The Alchemical Egg. Nucleus of a thoughtful Concept

Published: 19.11.2017
The Alchemical Egg. Nucleus of a thoughtful Concept.
Carolin Denter
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Twelve pieces, four artists, three colour and One Great Opus: this is The Alchemical Egg. An exhibition investigating the three stages of alchemical knowledge, interpreted by two goldsmiths and two enamellers. Curated by Nichka Marobin, organized by Hannah Gallery by Klimt02 and with the collaboration of JOYA Barcelona Art Jewellery Fair.

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About one year ago, the preparations for this extraordinary exhibition started: Paulo Ribeiro, founder of JOYA Barcelona Jewellery Fair, invited Nichka Marobin to contribute to the Off Joya program with an exhibition under the topic of Gastronomy.

Nichka Marobin is a Dutch and Flemish art historian. She graduated from the University of Padua (Italy) with a thesis on German and Flemish Renaissance ornament prints. In 2011 she founded The Morning Bark, a blo(g)azette on arts and humanities, and she is a passionate collector of contemporary jewelry.

All this led her recently to an outstanding career as writer and curator for several contemporary jewellery events. Influenced by her background and a passion for the Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, she woke up one night with the thought about one of Bosch´s paintings: A demonic creature, frying a man in a huge pan. Riveted by that thought, she started to think about what gastronomy and jewellery mainly have in common. Fire.
The Last Judgement (detail) by Hieronymus Bosch.

After weeks of rethinking, she decided to invite artists, which use the fire in different approaches, to take part in the project, which should be called „The Alchemical Egg“ dedicated to paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and dedicated to the symbol of the egg in Alchemy.

 „In Alchemy, the egg stands for the chaos, apprehended by the artifex, the prima materia containing the captive world soul. Out of the egg, symbolized by the round cooking vessel -  will rise the eagle or Phoenix, the liberated soul, which is ultimately identical with the Anthropos who was imprisoned in the embrace of physis.“ /  Carl Gustav Jung
Deciding to present works under this title meant for both, curator and artist a huge challenge: Hieronymos Bosch and the eggs he disseminated his works; the concept of transformation of the substances – whether edible or metal – the symbols; Alchemy with the transmutation of metal through three changes of status and colours: black, white, red respectively nigredoalbedo and rubedo.

Nigredo, black, the first stage in Alchemy, exhibition view.
Albedo, white, the second stage in Alchemy, exhibition view.
Rubedo, red, the third stage in Alchemy, exhibition view.

The Artists Tore Svensson, Gigi Mariani, Wendy McAllister and Aurélie Guillaume were asked to provide three pieces each (triptych), representing the three stages of the Great Opus: nigredo (blackness), albedo whiteness) and rubedo (redness). Each of the two goldsmiths and the two enamelists, gave their personal inspiration to their pieces, each of them found a different way to deal with the topic of the Alchemical matter: an endless substance, continually reworked in its iteration (repetition), but “new” in each step.

Leo Caballero and Amador Bertomeu, owner of the Hannah Gallery, decided to represent exclusively the 12 pieces of the show in the gallery, all other jewellery went to the drawers, all books, besides the recently published „The Alchemical Egg“ publication was removed. Once entering the Gallery, one could feel the vibrating energy of the strongly connected pieces, nothing distracts from the story Nichka MArobin and her artists want to tell us. The exhibition starts with the view to „Nigredo“, the first stage of the Alchemical egg.  We see 4 pieces united in black, separated by personal achievement. The black color leads the attention immediately to the strong silhouettes of the pieces and the radical choices each artist took.

Leo Caballero preparing the window lettering for the exhibition opening.

Working in Enamel, Wendy McAllister and Aurelie Guillaume, decided to work more figurative. The piece of Wendy contains a raven, as a symbol of death, while Aurelie uses the obvious figure of the death, a skeleton, as a prisoner of a toad, one of the major symbols in Alchemy. Tore & Gigi, the Goldsmith of the group, decided to work more on the theoretical interpretation of the topic. Gigi Mariani was the only artist, which worked with a more personal interpretation. The black as the frightening „ Nothing“, as total destruction, as the black hole in our inner selves.
Gigi Mariani, Brooch: Weather Storm (Nigredo), 2017, Silver, 18kt yellow gold, niello patina. "On a psychological level, Nigredo means soul loss, the problems, the difficulties a man has to overcome on his journey. I have represented Nigredo through a circular crucible where matter starts its transformation in a sort of volcanic vortex." Gigi Mariani.

