Object No.2

Object No.2

OBJECT No.2: L. Cornelisen & Son pigments in Ultramarine Blue Light & Alizarin Crimson

The pouch is of waxed white paper. The small package, 100 grams, has been handled, opened, closed and passed around countless time. The manufacturer is L. Cornelisen & Son. Their name is rendered in a beautiful etched font. The austere black print on white, the ancient symbols of charters that hang above the name all give the package a pharmacopoeic sense or of an element or compound used in ecclesiastical or Masonic rite.

There is a solemnity about the packaging. Serious substances in carefully meted out weights. This is not hobby-stuff. There is no little indicator on the front of what the colour looks like. Just black words that resonate like a covenant or a deed. A promise to deliver a colour.

There are actually two packets that were purchased. One contains Ultramarine Blue Light and the other is Alizarin Crimson. They were purchased as research into colour. The Ultramarine Blue Light, when opened, is something of a Rosetta Stone of all blues. The Alizarin Crimson is exquisite, almost explicit in its swollen dark burn.

The packaging, though, made them objects of inspiration. The timelessness of the packaging makes it difficult to locate the era of their origin. They feel like items passed through time. To hold the packets, their tiny shifting bulk, is to invoke the spirit of dead painters in gorgeous studios in crumbling houses. The pigment has a smell. Not a strong or particularly fragrant one. A faintly astringent and antiseptic pale perfume. The scent of preparation.

We like to romantically imagine art as a ritual. Every ritual needs objects, elements and sacred compounds. These two simple paper packets of pigment powder are loaded with deep ponder and infinite possibility.

Alexander Coggin is an American photographer living in London.