Page 1


ALCHEMY brings together Hungarian artist Peter Lendvai and UK artist Fay Stevens in a collaborative exhibition that engages with the elements and their alchemical qualities. Working with fire and glassmaking (Lendvai), wind and drawing (Stevens), the exhibition presents a materiality of elemental and alchemical interplay in a contrasting series of artworks that coalesce through their artistic qualities and nuances. The collaboration between Peter Lendvai and Fay Stevens is the outcome of an initiative of artistic exchange between the twinned cites of Kaposvar in Hungary and Bath in the UK, with Fay in residence in Szenna/ Petörke during the summer of 2015 and Peter in Bath during the autumn of 2016. Since then, both artists have exhibited work resulting from the residencies and have continued a dialogue of exchange of ideas based around their artistic work. This exhibition is the outcome of one of these exchanges, initiated around a discussion on the writing of Jorge Luis Borges’s and his short story ‘The Library of Babel’ and poem ‘The Alchemist’. The exhibition shows work made by Peter working in Hungary and Fay from an Arts Council Funded residency at Little Yarford Farmhouse in Somerset and an artist residency at Joya AiR: arte + ecologica in Spain.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We extend our thanks to the many people who have supported ‘Alchemy’. The exhibition is funded by The National Cultural Fund of Hungary, Bath and Kaposvar Twinning Association, Bath Artists’ Studios and made possible by its association with Kaposvar Arts and 44AD Artspace. Personal thanks to our families and friends with special thanks to Katie O’Brien, Bali Belák and Peter Metcalfe. 2

PETER LENDVAI creates his work in many genres, or what he calls research. Each of the different creative genres requires expertise that is almost impossible to entirely acquire in the XXI century. Not only the wider boundaries of creative art but also the technical background, increasing the treasury of possibilities in his work. He keeps himself learning and experiencing primarily with the material, on which he is working, getting acquainted with its features, behaviour and secrets, and how they shape each other. For peter, the whole world, our personal surroundings, colonies, meetings, realizations, emotions, influences, literature, philosophy all have a shaping force on his work. His process shapes the glass works with metal – it is a goldsmith’s work, that isn’t made with specific tools, but the glass shapes the metal. Or perhaps vice versa? That is, where the experiment and the creative work start...

FAY STEVENS is an academic, archaeologist, curator, artist and writer. Her work is a process of excavation; an unravelling of layers of time, memory and substance. It is a philosophical enquiry and experience, concerned with trace, elements, the senses, inscription and corporeal interplay. She draws upon and specialises in the philosophical school of phenomenology as a critical and performative lens through which she works. She has held artistic residences in England, Scotland, Hungary and Spain, curated visual and performance art events at Arnolfini (Bristol), Salisbury (UK) and Bath (UK) and has exhibited her work in the UK, Berlin and Sweden. Fay has lectured in a number of UK Universities and currently holds positions as Adjunct Professor, University of Notre Dame (U.S.A) in London; Sessional Lecturer, University of Oxford (OUDCE and OUSSA) and Visiting Lecturer, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. She is a trustee and studio holder at Bath Artists’ Studios, member of Bath Society of Artists, Committee Member and Curator for Fringe Arts Bath and an Associate Artist at 44AD Studios, Bath. 3

