Past exhibitions

Boris Gaberščik: Solve et coagula

By 17. 8. 2016 April 15th, 2019 No Comments

Boris Gaberščik
Solve et coagula

5.09.2016 – 15.10.2016

Boris Gaberščik: Solve et coagula Boris Gaberščik, an artist with a profoundly recognisable style, presents his newest series of photographs, created after a turning point in his life between 2015 and 2016. He remains loyal to his aesthetic principles, to the world of overlooked and forgotten objects, to a deep dedication to light and to

Boris Gaberščik
Solve et coagula

Boris Gaberščik, an artist with a profoundly recognisable style, presents his newest series of photographs, created after a turning point in his life between 2015 and 2016. He remains loyal to his aesthetic principles, to the world of overlooked and forgotten objects, to a deep dedication to light and to technical perfection of classical photographs made in his own laboratory.



The alchemical laboratory of Boris Gaberščik

Gaberščik’s still lifes are always full of symbolism and allusions, but his work can also be viewed from a purely artistic point of view (especially because the author himself is able to distinguish between the artistic and content-based approach and he mostly prefers to combine the two approaches): simple and at the same time complex compositions which often exceed the limits of Euclidean space and venture into the illusionary and surreal, the relationships mutually established by shapes and light, the rhythm of repetitive geometric shapes, subtle light, rich tonal values, modernist aesthetics and perfectionism in photographic processing.

With the series of still lifes, Solve et Coagula, Gaberščik’s laboratory finally brought forth its true alchemical nature, its motive, soul, copula mundi.[1] It is a place where alchemical processes of the transformation of the matter happen and where the immaterial, symbolic transmutation which transforms the alchemist himself occurs. When the spiritual and tangible levels are combined, alchemy happens and then gold is made.

When I say that Gaberščik’s laboratory (and not Gaberščik himself) finally brought forth its true alchemical nature, I am referring to his statement that it is not us who possess the objects, but they, the objects, possess us. Thus, he is conquered by the alchemical primordial matter, Materia Prima – Massa Confusa, the world of objects from his laboratory which we encounter in his photographs and were carried there by the flow of time. After the turning point in his life,[2] the author again met with the hermetic philosophy, Gnosticism and the only century lasting mystical tradition in Western Europe – alchemy. He began thinking about the ideas put forward by these ideological currents. The images from the series, named after the alchemical maxim, Solve et Coagula, bring the author’s visualization of reflections on the alchemical tradition and topics that are established – in particular, the images want to present questions and not answers.

Most of the non-proficient connect alchemy solely with utopian gold making, but it is a complex esoteric cosmological doctrine with a rich tradition and diverse history. Such knowledge is not only found in Europe but also in the cultural history of India, China and the Arab world.

Western alchemy experienced its heyday in the Renaissance and Baroque, and later in the 17th century it gradually split into the mystical and scientific pole; in the 18th century the scientific gradually becomes chemistry, whereas the mystical half survives as Hermetic philosophy. Mystical aspects of alchemy experienced a re-emergence in the late 19th century with Golden Dawn, with theosophical and traditionalist interpretations, and especially with Jungian interpretation of alchemical symbolism.

The foundation of alchemy is Opus (Work) and normally involves two aspects: the material aspect – the transmutation of metals into either gold or silver, the preparation of the philosopher’s stone; and the mystical, spiritual aspect – the internal aspect which involves the alchemist himself. The uniqueness of alchemy as esoteric science is precisely the merging of the material and spiritual. The fundamental maxim Solve et Coagula (dissolve and coagulate) alludes to the primordial matter which is perceived as the state of pure potentiality, the ontological state which has no specific form, not only in terms of metals, but also generally in the cosmogonic sense. This condition is called Materia Prima, chaos, Massa Confusa. It is the ontological status of chaos before the beginning of the cosmos. Metals have, with their specific form as a part of the cosmos, ousia (essence) or form (actualization). The alchemical premise is as follows: “If it were possible to dissolve a specific form of metals (for example the form of copper) and return them into the state of chaos and pure potentiality, then it would be possible to imprint a new specific form, new essence on them and as such transmute them.”[3] The process of transformation occurs in the seven steps: Calcination, Dissolution, Separation, Conjunction, Fermentation, Distillation and Coagulation. The experimental work in the alchemical laboratory focuses on creating the philosopher’s stone, where combining the opposites which are connected in perfect equilibrium, the manipulation of sulphur and mercury, is the ultimate interference. In the texts, it is symbolized with the holy marriage of King and Queen (Coniunction), the Sun and the Moon. The alchemical Opus connects both parts: the chemical endeavour of the alchemists and the mystical side of alchemy, the alchemists “suffers” when the substance “suffers”, with its “death”, the alchemist also dies internally. The reincarnation and triumphant resurrection of the substance glorifies the soul of the alchemist.

