Minimalism shines in ‘Alchemy’

Carter Glace, Contributing Writer

This winter, the Nohra Haime Gallery is exhibiting Julie Hedrick’s latest work “Alchemy.” The exhibition centers around efforts by philosophers, scientists and other experts in ancient and medieval times to transform metals such as lead into gold, though their efforts ultimately proved fruitless.  In the exhibit, Hedrick uses Egypt’s history in alchemy to present a fascinating, simple collection of works.

The key word for the entire work is “minimalist.” The paintings on display are made up of three colors — black, white and gold — with Hedrick blending them together on canvas to create unique designs. Even the room is incredibly simple with blank white and black walls.

The complexity reveals itself in the blurring of these colors and Hedrick’s very intricate texturing. The blurring of blacks in whites creates an effect somewhere between a hazy, moody fog and an incredible visualization of lead — the most common element used in the alchemy process. The texture effects with gold are also excellent, in some places being made to look scratched and imperfect while in others it takes on a hazy, illuminating effect, dripping along the edges of the frame. There are also some subtle traces of Egyptian inspiration in the gold work, creating traces of ancient diptych.

The simplicity creates striking works. The concept of enlightenment and illumination, a common theme in alchemy efforts, is brilliantly brought about through the collection of colors. Slowly swirling between black and white as glimmers of gold appear, the color play culminates in two standouts of the collection, a pair of tall paintings titled “Alchemist Twins.”

The first is an atmospheric blur of black and white with a grey figure in the middle and the second is a dirty white with a beautiful streak of gold working up the middle. In terms of shape, it is somewhere between a heavenly streaked light or the figure of a woman, lovely either way. The remaining works feature gold prominently, some made entirely of gold, but the middle ground is the most engrossing by far. It is a simple, eloquent work that makes the most of an interesting premise to create something both beautiful and thought-provoking.

Hedrick’s “Alchemy” is on view now at the Nohra Haime Gallery through Jan. 3.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 25 print edition. Email Carter at [email protected].