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Alchemy: Garry Fabian Miller, Pierre Cordier and Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer
12 October – 10 November 2018

Alchemy presents three generations of camera-less photography: Pierre Cordier made his first chemigram in 1956, Garry Fabian Miller began his darkroom era in 1984, and Nadezda Nikolova-Kratzer is making her London gallery debut with this exhibition. Just as alchemists experiment in both chemistry and spirituality, these artists deeply consider the chemical and physical properties of their mediums while simultaneously meditating on the human condition, giving form and concept equal weight.

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Garry Fabian Miller’s dye-destruction Cibachrome prints are part of a reflective process, growing out of the artist’s connection to the light and landscape that surrounds his Dartmoor studio. Fabian Miller uses coloured oils and water in long exposures that last between one and fifteen hours to make abstract, colour-saturated works. Since Cibachrome is no longer produced, Fabian Miller is using his remaining stock to create work that celebrates the end of his medium.

In contrast to Fabian Miller’s darkroom process, Pierre Cordier creates his chemigrams in full light, manipulated with developer, fixer, and localising products. The localising products are readily available household items such as nail varnish, eggs, glue, and honey, again differing from Fabian Miller’s use of a now-rare material. Cordier’s application of the localising products is almost painterly, though he resists categorising chemigrams as either painting or photography.

Nadezda Nikolova-Krazter’s wet plate collodion process likewise walks the line between painting and photography. While wet plate collodion is one of the oldest photographic processes, she experiments with the medium in the darkroom by dabbing and brushing the chemistry onto the plates. Multiple horizon lines are often at play in her work, each line figuratively representing “the limits of our mental perceptions, which are being broadened.”

All three artists engage with their mediums through a thoughtful respect for the unpredictable aspects of controlled experimentation. As Fabian Miller’s remaining sheets of Cibachrome paper pass their expiry date, he does not know when the chemistry of the paper will fail or when he will make his final print. In recent works, he uses flames to accentuate the destruction of the chemicals. For Cordier, there is “an element of uncontrollable chance” in the physical and chemical transformations that take place to create a chemigram. And Nikolova-Kratzer describes her process as a negotiation with the chemistry: “The chemistry has a say in the final image.”

Garry Fabian Miller The Near Bright, 2008 Cameraless Photography Circle in Rectangle