Chantal Powell

Untitled (alchemical toads), 2018

In a commodity driven culture we have lost our sense of soul because we have lost our respect for symbols and a symbolic life. The psyche cannot be understood in merely conceptual terms - it requires the paradox and poetic understanding contained within symbolic language.

Within the symbols of alchemy we uncover a metaphor for Jung’s individuation process – the realisation of the true self through the conjunction of the conscious and the unconscious.

   Untitled (alchemy eagle), 2018

Untitled (alchemy eagle), 2018

The toad was often used to symbolise the “First Matter” (the Prima Materia) in the alchemical process. The prima materia is the primitive formless base of all matter (chaos) that must undergo a series of operations that will turn it into the Philosophers’ Stone. Psychologically this corresponds to the undifferentiated unconscious that has potential to bring new awareness and growth to the ego.

The first stage of this process, according to Jung, is the confrontation and assimilation of the person’s shadow self. In alchemy it is a stage known as “the blackness” or “Nigredo” and is represented by a black crow. The bird’s head separating from its body symbolized the emergence from blackness and a psychological cleansing of the psyche.

Chantal Powell creates sculptural works about personal realities. A PhD in social psychology and an interest in Jungian psychology informs her artistic practice.

Curious about how we are influenced by our unconscious, Powell embraces metaphors, myth and symbolic language in her making. The symbol is the guiding force to understand a core of our reality that cannot be disclosed by logic or rationality.

Using a range of materials and processes, Powell carefully selects and organises her objects and their relationships to one another, identifying archetypes and distilling out new sentiments. Alchemical connections are made through materials and processes such as casting in tin, drawing parallels with Jung’s individuation process. The results are objects can be read both as intimate portraits of the artist’s experience and more widely as poetic understandings of human psychological states.

Powell was shortlisted for the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award in 2015 and has exhibited at venues including the Guildhall Art Gallery (London), The Royal West Academy  (Bristol), OCCCA (California), and at collateral events at the 53rd and 54th Venice Biennales. She is the founder of the contemporary artist residency program Hogchester Arts.