Urban Alchemy - Book Launch

24 Jun 2015

Event times

5 - 9pm

Cost of entry


15 Gordon Street

United Kingdom, United Kingdom


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Urban Alchemy is a large-scale urban print project and artist book created by Hilary Powell. It brings together the parallel worlds of university scientists and demolition contractors working on University College London’s building sites to expose the hidden processes of urban transformation and the material stories of our built environment


Over the course of 10 months Powell has collaborated with material scientists within the UCL Chemistry department and with skilled tradesmen and labourers to salvage and transform ‘waste’ materials’ that she can use for her printing experiments.

Through a series of scientific processes zinc roofing, copper boilers, plywood hoardings and the dust from slate, brick and rust are transformed to become print making materials and urban ink palette.
The culmination and locus of these experiments is the exquisitely produced book Urban Alchemy In the tradition of an alchemical ‘book of secrets’ it reveals a series of techniques and processes the artist has undertaken in applying traditional print techniques to reclaimed demolition site materials. The book uncovers stories and histories of these materials and their life cycles and includes portraits of demolition
contractors etched into the very zinc and copper that they dismantled. Powell is also working on a 3m length of roofing zinc to create a panorama of the skyline as seen from UCL rooftops which will be exhibited alongside the portraits in the Construction Welfare Canteen, the meeting place for all the builders working on the transformation of UCL.

Urban Alchemy promotes an innovative model of collective cultural production and knowledge sharing. Through the recruitment of a diverse, multi-disciplinary team of researchers, practitioners and tradesman - from anthropologists to archaeologists, chemists to pigment specialists, master etchers, plumbers and asbestos experts - Powell has uncovered and worked with the people, processes and materials of a city and specific site undergoing constant transformation, demolition and renovation.

In conjunction with the book launch there will be a series of workshops as part of UCL’s Institute of Making’s ‘Festival of Stuff’. A masterclass in alternative stone lithography replacing the usual limestone with concrete and cement will take place on Thursday 25th June 2015. On Saturday 27 June 2015 there will be an open workshop/performance, inviting participants to work with materials from the demolition site to create large-scale woodcut images into reclaimed plywood hoardings printed using a road roller, as well as an opportunity to make ink from
bricks and slate.

Urban Alchemy will be available to purchase from Hilary Powell’s website

Exhibiting artists

Hilary Powell

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