Reading of alchemical texts is required for a deeper understanding of alchemical skills and symbols, at the same time it is about the so-called initiatory practice of the transmission of hidden skills through hallowed adepts. Titles of the photographs even from this quite superficial description eloquently enough reveal links with the themes of alchemy: Solve et Coagula, Massa confusa, Tabula Smaragdina, As above so below, as below so above, Solutio, King and Queen (Coniunctio), Sulphur, Fatum, Demiurg, Ouroboros… and at the same time invite you to discover the secrets of the exhibition protected by the only image formed outside the alchemical laboratory, the Guardian of Secrets.

Just as the alchemist in his own laboratory enriches the matter and from base metals creates gold, Gaberščik in his photographic laboratory creates silver images. When he tones them with Sulphur, the ultimate creation occurs, the philosopher’s stone. With the help of the photography, his Massa Confusa, dead and forgotten objects transform, become alive and through the material speak about the metaphysical. The photographic studio and the objects in it are the author’s Copula Mundi. They connect corpus, the author and his soul with the divine, spirit and light.

Today’s meaning of the word laboratory derives from the Latin word laboratorium which connects two words: labor (difficult endeavour, effort) and oratorium (a place of prayer). Laboratory is therefore the space for work and prayer. In his photographic laboratory Gaberščik combines both. Tireless work, labor, is the way he uses for making photographs and is thus worthy of a deeper look, especially for someone who is not familiar with it and who finds it difficult to imagine the way he creates his distinctly recognizable aesthetics. The technology used for making photographs demands a detailed knowledge of technological and optical properties of the photography equipment and it allows exceptionally thorough tracing, as well as depth of field over a vast area on the image. It requires calculating the zones of depth of field depending upon the photographic film, lens and aperture. Films are of low sensitivity (below 25 ASA), whereas the exposure time is long – even up to four minutes. The equipment in technical implementation in precision mechanics and optical detail (the realization of the aperture and lenses, consequently the optical power, for example diffraction of light), differs from the dominant contemporary equipment and also affects the aesthetics of the image. Gaberščik’s address is technologically and consequently aesthetically close to the photographers of Group f/64 who believed that the camera sees better as a passive observer or it shows the world exactly as it is. “When asking myself a question why I take photographs, I answer that it is to see how this object would look photographed; because to me this is something completely different.”

The second part of the laboratory ritual requires skills for making photographs with the classical collodion process which is today becoming the “secret” skills. Films, photographic paper and chemicals have been disappearing from market, it is necessary to test formulas, adjust the procedure and proportions which enable the desired effects considering the available material. He uses some of the almost hundred year old procedures that, as an alchemist in search of and striving for the ultimate goal, he had adjusted himself. Prayer in the alchemistical, photographic laboratory of Boris Gaberščik honours light.

“… And on the wave is deeper blue,

And on the leaf a browner hue,

And in the heaven that clear obscure,

So softly dark, and darkly pure…”[4]

“This verse is my guideline when it comes to using light. I like the light that is quiet, does not absorb or block objects, instead it encourages them to exist, show their wounds to the world, the Germans would say Gebrauchsspuren.[5] Without them, an object is just an object. I’m interested in relationships between objects; the light is the medium in which I submerge them. I feel the light, for me it’s stronger than the sound. In physics, light is an electromagnetic wave, for me light is strongly emotional, even a spiritual experience, I could compare it to a spiritual experience in architecture, to the cathedral. In Hermetism, the Sun is the only visible god and for me as well, the usage of light is mystical; I don’t take it for granted. When I’m photographing I only decide on some light coming from the right, exposure time can last for a couple of minutes and then, as a beginner still, I hold my breath. The compositions are static, nothing can move, but for me these moments are magical; it is then that the story transfers to the film.

