29 Sep Mastering the Elements
The Greek natural philosophers, the alchemists, believed that the transformation of substances in nature was possible. They believed that nature strives for perfection and that therefore all earthly metals would one day turn into gold. And so they searched for a “philosopher’s stone” that would transform simple base metals into precious gold.
Remarkably, after the discovery of radioactivity in 1925, gold was actually produced from base metals for the first time. Such transmutation is possible in particle accelerators or nuclear reactors, but the production costs currently exceed the market price of gold many times over.
Jana Hartmann’s work is a photographic research on the scientific exploration and conquest of nature from the beginnings of alchemy to the present day. In her photographic works, she takes up various themes that have aroused the curiosity of researchers throughout history, such as the concept of matter. With the aesthetic verve of her motifs – including references to alchemical symbolism, scientific experiments, natural history exhibits and self-built studio models – she entices curiosity about the scientific context.
The photo book Mastering the Elements juxtaposes her photographic references with the results of her extensive research of alchemical writings, accounts by contemporary scientists and articles on the ethics of science, initiating a fascinating dialogue between different narrative perspectives – the visual artistic, the allegorical alchemical, the philosophical and the scientific.
For the artist, the message we can take from the alchemists is a holistic view of the world in which man and nature, spirit and matter are closely interwoven.