Wendy McAllister, Brooch: Nigredo, 2017, Vitreous enamel, copper, sterling silver, glass. As a foreteller of death, the Raven “croaks” over the massa confusa, the primitive chaos. It’s with a flight of a crow over a blackened substance that the American artist jeweller and enamellist Wendy McAllister allegorizes Nigredo.

Aurelie Guillaume, Brooch: Nigredo: The Toad, 2017. Enamel on copper, fine silver, sterling silver, pure gold, stainless steel, powder coat.

In the second part of the exhibition, we find the 4 white pieces, the stage of „Albedo“, which stands for the purifying of the material, the distilled and pure essence of something, or, in Gigi´s interpretation, the beginning and reconstruction of a soul. In his fantastic calm yet touching Brooch, he tries to collect the pieces of a broken self, to rebuild the own vessel. Visible in his brooch, as almost but not yet matching geometrical shapes, with a wrinkled surface, which shows the injuries from the first stage of „Nigredo“.

Gigi Mariani, Brooch: This magic moment (Albedo), 2017. Silver, niello patina.

Tore Svensson, Brooch: White, 2017. Porcelain, silver

While looking at those pieces, which tell stories from destruction and the never-ending attempt to rebuild something better, purer, something more precious, the longing for a Happy End shows up. Turing around, finally we see the last and red stage: „Rubedo“ is the final stage of the Alchemical process, and once seeing the red and last Stage by each artist, one can see the relief which those pieces speak about: The completion of the stage in the individuation process, and birth of a new personality trough relationship with the self.  But there is nor just the bright red, which stands for the blood in Alchemy, we see gold in Gigi's Piece and the yellow enameled Phoenix in Aurelie's piece, both are standing for the renewed personality, gold as the philosophers stone arose from ashes.

In the laboratory/furnace of the alchemist, the fire burns quickly and, increasing its heat, from the dawn of Albedo, the sunrise of iosis or Rubedo (redness) is finally achieved. The major stage of the Opus was symbolized by the Phoenix, the mythological bird, the emblem of eternal rebirth and related to the Sun. The final stage is now the conversion of the base metal into gold with the phase of sublimation and the conjunction of the Alchemist to the higher status of knowledge. The matter now purified achieves the status of the alchemical lapis: the philosopher’s stone. The end of the Opus coincides with a new knowledge and in perfect unity with Nature: the hermetic concept of gnosis (knowledge) is completed. / Nichka Marobin

Aurelie Guillaume, Brooch: Rubedo: The Sun, 2017. Enamel on copper, fine silver, sterling silver, pure gold, stainless steel, powder coat.
Gigi Mariani, ;Brooch: End of the road (Rubedo), 2017. Silver, pure gold, niello patina.

After this impressive tale, Nichka and the artist know to tell, rethinking is obligatory. In the best case, you can visit the Gallery a second time, or even better, get a Tour from the Curator or the Gallerist which is necessary, to appreciate and understand this exhibition. The stories, the historical background and the ambitious concept of this exhibition make it extraordinary, without the work of the Curator and the Gallerist, there would be just 12 colorful pieces. It is the context what makes the pieces poetic, what gives them a story and a voice.

Artist Wendy McAllister and Curator Nichka Marobin.

Compared to many other exhibitions I saw during Off Joya, this one impressed me the most. For all of you: Working about One Year for an exhibition as a Curator, including writing a text in a field (Alchemy) you are not trained in and giving the artist enough nourishment to achieve a collection of pieces, is a personal challenge.

The Artists had to work on a topic, they never dealt with before, to develop a new series of pieces, which would be presented for the first time to the public as part of „The Alchemical Egg“ exhibition, no old work, nothing stale.

The Gallerists decided to publish a book for the exhibition and to show exclusively the pieces on show at „The Alchemical Egg“ exhibition, for 4 weeks, which is an enormous financial burden. But this fact alone is enough for me to see the passion, the courage, and the respect Curator, Gallerists and Artists have in this collaboration with each other.

All my respect goes to the People which worked professionally and enthusiastic on this project, thank you for respecting Art-Jewellery, thank you for showing respect to the artists, and thank you for making a serious exhibition of a proper concept. The art jewellery world needs more from this commitment.

About the author

Carolin Denter completed her training as Goldsmith at Master School for Craftsmen in Kaiserslautern in 2013. In 2015 she made an Internship at Klimt02, where she is working since 2016 as Content Manager. In 2017 she graduated with Bachelor of Fine Arts in Gemstone and Jewellery at University of Applied Science Trier, Campus Idar-Oberstein. After her graduation, she started working part-time as Marketing and Design management Assistance at Campus Idar-Oberstein in the Gemstone and Jewellery Departement.