I’ve dealt with light a lot, where does it come from, how it comes; for example in the works by Pierro della Francesca light is everywhere, it’s coming from everywhere, whereas on Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, it is oriented. In this series I don’t use focused light, unless the objects alone create it. Light is completely uniform; I believe that the objects themselves must modulate it, because that’s how they actively participate. It’s different to whether you expose them or put in the background with the help of light. For me light has to be like a breath, completely vegetative, just like breathing which you can hardly be aware of, it mustn’t be emphasized anywhere. The light is for me the crucial tone.”

Alchemy of Gaberščik’s laboratory is therefore double, the enrichment of worthless, forgotten, discarded objects, the matter with the idea, spirit (Spirit in Materia), transformation and modification of objects, this is the upper alchemy and completely material, the lower alchemy: the manipulation of silver with sulphur – the making of gold. Created gold is in his case his photography.


Boris Gaberščik

Modus operandi

Camera: Linhof kardan standard 4×5 inch, made in 1977

Linhof kardan master GT 8×10 inch, made in 1991

Lenses: Schneider Symmar S 150 mm, 5,6, made in 1975

C.Friedrich, Coronar, doppelanastigmat, 27 cm, 6,8 (Gauss) made in cca. 1927

Rodenstock Apo ronar, 240 mm, 5,6, made in 1988

Linhof cassette, Superollex, 60×72 mm

Enlarger: Magnifax II in IV, Made in 1965 and 1988

Lens: Schneider Componon 105 mm, 5,6

Films: Rollei Orto 25, Rollei RPX 25 (both 120)

Photographic processing in: Paterson FX 39, Neofin blau, Rodinal
Photo paper: Ilford, Multigrade, Warmtone, Fiber base

Rolei Vintage 131, Fiber base

Photographic processing in: Ansco 120 (modification Boris Gaberščik)
Flash: Bowens Monogold, volume 1988 z Softboxom
For the exposure time often uses only 60 W halogen light bulb with the option of dimmer.
Exposure time: from 1/125 seconds to 4 minutes at aperture F No between 22 and 64
In the series Solve et Coagula only one source of light is used (always from the right side).

[1] Marsilio Ficino calls the soul »knot and bond of the universe« (Copula Mundi) which binds the earthly and heavenly world, immanence and transcendence, time and eternity. Marko Uršič: Pogled duše in angela v renesančni filozofiji. Ars & Humanitas, L. 9, št.1 (2015)

[2] In 2015, the author faced his own mortality. After this experience, first a smaller series of graves (Sepultura) and tombstones (Sepulchrum) which covers the theme of death starts to intensivly emerge, and after follows the series Solve et Coagula.

[3] Matej Andraž Marjan Švab: Tradicija alkimije na Zahodu in Slovenskem. Diplomsko delo. Ljubljana 2015

[4] Lord Byron. Parisina

[5] Clearly visable traces, signs that occur with frequent, intensive usage.

Boris Gaberščik

Boris Gaberščik was born on 28 September 1957 in Ljubljana. While still a student at the Department of Biology of the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana, he developed a fascination for photography under the influence of his friend T. Prošek. He became a member of the Photo Club of the Alpine Association of Slovenia, where he continued to develop his photography under the guidance of V. Simončič. He also maintained friendly contacts with J. Kološa – Kološ, who staged his first exhibitions. After receiving his BSc degree in 1985, Gaberščik devoted himself entirely to photography. In 1986 he obtained the status of a freelance artist and began his professional career as a photographer, under the tutelage of M. Zdovc. He has had a number of solo exhibitions at home and abroad, and participated in numerous group exhibitions and workshops. His works form parts of private and public collections (Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana, The Talum Collection, Kidričevo; The Department of Slovene Photography, the Gorenjska Museum, Kranj). His photos have appeared in over 150 monographs and catalogues of Slovene artists and in numerous brochures, catalogues, annual reports and calendars. He has received several awards for his works, which have been presented in publications in Slovenia and abroad. He also writes essays and other texts. He lives and works as a freelance photographer in Ljubljana.


