Al/che/my: Works by Grey Zeien at bau Gallery

Wikipedia defines alchemy as “a process by which paradoxical results are achieved or incompatible elements combined with no obvious rational explanation.” Another definition of alchemy is the “search for a method to turn dross into gold.”

For over 20 years Philipstown’s Grey Zeien (of Grey Printing in Cold Spring) has produced work by combining incompatible elements, letting the inherent differences in the media act and counteract with each other, creating surface tensions that cannot be planned or completely controlled. Bending and shaping these disparate media, Zeien makes paintings that are filled with bold color, combining the revelatory and, at times, whimsical. Oil paints combined and layered over acrylics, mixed with water-based inks and dyes, create effects that no sleight of hand can completely control.

The addition of gold leaf in this show of new works add yet another layer of surface tension. The flat reflective gold icons stand apart from the roiling surface underneath. In the larger images, the myriad of small gold icons float above the environment that threatens to overwhelm them. In the smaller works, the icons dominate the picture. What the icons depict and what their relationship to each other means, has an individual resonance and story for each individual viewer to decipher in their own terms.

In his sculpture, says Zeien, “I seek to turn found, discarded objects into art. By reclaiming and transforming “garbage,” I show the beauty that is inherent in the most commonplace object. This recycling is alchemy indeed.”

Al/che/my is on view at bau Gallery, located at 161 Main St. in Beacon, now through Oct. 7. There is an artist’s reception on Friday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. The gallery is open weekends, noon through 6 p.m. Visit for more information.

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