This evolution of the Alembic series that began with Luke and his father, the late John Croucher, continues their ongoing fascination into the history of glass science.
Since the passing of his father, John Croucher, in 2021 Luke Jacomb has continued to explore the history of glass science that led them to their first collaborative exhibition in 2019 - Alembics and Cucubitas: A New Glass Vernacular.
Mercurio is the evolution of the alembic series, with the heightened scale and vivid colours reflecting the emotional journey and personal growth through the grief of personal loss. Revisiting the alembics is a way to reconnect with his father, "seeing him in every piece provides a connection to past, present and future".
The large-scale works were made in Seattle, the current centre for glass art in North America, during a recent visit by Luke with the help of fellow glass artist and friend Dan Friday, a Seattle native and member of the Lummi Nation, giving the works an unusual provenance. Seattle holds a special place in Luke's heart.
He lived in the city for several years, working as both a production and fine artist, and forged a group of lifelong friendships in the process. Mercurio, Italian for Mercury, is a substance highly prized for its unusual chemical properties by Alchemists, Chemists, Scientists and Doctors, as well as being the Roman name for Hermes - who, in his form as Hermes Trismegistus, is the patron god of Alchemists.
Stemming from Egyptian and Islamic roots, the al-chymists are famous for their search for the secrets of transmutation - turning base metals, such as lead, into gold and silver, a process called chrysopoeia.
The myth of the Philosopher's Stone or Egg stems from their efforts and was likely a ruby coloured glass- like substance which had the power to affect the transmutation. The apparatus to perform the repeated distillation, sublimation and melting required to make this magical substance often involved glass vessels called alembics, cucubitas, and aludels.
The creation of gold ruby glass, of which you can see examples in this exhibition, depended first on discovering how to dissolve gold using Aqua Regia (Royal Water). To that solution tin metal was added, which, when dissolved, produced Purple of Cassius - the key to introducing gold into the glass melt and
having it "strike" ruby. Today's process of creating coloured glasses using a combination of different chemicals, including gold and lead, to produce a variety of colours is no less mystical, if slightly more scientifically probable, than it was several thousand years ago.
The properties of glass retain their magical element into the modern age. It is a material that requires decades of experience to make, but is immediately usable, it can at once be unbelievably durable and incredibly fragile. It permeates our lives from the largest elements to the smallest. We use it for shelter, for protection, to travel, to see, we eat from it, we watch it, we wear it, and we admire it - from the comfort of your favourite water glass to the splendour of the Rose Window of Notre Dame it surrounds us daily.
All works are made with the assistance of Dan Friday, Kate Mitchell, Matt Hall, Simon Lewis Wards and Tara Ross.