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The properties of elements often reflect the properties of life itself - volatile, inert, lustrous, precious, brittle…' Primo Levi

It was for the artist to determine how they approach the subject of the 'Base Elements'.

It was ACA’s objective to curate a range of projects that would look at the scientific, the spiritual and mythical.

There is no universal definition or conclusive list of 'Base Elements'.

Ancient and traditional scholars look at the characteristics of the four basic elements of earth wind water and fire in an attempt to understand or engage with our planet and its place in the the universe).


One could distinguish between the physical understanding of the universe, the cosmology of science and physics (e.g. the 'Big Bang' theory) or, the metaphysical or esoteric cosmology which not only refers to the physical universe but also to psychic or spiritual realms of existence.

The atomic elements of modern science also offer much scope for debate. 'Each of the elements is vital for life to exist on Earth in a closed loop of cyclical changes'. Dr. Art's Guide to Planet Earth.

The elements are the building blocks of all matter, with over 100 identified. The majority of scientists would probably agree that Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulphur, Hydrogen and Silicon are central and make up most of the matter in the universe; however, this is very much a life scientist's list - geologists would probably include other peculiar elements in there and nuclear physicists would have a different list - e.g. uranium. Includes extracts from the writing of project consultant Prof. Nick Owens, Director of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

This project was supported by Northern Rock Foundation and Arts Council North East.

The artists

Paul Grimmer

Kypros Kyprianou

Arturas Raila

Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis

Image: Power of The Earth Arturas Raila

Base Elements