Tis True without Lying 9 part drawing

Tis True Without Lying (Large Drawing)

“Tis true without lying, certain & most true.

That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.

And as all things have been & arose from one by the mediation of one: …”

Isaac Newton. “Keynes MS. 28”. The Chymistry of Isaac Newton. Ed. William R. Newman June 2010. Retrieved June 2, 2020 from: http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/newton/ALCH00017.


Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was interested in reality and how to describe reality. In his time the boundary between science and alchemy was still open. During his investigations, he translated the text of ‘Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis Trismegistri Philosophorum Patris’. A hermetic text which has a long history of translations and commentary about its meaning and about its author. As is often the case, there is no existing original nor evidence of who the author was. For more information on the textual history of the Tabula Smaragdina, there is quite a good page on Wikipedia.

I have appropriated a small part of Newton’s translation to create a new textual artwork, and by doing so I am following the process of ongoing translations that this text has brought about. Like a retelling to keep a story alive, I believe an ongoing appropriation and translation of a work will keep it alive, updated and pertinent. And then there is the text itself. The words never fail to ring true. Parts of it have been used in sayings (As Above, So Below) making it sound like you already know it. Still, as usual in alchemical texts, many words are obscure enough to accommodate a wide range of interpretations and uses. My reading of it reflects on the influence of networks and robotics in today’s reality.

Installation image

The 9 images below show the complete work installed as a 3 by 3 grid (if you view this page on a mobile you will see them one by one). Click on each image to enlarge.
The drawing is in 9 sections because my little robot can only stretch to 30 cm. If you think ‘that is not an artistic choice’ you are wrong. Most artistic choices are a combination of practical and conceptual input. Paint and any other artistic material (for me here text, paper, ink, and yes my robotic drawing arm) define the boundaries of what is possible. Often, artists will try to go beyond those boundaries.
The 3×3 grid in this piece refers to the use of grids in Minimalism and the parcelling up of images in the digital dimension. Both are about boundaries, modules and the process of repetition in production.

The video below shows a few short clips of a long process of making. I arrive at the end stage of the drawing by trial and error. Many parts go wrong or result in something unusable so there is only one complete drawing available.

Walter van Rijn, Tis True Without Lying 2021, Hybrid human-robotic ink drawing on acid-free paper. 9 part drawing, each 420x297mm, total including framing 1140x1500mm.

Prier to this work I created a smaller A3 size version for an online networked exhibition Telephone, which can be viewed for free. Read more here >

These works are available for sale and for rental through ARTIQ.

%d bloggers like this: