Nature’s Alchemy: John O’Carroll | Floor 1


Inspired by ancient methods of painting this exhibition features  works which draw on Egypt’s ancient landscape and culture. New paintings address the moors and coastal spaces around his studio in Cornwall. This exhibition follows on from O’Carroll’s solo show at the Galerie Roger Katwijk, Amsterdam in 2018.

Alchemy is the art of transformation. Medieval alchemists sought to purify themselves by the process of transmutation - destroying their base or mundane selves to attain the ‘gold’ of enlightenment. To the medieval mind Alchemy was a mysterious and therefore divine process used by astrologers, occultists and artists.

The Alchemist coloured metals to make tinctures for health, longevity and immortality. The six primary metals - gold, silver, tin, iron, lead and copper, were glorified by a process of dividing, killing and resurrecting. If the colours black, white, yellow and purple did not arise in the mixing bowl, the chemistry had failed.

Pharaonic documents on alchemy are pragmatic. They contain recipes for dying cloth, colouring gemstones and making artificial gold. In ancient Egypt the dyers of cloth were known as alchemists as they could transform plain woven cloth into textiles of great beauty and value. The word ‘artist alchemist’ in western art is associated with the colourfield painters of the nineteen sixties who gave new breath to an ancient craft.

John O’Carroll, like his Modernist contemporaries, makes ‘alchemy’ with paint and pigment to captivate the eye of the viewer. By calling upon their memories of place - no particular place, rather a place of sublime evocation, O’Carroll draws the viewer into participating in an expression of his experience, bringing into consciousness an air of nature. Paul Cezanne always stated that nature is on the inside, and John O’Carroll has never relinquished the natural forms he experienced on his travels through Texas, Mexico, New York and Holland, and in later life, the chalky flat topped cliffs of the Western desert, Egypt. These places have become his muse and master, forever emerging in new guises, surfacing and vanishing in the process of painting.

John O’Carroll’s PLACE paintings pay homage to ancient metallurgy and his understanding of pigments. A process painter of oblique symbols, O’Carroll’s work reflects the timelessness of essential nature through his very - successful alchemy.