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The Alchemists - The Exhibition (8.11.07)



Haya Esther | Ella Beit Halahmi | Lena Zaidel | Ruth Dorit Yacobi | Ina Polonski | Janice Shapiro

The term “alchemy”, also known as “the dark art”, suggests mystery and secrets of antiquity. Alchemy is a study of matter and spirit. Its origins lie in experiments with materials performed in numerous ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China, the Islamic lands and Europe. Likewise, the Jewish Kabala relates in depth to this domain.
The principal objective the alchemists pursued was to find a way of transforming common metals into their noble and costly counterparts such as gold and silver, and seeking a remedy for all ailments. The alchemic occurrence recurs in spiral fashion, maintaining a number of constant processes of disintegration and reassembling: creating a crucible, initial fermentation, igniting fire and heating, bringing to the boil, dissolving raw materials, evaporation, condensation and accumulation of the distilled essence.
In every alchemical process there is an essential and unavoidable stage when nothing seems to be happening, everything goes dark and there is not even a glimmer of light or hope.  Mental and creative processes likewise are considered as alchemical processes.
Women played a central role in alchemy. The Egyptian goddess Isis – the patron of motherhood and femininity – is identified as the source of alchemy. The woman best known in the annals of alchemy was the Jewish woman known as “the prophetess Miriam”, who is credited with numerous inventions of distilling apparatus.
Every woman is in effect an alchemist, her body being a vessel for the creation of life.
In their creative efforts, the artists on display in this exhibition connect with the spiritual world as
they seek to create a new and pure element. Each one exhibits a unique aspect, granting the
observer a unique glimpse into this wondrous lore.

Curator: Shoshi Aberbuh

Haya Esther
Moonlight, sugar threads, honey and poetry are the materials of which this artist-and-poet weaves her alchemic creations. She is exhibiting two hubs interwoven with a poem she composed – etchings of the moon and photographs of the moon rising and sinking into the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) – from a performance, as well as an installation of threads of caramel creamed in sugar and honey, composing a weave without clear borders. The threads hint at a process of disintegration and exposure of the nerves, and a new beginning, a physical process interwoven into the artist’s soul as she strives for the concealed light, for the gold of the spirit and redemption.



Ella Beit Halahmi
Shortly before daybreak, the artist  sets out to pick plants from which she will extract oil essences. The tradition having been passed down to her by her mother, she keeps up the alchemic succession. The artist’s work procedures and her inner connections coincide with preparing the tiny ceramic vials while the plants undergo distilling. She  merges with the alchemic process, bathing in a pink bath (which can be seen as an alchemist’s vessel or womb) that also contains the ceramic vials and the essences from the still container.


Lena Zaidel
Lena Zaidel presents two series of works. The “Ceremonial Space” series represents an attempt to organize an internal reality in symbolic fashion, where daily there are ceremonial occurrences within a blackened, scorched territory, imprinted with universal images: man, ox, chair. Deciphering these symbols elevates the consciousness.
The “Valley of the Cross” series functions in the opposite direction: from the external inwards, from the static to the dynamic. The monastery is a kind of crucible of spiritual energy. The gold is poured out, flowing expressively. It creates a kind of contemporary icon, evoking contemplation on the concept of holiness and inducing religious emotion in the observer. Is this gold only a symbol of holiness or yet of another process, internal and alchemical?


Ruth Dorit Yacobi
Yacobi’s creative process is magical and ceremonial, and permeated with pain. She approaches the empty canvas without knowing what will come about or what is to be created. Her works are fragile and in dissolution; the materials remain in agitation in an endless alchemic process of disintegration and recomposing. A central image in her works is the feminine essence. She frequently paints a woman springing from the earth and rising heavenwards, or a woman grasping a symbolic tool continually changing in significance: the bowl of the spirit, life and birth, a vessel of transformation etc.



Ina Polonski
Polonski’s test-tubes undergo a process of metamorphosis. The ready-made is more than just a vessel or container; rather, it is the creation itself. Fauna and flora, connected images, draw the observer into a magic, fragile world, awaking thoughts and memories. The artist quotes a sentence from J. R. Tolkien, who claimed than anyone can write about a world with a green sun, but it takes talent for this world to appear real. She attempts to create that sun and world.


Janice Shapiro
As artist and Jungian art therapist, Shapiro is drawn to the exploration of images contained in primal darkness, and to collecting materials of seemingly little value. These she mixes and heats, transforming them into something new.
Shapiro engages directly in the alchemical processes of the material that lead to mental processes. She exhibits to the observer the alchemist’s cellar – doll’s houses or theatrical models. Within each structure there is a small doll – the artist herself - in an environment crowded with objects as relics of the past in antique cellars of the unconscious, which the artist elevates into the light, in a diligent and endless search.

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