Christopher Volpe: Alchemy and After

November 3-28, 2021
Opening Reception: Friday, November 5, 2021, 5:00-8:00 pm
Virutal Artist Talk: Wednesday, November 17, 2021, 7:00-8:00 pm EST
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  • Christopher Volpe

    The Mystic Alone Sees the Sun Aglow at Midnight, tar and gold leaf on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, 2020.

    The Mystic Alone Sees the Sun Aglow at Midnight
  • Christopher Volpe

    Water (Dread King of the Sea, Who Hast the Keys of the Floodgates of Heaven), tar and gold leaf, 10 x 15 inches, 2021.

    Water (Dread King of the Sea, Who Hast the Keys of the Floodgates of Heaven)
  • Christopher Volpe

    Fire (That Secret Celestial Fire which, When Aroused into Action, Can as Easily Destroy as it Can Create), tar and gold leaf on wood, 10 x 15 inches, 2021.

    Fire (That Secret Celestial Fire which, When Aroused into Action, Can as Easily Destroy as it Can Create)
  • Christopher Volpe

    Earth (O Darkness Veiled by Splendor! Who Concealest the Marvellous Seeds of Stars!), tar on wood, 18 inches in diameter, 2021.

    Earth (O Darkness Veiled by Splendor! Who Concealest the Marvellous Seeds of Stars!)
  • Christopher Volpe

    Air (Whose Breath Gives and Takes Away the Form of All Things), tar and gold leaf on wood, 18 inches in diameter, 2021.

    Air (Whose Breath Gives and Takes Away the Form of All Things)
  • Christopher Volpe

    As Above, So Below, tar and gold leaf on wood, 24 x 8 inches, 20201.

    As Above, So Below
  • Christopher Volpe

    Apparatus for distilling time (Submersion phase), tar and oil paint on canvas, 20 x 18 inches, 2020.

    Apparatus for distilling time (Submersion phase)

Press Release
News Team, "Hollis Artist Christopher Volpe Exhibits at the Kingston Gallery in Boston." Hollis Brookline News, October 15. 2021.

Artist Statement

Paintings in Tar and Gold Leaf

Painting's secret ambition is to conjure the immaterial from the material, to render non-visible worlds visible. In this, artists are like alchemists, transforming materials to conjure loftier realities and to reveal new worlds-within-worlds.

But today's "alchemy" is mostly about technology. Science is no longer linked to magic or the spiritual significance that alchemists once found in nature and the elements. The natural world has long lost its enchantment and its meaning, and modern humanity, along with the chemistry of the planet itself, is beginning to register the damage of a purely materialistic worldview addicted to profit – fatally Western and supported by the global commodification of nature and people and vastly over-benefitting a privileged few at the very top of the chain.

These paintings form part of a series titled "Alchemy and After." They're created using liquefied coal tar (a by-product of petroleum refinement) combined with shredded gold leaf. I think of the tar as the ultimate base matter – dark, toxic, pulling toward dissolution and decay – as well as a signifier for industrialization and the fossil fuels that drive it. In the gold I see the opposite – a precious, relatively "pure" metal invested with spiritual overtones – and a fitting symbol of the commercialization of nature. The titles are borrowed from historical alchemical and esoteric texts.

I hope this work evokes struggle between forces of darkness and light. My goal is to wrest from our failure to transcend our human flaws a kind of equilibrated beauty, however raw, one that both attracts and repels like the materials themselves.



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