Elemental Matters Shines in Nature Review
Canadian artist David Clark's I don't think you understand the way I feel about the stove, 2000.
February 24, 2011 -
In the February 24, 2011, edition of Nature, Katharine Sanderson reviewed Elemental Matters: Artists Imagine Chemistry, CHF's newest exhibit. The full review is available to Nature subscribers online.
Titled "Chemistry: Enigmatic Elements," the review describes many pieces in Elemental Matters, which will run at CHF through December 2011, in celebration of the International Year of Chemistry.
Sanderson writes that Canadian artist David Clark "jokes that he was inspired to create pieces based on the periodic table because the symbols for the consecutive elements chlorine, argon and potassium spell out his surname. His work focuses on the structure of the table rather than its chemical contents. In I Don't Think You Understand the Way I Feel About the Stove (2000)—borrowing from the words of Stove, a song by Canadian indie rock band Eric's Trip—he replaces the chemical symbols with 118 identical rusty electric-stove heating elements. 'By collecting objects that are all the same, it emphasizes the table's meaning as a sign,' he says."
Sanderson then describes two works by Dove Bradshaw: "The chemical ingredients of the human body are decoupled in New York artist Dove Bradshaw's Self Interest (1999), a series of 58 flasks mounted in a glass case. Each container holds a sample of an element scaled to the amount found in a person weighing 45 kilograms. The flasks containing trace elements such as yttrium, thorium or beryllium are only as big as three pinheads, notes Bradshaw. The piece explores whether our existence can be stripped down to material constituents.
"The elemental forces of nature, and the chemical changes tied up with those forces, also find a place in this exhibition. In Bradshaw's Waterstone (1996), for example, a funnel drips water at a steady rate onto a limestone block. Running since the mid-1990s, the trickle of seven drops every minute has eroded a small dent in the carbonate."
Sanderson concludes that "Chemists usually think of the periodic table in abstract terms, as a reference book or an aid to their research. These artworks remind us of the mystery that the elements can also evoke."