1983 Fotogalerija Slon, Ljubljana; Fotogalerija Triglav, Koper; Fotogalerija Piran, Piran
1985 Fotogalerija Osijek, Osijek (Croatia)
1988 Studio PHI, Trieste (Italy); Interier Stol, Duplica pri Kamniku; Koncertni atelje DSS, Ljubljana
1989 Galerija Equrna, Ljubljana; Galerija Lerota, Ljubljana
1991 Mala galerija, Sežana
1992 Galerija Vista, Novo mesto; Galerie Fotohof (Radovič, Gaberščik) Salzburg (Austria)
1994 Orpheum, Graz (Austria); Galerija Labirint, Ljubljana
1995 Moderna galerija, Ljubljana; Galeria Artoteka, Month of photography, (Vlachy, Pivk, Jakša, Gaberščik) Bratislava (Slovakia)
1997 Galerija Ivana Groharja, Škofja Loka; Galerija Miklova hiša, Ribnica
1999 Cankarjev dom, Mala galerija, Ljubljana
2005Galerija Herman Pečarič, Piran
2006 Galerija Fotografija, Ljubljana
2007 Mestna galerija, Nova gorica
2008 Mestna galerija Ljubljana
2012 Pozabljeni pogledi, Bežigrajska galerija I, Ljubljana
2012 L’Ordre de Choses, VU Galerie Paris (France)
2016 Galerija Fotografija, Ljubljana


1982 Concorso triangulare interregionale, Gorizia (Italy); Fotoforum, Ružomberok (Czech Republic); Fotoklub OOSSO, Zagreb (Croatia)
1983 9, republiška razstava, Radovljica; FK Uljanik, Pula (Croatia)
1984 Mednarodni bienale kombinirane fotografije, Galerije Loža, Koper; Foto treh dežel, Atrij magistrata, Ljubljana
1990 150 let fotografije na Slovenskem, Mestna galerija Ljubljana; Fotoforum, Pecs (Hungary)
1991 Postavitve in posegi, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana
1992 Galeria fotografica comunale, Foljano/Fogliano Redipuglia (Italy)
1993 City Visons . European Month of Culture, Retzhof (Austria)
1995 City Visions, NIcosia (Cyprus)
1996 Atelje Počivavšek, Ljubljana
1997 Zimski salon, Mestna galerija, Ljubljana; Podstreha Janeza Pirnata, Ljubljana (Zelenko, Pirnat, Gaberščik)
1998 Tihožitje danes, Palazzo Constanzi, Trieste (Italy)
1999 Muzej Ernst, Budimpešta/Budapest (Hungary); Teatro Sam Martin, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Likovno razstavišče Riharda Jakopiča, Ljubljana (Pirnat, Jakša, Gaberščik)
2000 Likovna kolonija, Bistra, Vrhnika, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana
2002 Likovna kolonija Talum, Miheličeva galerija Ptuj
2005 Genius loci, Sečoveljske soline, Obalne galerije Piran; Photonic moments, Galerija Photon, Ljubljana; Kabinet slovenske fotografije, Gorenjski muzej Kranj
2007 Fotocastrum, Pilonova galerija, Ajdovščina; Triestefotografia, Trieste (Italy)
2011 Photography calling (Schürmann Collection); Sprengel Museum, Hannover (Germany)
2012 Photomed Festival
2013 Zu Gast (3) East (4 Räume aus dem Sammlung Schürmann); Kunstsaele Berlin, Germany; After Nature (Collection Schürmann), Collector’s House, Heerlen, Netherlands
2014 La Magia dell’ Arte – Slovenska sodobna umetnost 1968 – 2013, Villa Manin, Passariano di Codroipo, Italy
2015 Magija umjetnosti – Slovenska umjetnost 1968 – 2013, Gliptoteka Zagreb (Croatia); Die Magie der Kunst  – Protagonisten der slowenischen Gegenwartskunst 1968 – 2013, Künstlerhaus, Wien, Austria


1982 Honorary Plaque, Ružomberok, Fotoforum, Czech Republic
1983 Silver Medal, Experimental Photography, Zagreb, Croatia; Prize and citation, Foto-klub Uljanik, Pula, Croatia
1984 Silver Medal, Experimental Photography, Belgrade, Serbia; Gold Medal, International Biennial of Combined Photography, Galerija Loža, Koper
2007 Plaque, Exhibition of the Year 2007, for his exhibition at the Mestna galerija Nova gorica (Month of Photography)
2008 Priznanje, razstava leta 2008, za razstavo v Mestni galeriji Ljubljana / Ordo ab Chao (Mesec fotografije / Month  of photography)
2008 The Župančič Award, Ljubljana

Help with exhibition realisation:

Leave a Reply