Astronomer. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai 4


We can consider alchemy the ancestor of chemistry even though it is surrounded by much superstition and misunderstanding. Even today, Alchemy is a mystic science or rather a pseudo-science but undoubtedly it possesses such a mysterious puzzle that gives possible answers to our intellectual questions. From a metaphysical aspect, alchemy studies the ascendance, transubstantiation of the spirit, stepping up to a higher level. From this approach it is quite clear why C.G.Jung is so seriously engaged with alchemy [1] and tries to somehow catch hold of or further develop it together with the analytical psychology theory he worked out. One might call the science of psychology modern alchemy if it was not closely connected with magic, charlatanism and magical superstition throughout history. But yet it has stayed alchemy as considered with a mysticism, mysterioum and magical nostalgia and became psychoanalysis, psychology, chemistry and medicine. Maybe it was Paracelsus who in person unified science with belief in nature and magic and we could imagine him as a naturopath who is familiar with medicine if he was still alive. The desire of one will never cease to reveal reasons and discover new things. In the field of science the desire of one is more evident to catch such answers as yet doubtful. Such mystery is the incurable diseases or the unknown endlessness circulating in the never-ending cosmos. I could keep on going with the examples from nanophysics or theory of relativity from the last century. There are plenty of secrets ahead of us yet to be solved. The aforementioned essays, thought, excursuses are in the background of works just as the novels, philosophically deep essays of Luis Borges – the post-modern poet and writer. Luis Borges approaches the Alchemistic topics through the boundaries of literature and essay that are less obvious but rather more a style of literature. His small novels such as „The library of Babel” or „The circular ruins” or essays like „A körkörös idő” or „A new refutation of time” [2] are all unfold philosophical thoughts in visions within the levels of literature and why all of this is important? How do they connect to the glass work exhibited? These are the background of mind, the demiurges’ of philosophical concept filtered through art. The fuel of generating a creation or composition is the personal mythology concentrated through literature and philosophy. That is the thought born through the alchemic material of glass shaped in fire. Such secrets that are forever kept in the spark of creation.


The glasswares in the exhibition were made in the melting pot of alchemy, in this case the furnance. The material that is developed as a melted lava takes on a specific solid form. The power of the fire is slowly transforming into the earth’s principle of the glass that is going to go out, in which the liquid property is stiffened for a moment. The essence of crystallized water can also be found in the nature of the glass through the statues. Light, – which is a divine origin, giving life, is a cosmic, multi-nature material, is modeling life, that is, it fills the glass capsules with spirit. Pushing the copper faces directly into the glowing glass can still be shaped, can be patterned with the plastic glass. But the glasslava has already lost some of its feature therefore it obtains its final form by solidifying along with the metal, the fluidity, refracting feature and incomprehensibility of the glass combines with the sculptural concreteness of the copper, literally with its face, through which personifies the otherwise personeless power-carriers” [3] The glass capsules were supplemented with horns representing the heavenly sphere. Other figures have been given hands that gesticulate and strengthen the figurative character of idols. Alchemical reactions are also included in the ritual of the birth of statues. Iridescent surfaces are created in the hot metal steam, which makes the objects even more mysterious to earth by real chemical processes. Works born under the auspices of Alchemy refer to the four elements of fire, water, air and earth. Each element is embodied in one and a single sculpture. Visionaries, healers, astrologers, ghost faces, and the essences, spirits, and guardian guarding spirits of cosmic celestial bodies are found here and now in these works. Peter Lendvai / Translated by Dorottya Csatos 2018

[1] Jung, Carl Gustav, 1994. Az alkímiai konjunkció (Mysterium coniunctions) Könyvjelző kiadó, Nyíregyháza [2] Borges, Jorge Luis, 2011. Bábeli könyvtár [The library of Babel (Obras Completas I-IV)] Európa könyvkiadó, Budapest [3] Kecskés, Péter, 2017 Az Ataraxia felé (Through the ataraxy) 2017 Online journal of Képírás


