Chinese Coin, from the Embracing Emptiness series
Pigment print
H1100 mm x W1100 mm

Embracing Emptiness - Artist in Focus - Stephen Sack - January 2016

Since 1983 Stephen Sack has photographed ancient coins that have been buried and "transformed" through time. Corrosion acts as the alchemist, revealing an otherworldly meaning. The coins selected are not classified and often “worthless” to the collector. Sack insists that his work is not that of a curator who identifies and documents, nor are his artistic expressions about specific coinages. To him, these ancient metal discs are living organisms and pilgrims of time. He uncovers their innermost secrets and seeks to create stunning images, which originate from a spiritual place that occupies a part of our collective unconscious and imagination

His recent series Embracing Emptiness: Photography and Alchemy of Ancient Chinese Coins, largely abstract, radiates a myriad of shades. Patina and decay form a mystical landscape almost extra-terrestrial in nature. The factual and intense colours in the photographs are exposed through the use of scientific lighting, like the different wave lengths of light deployed in astronomy to observe and snapshot the universe. Everything is alive, rock, stone and mineral, all belonging to the grand, infinite process and cycle that is life. The coins entombed into the earth, together in silence, have evolved into poetic dimensions and visions, where one can perhaps catch a glimpse of the divine of nature.

In China money is frequently associated with time-honoured beliefs, rituals and philosophy, they are a fundamental element of traditional customs and rites of passage of the most significant events: birth and death, love and marriage, the posterity of a large family. Coins become amulets and pendants to promote good health, luck and fortune, to ward off the evil spirits as well as to offer transit into the afterlife. The circle symbolises the heaven and the square the earth, where the void is the centre and the essential paradox. To embrace the emptiness is to find peace and harmony in this world.

Stephen Sack is an American artist/photographer living and working in Brussels since 1977.  His early career included showings at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp. In particular, the exhibitions The Metal Mirror at the British Museum, London, and Natural History, at Gallery James Danzinger, New York, were an outstanding success. He won the Young Belgian Art Prize in 1985, at Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels. Furthermore, countless international exhibitions and awards complemented his career. To name a few: The Room of Lost Coins, Kestner Museum Hannover, 2015;  Coventina’s Well, Chesters Roman Fort Museum, Hadrian’s Wall, 2012; Two major exhibitions of his much-admired series Passions at Eglises Saint-Merry, Paris in 2013 and Cathédral Saints Michel & Gudule Brussels in 2012. Flora Magica, at Musée de la Mine du Nord-Pas Calais, in 2008. The same year saw Out of Time presented at Musée Juif de la Belgique. Followed in 2007 by Inédit-Ianchelevici vu par Stephen Sack, Musée Lanchelevici, La Louvière and Keystones, Musée National d’Archéologie de Lisbon in 2006.

Stephen Sack’s photographs are held in the following collections Chase Manhattan Bank, New York; the British Museums, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Goldman Sachs, New York; Crédit Lyonnais, Belgium; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris and many more.

His current exhibition Euro Meltdown, at Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, Netherlands, runs from 15 December 2015 – 27 March 2016, showing twelve defunct Euro coins, edited, blown-up photographs of more than one square meter.

©Stephen Sack and Renée Pfister, 2016

Interview with Stephen Sack by RadioXBrussels – Embracing Emptiness – The Hidden Beauty of Ancient Coins Revealed.
By RadioXBrussels
For further information about Stephen Sack's work contact
Chinese Coin, from the Embracing Emptiness series
Pigment print
H1100 mm x W1100 mm
available for sale £4,650

My individual, dedicated service means that all projects are handled with the utmost discretion, to international museums codes and fine art practice. Experience, knowledge and attention to detail are key elements. Please get in touch to see how I can help you with your requirements. All these services are bespoke and chargeable as agreed in advance.