number 30 Clarendon Square in the centre of Leamington. But you will not find a ‘Blue Plaque’ to mark this guy’s place of birth – most people and places do not appear to wish to be associated with him….
He is mostly associated with the ‘Dark Arts’ (and we’re not talking Harry Potter here!) Crowley was a very prolific occultist, ceremonial magician and creator of his own Magickal society, known as the Abbey of Thelema. This guy lived his life to the extreme. From high-level mountaineer and master at chess to debauched sexual experiences and excessive drug abuser, Crowley seems to have taken life by it’s warped horns and run with it, even appearing on the front cover of “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” LP by the Beatles. Taking everything to the very edge until finally passing away on the 1st of December 1947 broke and virtually friendless as attested by the 12 people at his funeral in Brighton.
Mr Crowley, of whom Ozzy Osbourne sung about, was an incredibly prolific artist and painter. The subject matter was not always to everyone’s taste but the actual quality of the artwork was actually very good, if you like that sort of thing. His style has often been called surreal primitivism and is often deeply laden with esoteric and spiritual symbology. (Often based based on his own mystical practices). From landscape pieces to his ‘Nightmare’ collection to huge murals on the inside of the Abbey of Thelema which possibly meant more to the painter than to the art critic. Crowley’s work appeals to some but can repulse others and is still very collectable. It may be worth casting an eye over, even for just idle curiosity.
And then there is the poetry which can be on a totally different level. From the peculiar and erotic White Stains to the weird Red Lips of the Octopus his poetry is certainly a talking piece even though it may not be understandable! Many pieces can be found on the Internet should you so wish to look.
So, thanks for taking the time to read about this enigmatic and mysterious fellow, child and son of Leamington Spa. We were exhibiting at ‘Art in the Park’ and thoroughly enjoyed our experience there. Meeting other artists, performers, crafts-people and some lovely members of the public. We thought it might be interesting to show the other artistic side to one of the most mysterious men of the twentieth century who may have played, as a child, in Jephson Gardens, the home to ‘Art in the Park’.
Hope to see you there…..next year!
Thanks Mark @pipistrelleart