Water Spirit. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai 7

Alnus. Drawing (Book), Fay Stevens



I am a site-specific artist, writer, curator and archaeologist who combines academic enquiry with artistic philosophy. My work transects the boundaries between art and science, it is a philosophy that draws upon phenomenology as a theoretical and methodological tool and is engaged with sensory response to and perception of place and elements. Much of my work is informed by elements [1] ,walking, cartography and topography [2], the alchemical qualities of the materials I work with, the environment in which my work was made and a perceptive engagement with alchemy as a way of thinking. The work in this exhibition (a series of drawings and a film) are all concerned with the alchemy of wind, an element that ‘envelops you with a certain purpose in mind’ according to the writer Haruki Murakami [3]. It is the concept of alchemy that sparked a conversation between Peter and myself in Bath in 2016 in which we discussed the writing of Jorge Luis Borges and his story ‘The Library of Babel’ and poem ‘The Alchemist’. We explored how Borges writes about surfaces ‘as holding a figuration and promise of the infinite’ [4] and how alchemists thoughts are of secrets, dreams, visions and oblivion [5]. As our conversation expanded, so did our realisation that our work shares the same interest in alchemy with regard to material behaviour, experimentation, technique and process but also a letting go of the outcome. My drawings in this exhibition originate from two artist residencies. The first (funded by The Arts Council of England and Field Gallery in association with Somerset Art Works, 2015) was held in a tree collection located in the heart of the Somerset Landscape. Representing the life work of Brian and Dilly Bradley, this collection holds an incredible variety of tree species, as well as a particular interest in the weeping varieties. A significant component of the art work I produced was a series of drawings that I named ‘The Narrative of Trees’. These drawings present an interplay of elements, land, trees and wind into an alchemy of textured mark making. The second series of drawings and short film, were made during my time at Joya AIR : arte + ecologica in the summer of 2017. This residency was a two week immersion into the landscape, daily walks, drawing and writing. I became attuned to the topography of the land, its hill profiles and the shape of the valley of La Hoya de Carrascal. I climbed the high points of Sierra Larga and Las Almohallas and frequently traversed the low-lying barranco, the Rambla de Cajar. Walking, according to the writer Rebecca Solnit, is how the body ‘measures itself against the earth’[6], while the anthropologist Tim Ingold suggests that landscape can enter 9

into our ‘muscular consciousness’[7]. This form of walking is what I call an embodied cartography, a method in which the body perceives and understands place. As time passed and my connections to the landscape became more nuanced, I started to shape my movements according to the sensual characteristics of the alchemical winds of the Sirocco and the Levante (also known as the Solano). In the evenings, I would tilt my sight upwards and watch the lágrimas de San Lorenzo, the Perseid meteors dart across the clear, star illuminated sky whilst listening to the acoustic resonance of two scops owls calling from deep within the landscape. As much as my body recalled place, so the landscape recalled my presence in it. I encountered my perfectly preserved footprints along obscure routes that I had walked in previous days. I sat on boulders that remained clear of dust and debris from when I first positioned myself there and I navigated my way by visually wayfinding the particular characteristics of hill shapes and topographic features. I walked with a goat, who showed me pathways along windswept mountain ridges and guided me through routes out of deep crevices and dense forests. And, as I walked, I became increasingly aware of being in an ancient landscape where others have been before me and of water, wind and the environmental, social and cultural importance of it. I recalled seeing an ancient hydrology system that is still visible in the landscape, I spent time with an alder tree that grows where a relic water source once flourished and the many trees of the Aleppo Pine that cluster along the steep mountain slopes. I repeatedly walked a complex windless dry fluvial system, a negative space carved into the land and shaped by the action of moving water. Cortijada Los Gazquez (home of Joya: AiR) lies at a confluence of elements, time and space filling the night sky and shaping the contours of the land. Both places have many topographical stories that tell of a nuanced corporeal narrative of place. My work in this exhibition presents a crisp and textured cartography of wind, an architecture of trees, a choreography of locale and an entwinned alchemy of elements. Fay Stevens, 2018 [1] Stevens, F. 2008. Elemental Interplay: the production, circulation and deposition of Bronze Age metalwork in Britain and Ireland. World Archaeology 40/2, 238-252. [2] Stevens, F. 2016. Cerdded. The Goose Journal of Arts and Environment in Canada. [3] Murakami, H. 2016. Hear the Wind Sing. New York : Vintage Books [4] Borges, J.L. 1941. The Library of Babel. In Fictions. London:Penguin Books [5] Borges, J.L. 1990. The Alchemist. In Selected Poems. Edited by Alexander Coleman. London: Penguin Classics. [6] Solnit, R. 2001. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Verso Books [7] Ingold, T. 2000. The Perception of the Environment. Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. Routledge Books 10

