Says the artist - “The last wall painted on my stay in New York. Painted way down in South Brooklyn on Avenue U and East 28th. Thanks to Joe from Bottleneckfor helping me sort this wall out in the last few days of my trip”.
Introduced by the Egyptians (possibly even by Mesopotamians), and codified by the ancient Greeks, the theories of Humourism (the term used in philosophy) and Humoralism (the term used in medicine) tied all personalities, illnesses, and strengths of a person to the balance of four basic fluids in the body: Black Bile, Yellow Bile, Phlegm, and Blood.
Humoralism was one of the most enduring (but now discredited) theories of medicine, lasting over 2000 years, and only truly being pushed to the side following the 1858publication ofRudolph Virchow’s theories of cellular pathology. However, humorism, as used in philosophical theories and later, psychology, remained as the basis of the “Four Temperament" theories, and as a metaphorical descriptive device in psychology texts.
In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates first outlined the characteristics of each humour, and a couple hundred years later Galen codified the additions to Hippocrates’ theories. The Islamic physician Avicenna also contributed to the theories, and his additions (including the association of mental capacity and morality to each humour) later played a role in the development of the also-discredited field of phrenology.
The ideal person had a perfect balance (eucrasia - “good mixture”) of all four humours, but certain people were disposed to an overabundance of one or more, causing a dyscrasia, or “bad mixture”. This “bad mixture” caused disease and changes in appearance, and later was thought to cause changes in personality, as well.
The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in London recently commissioned Phlegm to create work for their annual contemporary arts festival, Deloitte Ignite. Curated by The Royal Ballet and The National Gallery’s Minna Moore Ede, the theme of this year’s festival is mythology. In particular, the major focus is on the stories of Prometheus, the Titan who creates man from clay and tricks the Gods; and Leda and the Swan, the union of a mortal woman and the god Zeus disguised as a swan. Phlegm’s use of traditional engraving techniques to prepare his murals was the key point of interest for the curator. His huge walls resembling giant engravings, with meticulous line work and rich details, seemed like a great way to visually re-tell these ancient stories. A storyteller with a sense for humor, Phlegm was chosen to bring new meaning to these myths. Mixing the elements from the actual legends with his signature characters and his own fairytale-like imagery, the London-based artist created three contributions to the event.
The main installation was a tiered panel structure created at the entrance to the Royal Opera House at the Covent Garden. Similar to his large installation for his February solo show at Howard Griffin Gallery (see our coverage here), this large piece is painted on a series of cutout panels. Three main pieces of this sculptural installation rise from the main structure and create a great sense of depth. Phlegm also created a large indoor mural that will stay on view for at least a year and is a great example of his hyper-detailed, illustration-like street art. Finally, he produced the preparatory sketch work for the larger works as copper etchings. These 9 A2 size etchings are meant to be a link between the outdoor sculpture and indoor mural and are currently displayed inside the Royal Opera House.