Alchemy and After
Painting’s secret ambition is to conjure the immaterial from the material, rendering non-visible worlds visible. In this, artists are like alchemists, transforming materials to conjure higher realities and reveal new worlds-within-worlds. But today’s “alchemy” is mostly about technology; science is no longer linked to magic or the spiritual significance that alchemists once found in nature and the elements. The natural world has long lost its enchantment and its meaning. Modern humanity, along with the chemistry of the planet itself, is beginning to register the damages caused by a purely materialistic worldview addicted to profit, supported by the global commodification of nature and people, and vastly over-benefiting a privileged few at the very top of the chain.
These paintings were created using liquefied coal tar (a by-product of oil refining) combined with shredded gold leaf. I think of the tar as the ultimate base matter, or “prima materia” in alchemists’ terms: dark, toxic, pulling things down into dissolution and decay – as well as a signifier for industrialization and the fossil fuels that drive it. In the gold I see the opposite – a precious, relatively “pure” metal invested with spiritual overtones – and a fitting symbol of the commercialization of nature. The titles are adapted from esoteric and alchemical texts including Eliphas Levi’s Doctrine and Ritual of Transcendental Magic (1856).
My goal is to transmute our failure to transcend our flaws into a kind of equilibrated cosmic beauty, however raw, a beauty that both attracts and repels, like the materials themselves.
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Opening Reception FRIDAY, NOV. 5
As Above, So Below, tar and gold leaf, approx.24″ x 8″