The Alchemy of Art
Enzo Di Martino, Venice, May 2012
It has been written that the creative process leading to an artwork is an actual artifice since it strives to alter the means and the materials of its expression. It is a process of idealization and realization, which aims to transform the perceivable aspect of matter, but also aims to spark a sense of wonder and amazement by displaying an image that reveals different and unsuspected meanings beyond simple appearances. Accordingly, art is in many ways related to alchemy and magic.
Today there is much talk about digital interactive art and how it can be “manipulated” – formally and figuratively – by the audience. In this context, Beat Kuert’s video and photographic works – definitions he considers inadequate and misleading – are clearly a sort of “digital alchemy”. He could be a shaman of art who is well aware that, over the centuries, a Renaissance altar has led a historical discourse with many devotees, often protecting and comforting them and – according to some – even producing miraculous events.
Perhaps, this is why the works of Beat Kuert, although they have been created with tools from the worlds of cinema, photography and computers, always retain a pronounced and unmistakable pictorial connotation. They persistently reveal the unconditional will to be “works made by art.”
Order and Chaos
According to legend, the mirror reflects the order of the world, but also conceals in itself – that is, behind worldly appearances – a different reality structured and organized according to unknown rules.
Beat Kuert’s most recent works seem to emerge from the other side of that mirror, which has been irreversibly shattered by the artist. To control chaos he has been forced to divide space into a sort of grid, manifesting an emotional and existential condition that is never satisfied, because it is always on the verge of order and chaos. Chaos is the word that indicates the disorder before creation or, for Beat Kuert, before the manifestation of his vision. What persists at its center, perhaps even obsessively, is the female figure, repeatedly depicted (up to twenty-four times) in the same image. Always different, elusive and fleeting, but always erotically alluring. The artist himself has written that his recent works express a sort of struggle to attain an image that seems immersed in a perpetual “oscillation between order and chaos”, between attraction and repulsion. The order Beat Kuert eventually attains is the result of great meticulousness. As he says himself, it’s astonishing and “takes your breath away.”
The Cabinet of Wonders
After these considerations, it is not surprising that Beat Kuert considers the sum of his previous works – video and photographic – as a personal cabinet of wonders conveying his own worldview. The intent of this vast collection of images is similar to that pursued by collectors of curiosities during the Renaissance. They sought unusual objects and documents, often related to topics like magic, astrology, esotericism and alchemy. Therefore, it is not surprising to find the female figure at the center of Kuert’s imagery. Even in the famous engraving by Albrecht Dürer, which is overflowing with alchemical symbolism, Melancholia is depicted as a thoughtful, winged female figure. The intent behind the actual cabinets of curiosities was to make “the theater of the world” visible through objects of wonderment. Beat Kuert used a similar approach to create his own contemporary Wunderkammer. The artist states that an age devoid of “wondrous things”, and instead full of events lacking magic, mystery and poetry, is “harmful to creativity.” His recent works seem to assert the need to express a fantastic world in constant movement, full of surprise, emotion, transgression and fabled visions. Ultimately, a world defined by art and poetry that is truly able to represent the existential adventure of mankind.