Casting for the voice of Strength | Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston, London, 1 -3 Dec 2016.

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Jonathan Allen’s recently published book Lost Envoy offered the first critical readings of a previously unknown deck of fortune-telling cards hand-painted in the first decade of the twentieth century by the English artist and mystic Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956). In Casting for the voice of Strength Allen continues his reactivation of this anomalous relic of the British Occult Revival by giving voice in absentia to a card currently missing from Spare’s tarot deck: its eleventh Major Arcana trump, known as ‘Strength’.

Casting for the voice of Strength recalls Pietro Aretino’s satire Le Carte Parlanti (1543) in which an imaginary dialogue takes place between a deck of playing cards and the cards’ artisanal maker. While Aretino’s cards laid bare the intrigues of Italian Renaissance social and political life, the two iconographic figures that comprise Spare’s lost card bear witness to the early modernity through which they passed unrecorded. Emerging now in the twenty-first century, their repartee points to cartomancy as a productive, if contested, site of enchantment

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