Darcílio Lima: Opus Magnum
“Man develops within a circle of force (360 degrees): in this state (a sense of presence) he gathers a field of energy, of which three percent would simply enable him to be diurnally involved in a field of information.
Routine and unconsciousness will eliminate the whole field during this generation, creating division among men – privileged and defenseless. Aquarius and it’s magnificent paradise overwhelm us with their colors and images, neglecting what the planet Earth has suffered in recent times; both in relation to its cosmic reality, and the physical reality of the animal being.
No longer can one differentiate between rational and irrational, theory and practice.
Cybernetics will leave man with no option.
Technology has been able to hypnotize the whole planet with sensational tricks.
Stagnant men, nearing the end of their chronological span, open great prosceniums, in eternal competition with one another, for the purpose of self-affirmation.
Today I will wander to rest a little, and, after crying, offer Gold and Myrrh to Frida, Rossicler and Cileno for their diverging rides in the great aphrodisiac valleys of Marta and Ursa.
At this moment I sense the freshness of Jasmin, which is the breath from the lips, the rustle of their silks, and the furious hoof beats of their stallions, while their flowing hair and the manes of their beasts split the rushing wind like the finest blades.
They will open the Grand Portal.
Peace and Gold,”
Darcílio Lima c. 1970
Darcílio Paula Lima was born in the town of Cascavel (CE), in the western Paraná state, Brazil in 1944. He died in the same place in 1991, living secretly on the dirt floor in a back room of a
Baptist church—neglected, forgotten, forsaken, drawing the ravings of madmen on the walls.
The trajectory of this amazing and quintessential “outsider” artist’s life lasted only a brief 47 years. But he would produce some of the most compelling and visceral images known to man.
20 years after his death, his work was exhibited in New York City — a place he only ever dreamed of visiting — alongside other masters of outsider art such as Henry Darger, Charles Dellschau,
But Darcílio Lima, in an attempt to be released from the demons he conjured from his deep unconscious and manifested in his art, sought redemption by attempting to destroy every single one of the works he created.
Lima lived in Rio, under strained circumstances, and sought the sexual and psychoactive breaking point his body and mind could endure while living the hedonistic life of the underground.
Lima also developed an obsession for science fiction, Sartre, alchemy, astrology, the gospels, the perennial philosophy, ancient sacred writings and illustrations. He eventually had a nervous breakdown,
unable to cope with such intense and overwhelming stimuli.
Doctor Nise da Silveira (1905- 1999) took him to the Casa das Palmeiras—a center for mental health, based on the principles of libertarian psychiatry and strongly influenced by the theories of Carl G. Jung.
It was here, through intense and harsh self-observation, that Lima met Ivan Serpa, one of the leading artists of Brazil and an admirer of Jean DuBuffet and his collection of “Art Brut,” which had been culled from
occupants of mental institutions throughout Europe. Lima was mentored by Serpa in art making for over two years. In this time Lima developed, not only a remarkable vision of a hybrid of all of his obsessions,
but also an incredible technical proficiency and craftsmanship.
In 1969 Darcílio Lima apprenticed with Marcelo Grassmann, who initiated him in all of the techniques of engraving. Engraving eventually became Lima’s primary medium of expression for the remainder of
the time he was prominent in the contemporary art world in Brazil and Europe. In the early 70’s, after illustrating a surreal text for the magazine “Bizzare,” Lima travelled to Europe.
He stayed in Paris, living and sleeping in a graveyard. While there, he befriended and penetrated the circles of Dali, Moebius, even Jodorowsky around the time he was making The Holy Mountain.
Lima returned to Brazil in 1975 to supervise the publication of the book “Darcílio Lima: Diafragma” by Etcetera Edições, Rio de Janeiro. This book, a landmark in Lima’s career, is a large format,
hand-signed, and numbered edition of 500. Copies of this book eventually entered the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Getty Library. After publication,
Lima disappeared and, while his art continued to be exhibited and celebrated, no one knew of his whereabouts.
In 1985 a writer, researching Darcílio Lima for a story, encounters him in his home town of Cascavel. He recounts, “I came across a beggar with a vacant expression, thinning, unkempt hair.
He was now living at the back of an old Baptist church, next to a graveyard.”
Then, while Lima was in the process of destroying all of the art he had made in the previous years, as means of obtaining redemption for the sins of making the art, he fell on his head, and died.
* with information derived, with permission, from here.
Darcílio Lima’s Opus Magnum by Barbara Safarova
“When we say things openly in fact, we do not say anything. But when our language is encrypted and put in images, we cover the truth.”
— Rosarium philosophorum, 1550.
In the first half of the twentieth century the Surrealist movement accomplished in the arts what thinkers like Carl Gustav Jung or Gaston Bachelard achieved at the theoretical level: the rehabilitation of image
in connection with mythical thinking. Gradually, image became not only another way of seeing the world, but also a true epiphany of the being of things, a means of knowledge — a secret number of human destiny.
If at first sight the Brazilian artist Darcílio Lima belongs to the Surrealist aesthetic, he seems first of all a true spiritual brother of the great alchemists of the Renaissance. Through their Art, in search of the Opus Magnum (1), they aimed to heal the sick body of the world by creating a new order. According to the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles, all life is a movement born out of the tension between the bipolar forces of love and hate. These forces correspond in the Opus Magnum to the successive operations of solution and coagulation, dissolution and fixation, distillation and condensation, systole and diastole, the “yes and no in all things.” (2) In Arabic alchemy there are also two bipolar agents—sulfur and philosophical mercury, the sun and the moon, the white wife and the red husband.
The high point of the “Great Work” is the conjunction: the union of masculine and feminine principles—the igneous spirit and aqueous material—at the wedding of heaven and earth. And the unbreakable product of this cosmic coupling is the Philosopher’s stone symbolizing perfection, lapis—“the son of the red sun”—or Christ-Lapis: “After much suffering and great pain / I have risen, clarified and spotless.” (3)
We could conclude that the eroticism and sexuality Lima shows in his images—and that leads to the meeting of two opposite aspects—functions not only as a highly personal version of an alchemic treatise, but above all as a critique of false moral doctrines and religious dogmatism, instruments of sexual repression. Behind the violence of Lima’s images we can perhaps also discover a highly intelligent and insightful critique of the materialist and mechanical worldview, the disastrous repercussions of which have been felt throughout the twentieth century until today.
In an attempt to grasp the meaning of Lima’s artistic production—and in the absence of other artist’s testimonies other than those left in his work—one can begin by identifying certain esoteric symbols. In his work, we often perceive the triangle—the symbol of fire— the circle and the dot, with the circle representing eternity, and the dot the concentration of time in one single moment , the snake, (4) the signs of the Zodiac, and the eye of the awakening, among others. Lima’s secret universe is designed as a kind of cipher, a mysterious writing, which also features in some of his images.
We are reminded of signs that appear on the scales of a turtle, and that would have been the ancient Chinese model for their language’s first characters. Is the purpose of this enigmatic writing to confer a sacred power to language? There are also other references, more aesthetic than esoteric. The hand that pinches the breast of Lima’s polymorphic beings again Darcílio Lima’s Opus Magnum by Barbara Safarova points to the artist’s double affiliation: on one side the late Renaissance School of Fontainebleau (the portrait of Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters, 1594) as a possible source of inspiration, on the other, certain works of his fellow Surrealists. We can recall, for example Hans Bellmer’s Games of the Doll (5) (1949)—the hand-colored black-and-white photographs of a tied, decapitated female body—or Metamorphosis of Narcissus, by Salvador Dali (1937).
In his poetic essay Arcane 17, André Breton emphasizes the quadruple nature of the fairy Melusine, a Surreal figure par excellence. According to Philippe Walter, this marine fairy from the other world, holder of exceptional knowledge, mistress of war and fate, is a beautiful Surreal emblem provided that it is understood she is a figure of the imaginal—that is, “representations which have the property of being autonomous as objects, while putting us in the presence of shapes or patterns without equivalent in experience.” (6) This hybrid woman from the other world is simultaneously a snake, a fish and a bird. Melusine participates in these creatures’ respective crucial elements—earth, water, and air—as their direct emanation. Lima shows us her monstrous nature—the figure lacks an essential element of the human anatomy. The head is often replaced by that of a dragon. Some of her members are enlarged, others are absent. She is characterized by an all-powerful animality, voracity, the presence of double sex. Her bisexuality is related to very specific reproduction—conception by mouth. Her fishtail links her to the world of water and denotes her initiatory knowledge. This Siren has sometimes other feet, which may also function as an allusion to the tripod of the cauldron found on Lima’s images, part of an initiation ritual unfolding before our eyes.
The divinatory power of this androgynous being is more than just anticipating the future. It is as if to say something could provoke the destiny, produce the event itself. This may be one of the essential qualities that the monstrous fairy Melusine shares with the artist. For Lima, to draw is to trace a sacred space—to avoid being devoured? —to ward off the invisible. His gesture of disseminating hermetic symbols by association becomes an operative phenomenon similar to geomancy. It is as if it is his way of accomplishing a process the aim of which is the transmutation of his own self.
The German Christian mystic and theologian Jakob Böhme (1575-1624) was the first to conceive the life of the cosmos as a passionate struggle, a perpetual genesis: “I recognized, I saw the three worlds in me…and I saw the good and bad in everything and how the one flows from the other…I saw chaos where everything lay helter-skelter.” (7) Self-reproduction, self-perpetuating, self-healing of the body to the point of re-organizing it—in this way, through his work, the artist becomes an omnipotent creator. By facing his own reflection in the void, he rises from the ashes. By the creation of new links between hypertrophied organs, and multiple arms and limbs, Lima invents a new cosmogony. The alchemist’s Art and artistic creation overlap without any possibility of separation: the crown of perfection symbolizes the ultimate completion.
1. The Opus Magnum: the “Great Work” starts from a mysterious material called materia prima, in which the isolated parts are totally opposed, then gradually integrated to achieve the state of perfect harmony known as the Philosopher’s Stone or lapis philosophorum.
2. German Christian mystic and theologian Jakob Böhme (1575-1624).
3. Rosarium philosophorum, 1550.
4. According to the mystics a powerful king of nature who has the capacity to heal the entire world, like a saline balm.
5. Hans Bellmer, Les Jeux de la Poupée, Paris, Les Editions premières, 1949.
6. Philippe Water, La fée Mélusine. Le serpent et l’oiseau, Paris, Editions Imago, 2008, p. 207.
7. Jakob Böhme, quoted in Alexander Roob, Le musée hermétique : Alchimie et mystique, Taschen, 2011 (original edition Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1997).
Darcilio Lima 1944 – 1991 PDF available HERE
All works by Darcilio Lima, Titles are unknown.
Barbara Safarova the president of abcd—art brut connaissance & diffusion—a Paris-based non-profit organization working with the collection of art brut formed by the
French filmmaker Bruno Decharme. A professor of aesthetics, she has taught the subject of art brut since 2010 at the College International de Philosophie, in Paris,
exploring this concept from an interdisciplinary point of view by focusing on its meaning in different geographical and historical contexts, collections, and its
signification within the field of modern and contemporary art.