Virgil Wong, Alchemy, digital composite printed on metal from an acrylic, ink, pencil, and wood-cut collage on paper, 47-1/2″ X 49-1/2″

Alchemy (2011) is a kind of corporeal transformation originally drawn from master studies I created 16 years ago. In 1995, I was studying both human anatomy at the University of Rome Medical School and Renaissance painting techniques at RISD’s European Honors Program. From original engravings by Andreas Vesalius in De Humani Corporis Fabrica, I did a series of sketches on paper which, by 2011, became cracked and desiccated – much like the cadavers I dissected in my anatomical studies.

To preserve my sketches, I scanned the drawings and composited them digitally with a wood-cut I made from Elias Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Brittanicum (1652). The intertwined dragons represent the philosopher’s stone, which was fabled to possess the ability to preserve life and turn base metals into gold or silver. To complete the alchemic-like transformation from paper and flesh, I printed the digitally constructed image onto metal. The printing process infused dyes directly into specially coated aluminum sheets – which vividly increased luminosity, detail, and image stability that is highly resistant to light exposure. Alchemy is therefore a strange mixture of something evanescent, like our bodies, within an embodiment that is essentially permanent and imperishable.