Artists perform nothing short of alchemy in the production of their works. I worked exclusively with the medium of ceramics for over 15 years and I think this material has the ultimate magical qualities. It transforms itself from a pliable, plastic state to a leather hard material and then, through a brittle stage to the fired, biscuit stage and then on to its final stages of glaze and lustre, depending on the maker’s intention.
The complexity of these processes can be seen in Adela Powell’s stunning ceramic vessels, which are inspired, by Nature and the Sea. And who better to understand the concept of alchemy than Adela, who studied Natural Sciences and who daily translates her knowledge and sensibilities into her art form of clay.
Italian sculptor, Davide Galbiati, works with two materials; wood and concrete. He has recently been working with a technical company as ‘artist in residence’, developing a new, premium material, suitable for his sculptures. This concrete has high levels of aluminate, giving it high refractory qualities. During the setting time there comes a critical point when the sculpture must be worked quickly and decisively. So, the material itself has an ‘alchemy moment’ when it transforms from one state to another.
Davide’s wood sculpture has, what I would term, a natural alchemical process. Rather than a chemical transformation, it is a partnership between artist and material. He starts with a block of wood, hewn from a tree, and from that comes a work of art. It is only through imagination, skill and artistry that this can happen.
My carved paintings are not dissimilar to the revealing process of Davide’s sculptures. Working with gesso, a fine traditional plaster, I build up numerous layers over many days. When ready, I polish, draw, carve and then paint with oils. My works are a result of place and time, and I know that, should I have started a painting an hour or day later, it would be an entirely different piece, be it by form or by the palette used.
This exhibition examines alchemy in the artist’s way of working, how materials are transformed into something else, something other.