If Serge Haelterman had lived a few centuries ago, he would have probably been an alchemist. He is vacillatingly in search of the forbidden or secret knowledge.
His objects and drawings invite us to join him on a quest that bears a certain resemblance to the successive stages of the alchemical process.
‘I see myself as an alchemist’, he writes. But what does it mean today to follow in the footsteps of those who have dedicated themselves before him to the eternal search for the unknown? Of course he is no direct descendant to Nicolas Flamel or Robert Fludd. Nor is it his aim to turn base matter into gold. The true meaning of alchemy lies elsewhere. Foremost, it is a process of inner transformation. For a transition from matter into gold to occur, a change has to happen within the alchemist. Life is a search for the gold of the mind, i.e. wisdom.
These objects are therefore more of a creed from the heretic book of secret knowledge. They are borne by a great complexity and depth. Their actual temptation – and therefore their beauty – is derived from the secret they carry within.
His objects are to be seen as the transcript of a process of initiation. Every object is a paragraph and subsequently a part of a chapter in a comprehensive book with no end. These objects are a vacillating attempt to depict what cannot be depicted.
The unknown is the beginning and ending of all. The journey passes stages that are visualized in series of processed materials and shapes. Concepts turn into visual representations. The objects are condensed or concentrated clusters of ideas.
Excerpt from an exhibition text by Francis Smets