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Alchemy:

Artefacts Reimagined 

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Introduction:

Welcome to the first of our online exhibitions for you to enjoy at home.

 

Alchemy: Artefacts Reimagined is an exhibition of new art created by artist Ann-Marie James in response to four ancient museum objects. It was originally on display at Poole Museum from 1 February – 19 April 2020.

The artist has reimagined the history and meaning of the artefacts and drawn out common themes. Alchemy was a medieval practice attempting to turn metals into gold.

Wessex Museums invited the artist to explore the collections of its four partner museums. She selected one object from each to use as the inspiration for a series of new gold and white artworks.

This exhibition encourages us to look at museum objects differently and to find our own meaning and inspiration in them. The exhibition has been generously supported by Ridinghouse/Karsten Schubert. Wessex Museums is supported by Arts Council England.

 

About the Artist:

Ann-Marie James explores change, or metamorphosis through her work. She is interested in the way that artefacts’ themes and origins might be used to create her own responses towards artwork.

James uses a range of art processes in her work, including painting, printmaking, drawing and collage. Work by Ann-Marie James is held in the collections of museums such as The British Museum and the V&A and she has undertaken residencies internationally.


Artwork:

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Chieftain  

The Chieftain series was inspired by Wiltshire Museum’s Bush Barrow Lozenge, the finest example of Bronze Age gold craftsmanship ever found.

The gold lozenge was buried with its owner, known as the Bush Barrow Chieftain, close to Stonehenge. It is thought the lozenge was used to fasten the chieftain’s cloak.

The artist began by creating line drawings of the lozenge. These were then made into silkscreen prints. She created the painting using layers of print, drawing, and paint. Each layer adding to the abstraction.. One final layer of drawing has been gilded on top with 24ct gold leaf.

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Archer 

The Archer series was inspired by 15 Neolithic arrowheads found in the grave of the ‘Amesbury Archer’, displayed at The Salisbury Museum.

The artist chose two arrowheads for the Archer series, and began by making simple line drawings. James then created rubber stamps in a range of sizes. Using the stamps with white and gold ink, she built up the composition of each painting using layers of acrylic paint and 24ct gold leaf.

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Midas

The Midas series was inspired by Poole Museum’s Roman glass head, most probably featuring the face of Bacchus – the Roman god of wine. The glass head is thought to have hung from a Roman wine glass.

The object was found during the excavation of a Roman settlement. Archaeologists believe that the glass head had been broken off the wine glass and was later found by local people. They gave it a new spiritual meaning.

The artist used the Roman poet Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ text recounting ancient myths to inspire her artwork.

The artist used sections of text from the myth and produced several silkscreens. James layered the printed silkscreens on top of one another to create an abstract appearance, reflecting the unclear circumstances that the Roman glass head was found under. Instead of using ink, James printed in ‘size’ – a type of glue used for gilding. Each layer of text was then gilded with imitation gold leaf.

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Bacchus 

The Bacchus artwork was inspired by Dorset Museum’s Roman mosaics, which were discovered in Dorchester during excavations for a drainage system.

Designs include a cantharus (a two handled drinking vessel) and other shapes. The cantharus has led some experts to believe the mosaic is linked with Bacchus, god of wine.

The artist was interested to think of the mosaic’s initial use – as domestic flooring, despite the beautiful and detailed patterns.

James began by making a graphite rubbing of the mosaic floor. The artist photographed this rubbing and traced over it to make a digital version from which she made an outlined vector file. With this, she printed vinyl stencils which she used to shave a design based on the Roman mosaic into a cream rug.

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Generously supported by:

Wessex Museums

Arts Council England

Karsten Schubert / Ridinghouse

Alchemy Gold Foil Logo
Wessex Museums logo
arts council logo
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