— The Arts Club, London

Installation View: Alchemy, The Arts Club

Analia Saban, Decant (White), #2, 2011, Encaustic paint on linen canvas

Ayan Farah, Dahab (Air), 2013, Acrylic, fabric dye, alcohol, vinegar on cotton silk, 130 x 170 cm

Nathan Hylden, Untitled, 2013, Acrylic on Aluminum, 196.85 x 144.78 cm

Josh Smith, Untitled, 2009, Mixed media on board, 60 x 48 in

Oscar Tuazon, Untitled, 2012, Rust, engine oil, charcoal, cement on canvas, 165 x 180 cm

Installation View: Alchemy, The Arts Club

Installation View: Alchemy, The Arts Club

Installation View: Alchemy (Oscar Tuazon), The Arts Club

Installation View: Alchemy (Josh Smith), The Arts Club


Installation View: Alchemy, The Arts Club

Positing the artist as a new kind of alchemist, Alchemy presents a selection of today’s most interesting contemporary artists who focus on material and process in their respective mediums.  These are all artists for whom their studio practice is key as they work their tools – the pigments, chemicals, metals, supports, dirt, lint, their location and the effects of time – into thoughtful and often very beautiful works of art. Both physically and philosophically the artists’ materials are transformed into rare objects and ideas.

Informing many of these works is a kind of calculatedly casual approach to material, exploiting the balance between what art portrays and the physical objects themselves.  If art of the 90s and noughties, most especially painting and photography, tended towards high-concept works with a polished, hands-off finish, this new generation of artists evokes an altogether different feel with their seemingly less reverent approaches. Oscar Tuazon’s canvases are first used as drop-clothes in his studio for months on end – walked on, painted over and tarnished by the iron, chemicals and wood he uses in his sculpture before stretched and hung.  Ayan Farah’s interests lie in the provisional and the ephemeral, resulting from the chemical or organic change that occurs with the application of paint or other substances onto various unusual fabrics more often found in fashion, clothing and bedding. Much of her work involves no painting whatsoever, but rather undergoes an elaborate process of digging down, dying or being hung in a window to be damaged by the sun.

Nathan Hylden uses a regulated process to create variations within a systematic sequence. Starting with a stack of identically sized aluminum panels, for example, Hylden adds layers of paint and ink to each, but changing the order of operations as he goes. He also screen prints blank images of, often, his studio wall onto his surfaces, triangulating the relationship between artist, image and material.  Fascinated by the transition that tangible materials undergo as they are shaped into ineffable objects of art, Analia Saban often subjects her works to deconstructive processes, pulling apart their layers by for example unweaving paintings or laser-burning paper and canvas. In so doing so she, like all of the artists is this show, expose how art exists as both a physical and social construction. 

The exhibition was curated by Amelie von Wedel and Pernilla Holmes of Wedel Art.