Rapturous Alchemy: The Corallium Series

A talk with the artist Virginia Bradley in Palazzo Bembo

Expanding from her installation Rapturous Alchemy: The Corallium Series, American artist Virginia Bradley will deepen the conversation on the devastating impact of climate change on coral reefs as well as highlight how she uses alchemy in her paintings. The insightful talk will take place on the first floor of Palazzo Bembo and will be moderated by renowned Venice-based curator Dr. Hesperia lliadou Suppjei.

Rapturous Alchemy: The Corallium Series by Virginia Bradley presents several of the new, large-scale Corallium works backlit on lightboxes in a darkened room. The use of light that seemingly comes from within, “liquefies” the paintings and transports the viewer into a rapturous exploration of aqueous suspension akin to Bradley’s own sensory experience when swimming among the coral reefs.

As renowned artist, writer and curator Buzz Spector describes in his essay: “The terminology of “erosion” here might bring the dryness of deserts to mind, but Bradley’s experience of being in the sea is made manifest through the LED lighting in her armatures, investing the work with a liquid aspect. An essential distinction, then, between Bradley’s art and the rest of a modern tradition of phenomenal abstraction, is the aqueous experiencing it invites. Mark Rothko’s fields of vaporous color, Ronnie Landfield’s torqued and clouded landscapes, even Helen Frankenthaler’s soaked and stained canvases; all result in surfaces of visible dryness. The emanation from within Bradley’s play of color and brightness is like water seen from beneath the surface, as if viewers were rising toward the light.”

One of the goals of the project is to inform the public about the devastating effects of climate change on coral reefs. Last summer a severe heat wave swept the Southern United States and caused the ocean temperatures to rise off the coast of Florida. The high-water temperatures immediately started a bleaching process killing the algae that creates food for the reefs leading to reefs dying – this is occurring globally. Other factors devastating coral reefs are overfishing, marine pollution and the salinity of toxic rainfall (due to carbon emissions.) Healthy coral reefs are the fundamental building blocks of our marine eco-systems.

Virginia Bradley (www.virginiabradley.com) is a contemporary American abstract painter whose practice has grown out of her activism on environmental issues and her exploration of the science of alchemy. At the heart of her work is experimentation with oil paint, sea water, alcohol and other painting mediums in various weather conditions. When combined, these elements act as catalysts for each layer as the process unfolds into a final image. Physical interventions – like actively pouring layers of paint, sanding, drawing, adding to and subtracting from the painting surface – are essential to Bradley’s process.

The Corallium works are created on archival transparent film. Atop the blank sheet, deliberate actions, a unique mix of materials and unexpected interactions mirror nature’s own inventive process. All of life has been formed – and transformed- by the water, elements and powerful forces of the sea. This perpetual churning of materials both creates and sustains the infinite variety of life upon earth.

The Corallium Series shows us the paradise that will be lost if urgent action isn’t taken to rescue the breathtaking beauty and powerful life force of earth’s oceans.


Hesperia lliadou Suppjei lives and works between Venice and Doha, where she curated the 25th VCUQ anniversary exhibition at the Arab Museum of Modern Art last Autumn. She was also the curator of the Malta National Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale 2019 and the Inaugural Exhibition for the European Capital of Culture in 2017.

She is elected assistant professor in History of Art and Architecture and a Museum Studies specialist, educated at the University of London, the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and the City University of Hong Kong.

She is a member of the International Council of Museums and the only woman elected in the specialised Europa Nostra committee, focusing on museum and cultural spaces within historic buildings. She is currently teaching at the MA in Curatorial Practice in Florence and collaborating as a lecturer in Museums Studies at NODE Curatorial Research Center in Berlin. Additionally, she is part of the Qatar Museums professional advancement programme, conducting master classes in Curatorial History, Concepts & Museum Collection Management and in Venice, directs the Museums and Exhibitions Study Society.

Rapturous Alchemy: The Corallium Series

A talk with the artist Virginia Bradley in Palazzo Bembo

11.00 — 12.00

  • Event: Artist Talk
  • Venue: Palazzo Bembo
  • Presence: In-person

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