Artvisor and Presenza have come together with the launch of the group exhibition Alchemical Imagination. Currently on display at LIBRARY, a private members club in London, are 27 works by 10 international artists working in different media. Some of the artworks are by promising emerging talents, others are made by mid-career or established artists, such as Nobuyoshi Araki with his famous intimate polaroid photographs. The show’s title, Alchemical Imagination, ties in all participating works as each of them tackles the notion of alchemy in its own vein.
Johan Van Mullem
Concerned with the alteration of matter, alchemy is traditionally associated with Medieval practices. However, the concept is still relevant today – its implications have shifted to reflect current issues, making alchemy, in itself, a closed circuit of constant metamorphosis. Carl Jung approached the topic in the 1940s, linking the Medieval understating of alchemy to modern psychology. Today, we understand the subject as something inextricably linked to our innate wish to convert, to transmute, and to create something new.
The artists in the show convey these elemental desires through the production of paintings, drawings, and photographs that exhibit an altering of physical and symbolic matter in imaginary ways. In the case of Shannon Finely and Filippo Piantanida, we are presented with geometric and organic abstractions informed, and transformed, by technological tools such as NASA image capturing and digital art production.
In the cases of Jonny Briggs and Tom Poeet, the familiar becomes unfamiliar. In Briggs’s photography and photomontage works, bodies are disconnected and rebuilt into new characters and identities, echoing the Surrealist artistic practice of exquisite corpses. Tom Poeet’s drawings, on the other hand, are delivered as an uninterrupted representation of stream of consciousness. Embodied are his mythological creatures, both eerie and fragile.
The other artists present in the show, Kathrin Hanga, Nicole Coson, Cyrus Mahboubian, Johan Van Mullem and Colden Drystone also discuss notions of alchemy idiosyncratically. Hanga’s surreal forms appear to veer in and out of our reality. In her photography, the pure imprint of reality transforms into something new, which at first appears unfamiliar. Coson’s paintings use the force of weight to transform the very material she works with, whereas Van Mullem’s portraits present viewers with an augmented representation of the human form.
Mahmoubian’s photography shows isolated landscapes, which taken out of the context of human occupancy, gain a different meaning – here, once again, a familiar sight becomes unknown. Colden Drystone, performing at the exhibition’s opening evening, investigates the intangible and desirable. Dates and numbers, words and gestures, images and colours, are all signs in his work that share the space of either a golden clay ground or a reflective black mirror.
The setting of the exhibition is also unique to the show. The venue, LIBRARY, is a member’s club in Covent Garden that closely resembles the ideal model of a private library. Alchemy, and the way the artists interpret it, can be contemplated in a space designated for exploration and research.
LIBRARY Private Members Club
112 St. Martin’s Lane
London, WC2N 4BD
Monday to Friday: 9am – 1am
Saturday: 11am – 1am
Sunday and Bank Holidays: Closed
Telephone: 44 (0)203 302 7912