“1. What aspects of the alchemic view of the world interest you the most? What aspects do you feel are in harmony with your art?
2. How important is the relationship between alchemy and art in your everyday work?”.
Amalia Del Ponte:
“I believe the alchemist’s research is hardly different from the artist’s, if the latter is a subconscious projection of psyche. Or rather, the alchemist is an artist whenever he tries to discover the essence of matter, and reproduces it by intervening in chemical processes according to a “human” pace, for lack of a better word. Research, apart from institutions and universities, is made (with enormous tools) in laboratories placed on space platforms, or carved out below high mountains: nonetheless, I think some researchers retained their creative element. I don’t know how much I am involved in this, my work helps me look, it points me to a direction. Conscience addresses the inner part of us, our deepest nucleus discovers its own substance. As the alchemist cleanses the corpus from all superfluitates by exposing it to blazing fire, the sculptor, gouge mark after gouge mark, through a patient process of “subtraction”, reveals both form and matter of his imagination. In alchemy, purification or mundificatio is reached through numerous fractions of distillation; in sculpture, a similar effort is employed to make depth emerge onto the surface”. Libidinal energy pushes to be transformed. My work helps me in my search, it makes me see the difference between instincts derived from different marks on an object/obstacle: an exercise that fills the length of my time”.
How much science is there in art? Yet, true alchemists are rare
Atanor, Rebis, Lapis philosophorum. A few such terms, from such a mysterious (and mysteric) lexicon, are enough to create that halo of arcane secrecy that partially explains the recent revival of alchemy […].
If some of the contemporary artists invited actually understood – more or less knowingly – the alchemic messages (for instance: Jasper Johns, André Masson, Enrico Donati, Claudio Costa, Maurice Henry, Victor Brauner, Alfonso Ossorio, Amalia Del Ponte, Mimmo Paladino, and naturally, among the “specialists”, Luca Patella), many more have concocted nothing but phony symbols.
In the maze of invention
There is an analogy, I believe, between art and alchemy, since alchemy represents the typical case of a science that dies because its links with the other fields of the cultural world are broken. Since alchemy materializes transcendence – i.e. the process through which all things tend to sublimate into the divine – once culture has given up such goal, alchemy ceases to exists, becoming a dead science. One could point out that a dead science ceases to live, but it does not cease to be a science.
A research, and an exhibit, on visual arts and alchemy is therefore an extremely challenging enterprise. And that is precisely why a restless fighter like Arturo Schwarz decided to go for it. The outcome of this attempt, reckless or brave as they might look, has the subtle, irritating charm of every initiatory path. To move from a piece to the next one (along over eighty years) is like a lengthy hallucination around a chimera that keeps appearing and disappearing: we move in and out of the canon of art, in order to follow the maze of the creativity of Salvador Dalì or Man Ray, Duchamp, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, Rita Kernn Larsen, or Jindrich Styrsky; to venture with Luca Patella or Amalia Del Ponte, with Claudio Costa or Laura Grisi, with Alison Wilding or Antony Gormely, in an attempt to discover ourselves or the world. The knowledge human beings can achieve about themselves has to go through a painting filled with episodes and symbols, whose obscure meaning, barely deducible in the image of a deformed reality, often imaginary, might consist in a dispelling of death and a celebration of life.