2023 – ALCHIMIA NOVA (Kunsthalle, Mulhouse, Fr)

From 16/2/2023 to 30/3/2023, the Kunsthalle Mulhouse will host Alchimia Nova, an exhibition by Belgian artist Anne Marie Maes, from February 17 to April 30, 2023. For more than 15 years, the artist has been taking a non-anthropocentric look at the world, focusing her research on the symbiotic relationship between all living micro-organisms, including plants, bacteria and fungi. For her project in Mulhouse, Maes continues her investigations during a research residency on micro-organisms as a medium of creation, and she is particularly interested in what the Alsatian soils have to offer her for the creation of new works.

‘Poems from a Rooftop Garden’ – installation shot from ‘Alchimia Nova’ at La Kunsthalle, Mulhouse, 2023 (photo AM.Maes)

Anne Marie Maes is an artist who can be linked to the art and science genre. For many years, she has been developing a way of working based on scientific research and biology; the study of micro-organisms on the one hand, and digital sciences and a passion for gardening on the other. In her garden in Brussels, she cultivates the plants that serve as raw material for her experiments, as well as installing hives to study the behavior of bees. It is in these observations that she finds her own representation of the world, which she delivers in each of her projects, and which grows in precision and beauty over time.
Maes explores the book of nature through study and experimentation; not to verify hypotheses, a process she leaves to her scientific partners, but to better tell its story through her works. She has the rigor and curiosity of the scientist but also the artist’s freedom and sense of beauty. Her world cannot be reduced to a set of phenomena; she approaches it through her own sensitivity, touching it, feeling it, and potentially borrowing systems from it that she reproduces or tests in her studio.

‘Pantone Alsace’ and ‘Microbial Life’. A palette of colors characteristic of the region using pigments obtained from the extraction or decoction of wild plants, mushrooms and bacteria from the soil.
(photos JJ.Delattre)

Her processes of narration are multiple. She tells stories through color. Whether they are natural, extracted or combined, her colors are faithful to those of nature; she takes the liberty of harvesting them, sometimes classifying them, and often magnifying them as they become works of art. The graphic element is another of her visual devices. It can be her own, responding to strict geometric laws, subject to repetitions of forms, inspired by recurrences that she accentuates and appropriates. These are often the lines of bees’ trajectories in the hive or nature’s ever-present rhizomes. She can also entrust this element to the randomness of natural organizations or the development of microorganisms that produce their own designs. Maes also uses figures of speech in her projects. Metaphors, such as the interlacing of a woven pattern that recalls networks, allow her to represent the complexity of her observations. Elsewhere, the accumulation of elements gives the effect of profusion by enumerating a quantity of forms, phenomena, processes, or colors.

‘The Large Loom’. Performance by Nora Nel Hendriks at La Kunsthalle, 2023
(photos AM.Maes)

The story Maes writes is that of a living world in constant transformation. This is the principle she employs in the elaboration of her own works, some of which are entirely based on phenomena related to evolutive processes. They ferment, grow, reproduce, decompose, and it is not unusual to come across stills or bacterial and microbial cultures in aquariums within her exhibitions. In a way, living organisms are her valued partners, with whom she engages in multiple and renewed collaborations. It is precisely in the name of collaboration, which always begins with a meeting, that Anne Marie Maes came to Mulhouse.
text by Sandrine Wymann, 2023

‘Fluid Interfaces. Installation shot at La Kunsthalle, Mulhouse – 2023 (photo JJ.Delattre)

“We are contaminated by our encounters; they change who we are as we make way for others. As contamination changes world-making projects, mutual worlds – and new directions – may emerge.”
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World

‘Alchimia Nova’ – installation view at La Kunsthalle Mulhouse, 2023
(photo JJ Delattre)

‘Cabinet of Experiments’ – installation view at La Kunsthalle Mulhouse, 2023
(photo JJ Delattre)