Salix matsudana. Drawing, Fay Stevens 11

Earth Spirit. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai 12

Salix matsudana. Drawing, Fay Stevens 13

Spirit Faces. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai 14

Foxglove paulownia. Drawing, Fay Stevens 15

Viento. Film, Fay Stevens



Air Spirit. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Alnus. Drawing (Book), Fay Stevens Astronomer. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Beetle Boy. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Earth Spirit. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Fire Spirit. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Foxglove paulownia. Drawings, Fay Stevens Fraxinus angustifolia. Drawings, Fay Stevens Healer. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Hotspot. Wood Pictures with Brass Nails, Inlaid Brass, Peter Lendvai Little Bird Doctor. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Lord of Time. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Magister of Moon. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Monkey Shiner. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Pendulum. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Picea breweriana. Drawings, Fay Stevens Pinus halepensis. 50 Drawings (Book), Fay Stevens Pyramids of Moment. Wood Pictures with Brass Nails, Peter Lendvai Salix matsudana. Drawings, Fay Stevens Secret Spot at MW9. Wood Pictures with Brass Nails, Peter Lendvai Screenprints. Peter Lendvai Spirit Faces. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai The Brothers. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Water Spirit. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Wind Spirit. Iridescent Glass with Patinated Brass, Peter Lendvai Viento. Film, Fay Stevens



The artistic collaboration between Bath and Kaposvar started in 2007 with a generous invitation given for three KaposART Artists to come and show their work at the 102nd Annual Bath Society’s Exhibition at the Victoria Gallery. The Bath Society generously gave prominent hanging space and the June private view created a lot of press interest in the work shown by the KaposART artists. KaposART followed up the Bath Society of Artists’ Victoria Gallery show in 2009 by inviting six Bath practicing artists to show work at their July exhibition in Kaposvár. Then, in September 2011 Bath Artists’ Studios, within a hosting partnership led by the BKTA, welcomed six KaposArt friends for a week long stay in Bath. Leading from that, in 2015 the Twinning Association working in close partnership with Bath Artists’ Studios decided to implement a proposal initiated by Klara Halmos of KaposArt to evolve a three year exchange programme of cultural exploration as practiced within the KaposArt & Bath Artists’ Studio communities. This resulted in Bath Artists’ Studios participating in an artist residency in BARCS in 2014, Szenna/ Petörke in 2015 and Kaposvar Artists in residency in Bath in 2016.

The National Cultural Fund of Hungary became the supreme institution responsible for funding cultural life in and outside Hungary during the past 20 years. Established by the Hungarian Parliament to support the creation, preservation and spread of national and universal values, this separate state fund is now running on 90 percent of the gambling tax of Lottery 5 as its main revenue. It calls for bids to offer and award the vast majority of its disposable money to those who implement the winning programs through a system of social divisions. The main objectives of the National Cultural Fund of Hungary include stabilising funds and involving new incomes to increase its available tender budget. To this end, the Fund has signed a number of cooperation agreements with government agencies and NGOs in the past years, and its professional divisions have announced comprehensive support programs to reinforce the State’s engagement in the field of culture.


With over 50 workspaces, teaching room and exhibition gallery, Bath Artists’ Studios is the largest and most diverse creative hub in Bath and North East Somerset. For over 20 years, we have provided workspace for a rich and inclusive mix of painters, sculptors, printmakers, community artists, photographers, ceramicists and makers. As an educational charity, Bath Artists’ Studios is also a resource of educative knowledge and skill. Many members of the community possess teaching qualifications. Educational opportunity ranges from one to one tuition and mentoring, to regular popular classes and bespoke projects with schools, community groups and HE/FE institutions.

KaposART was founded in 1990 and is based in Kaposvár. It is also known as the Association of Fine and Applied Arts. It has 44 members: graphic artists, painters and applied arts from Hungary and across the border. It contributes to the Foundation of Alliance of Societies of Hungarian Artists and Artists drawn from Applied Arts. The Foundation regularly exhibits nationally and overseas: KaposART is the founder of the International Art Camp in Barcs, a place for the joint-creation of work by artists from across European countries. It invites artists with painting, media, printing and computer graphic workshops to share culture and experience. KaposART owns a Grotesque Collection and a collection of art from the Barcs Art Camps.

44AD artspace is a creative arts enterprise with a dynamic gallery programme of community driven art exhibitions and associated events. Located in a beautiful Georgian house in the centre of Bath, 44AD artspace provides studio space and free admission gallery space which exhibits a high standard of contemporary artwork from both emerging and established artists.