Embracing Emptiness @Royal Museum of Art and History Brussels

June 02, 2015

Since 1983, Stephen Sack has photographed ancient coins that have been buried and “transformed” through time. The coins are seen as living organisms - pilgrims of time - symbols of the black mirror reflecting and unveiling the unconscious mind. The coins are mostly “worthless” to the collector, the corrosion acting as the Alchemists agent reveals a deeper spiritual understanding.

Largely abstract, they radiate a myriad of colors. The patina and corrosion form a psychological landscape almost cosmic in nature. The colors in the photographs are real - revealed through the use of scientific lighting - somewhat like different wave lengths of light used in astronomy to observe and photograph the cosmos. Everything is alive - rock, stone and mineral all belong to the grand process and cycle that is life. The coins return to the earth and together, in silence, they evolve into poetic dimensions - visions where one can perhaps catch a glimpse of the divine in nature. 

American photographer Stephen Sack presents, in partnership with the Chinese Ambassy, the Belgian institute for Chinese studies, his new serie "Embracing Emptiness" revealing ancient coins. Spot U Art is partner of the event. 

The Chinese have always associated money with superstitions, rituals and philosophy - being an essential component in traditional rituals of the most important events: in birth, love and marriage, creating a large family, and in death. The coins become amulets to promote good health and fortune, ward off the evil spirits and tokens to bribe the judges in the afterlife. The circle represents the heaven and the square the earth.  A harmony balances the two.

Stephen Sack is an American artist/photographer living in Brussels since 1977. 

Sack’s works treat a wide variety of subjects that are linked by a common vision evolving around the concepts of time, memory and traces. The artistic process involves a selective vision - non manipulative macro photography and a predisposition towards a dream-like reality. Sack has again returned to his passion for “distressed” and corroded coins. 

In 1982 with the Chromosomic Memory series (Prix de la Jeune Peinture Belge 1985); followed by The Metal Mirror series (British Museum 1999). 

The Book of Lost Coins will be published in 2015 by Spink&Sons of London  and will comprise 6 new series. 


IBHEC/BIHCS was founded in 1929. It is the oldest organisation in Belgium devoted to the promotion of the arts and culture of China. The institute is located in Brussels in the beautiful and prestigious Royal Museums of Art and History, with its activities taking place in the close vicinity to the art objects and cultural artefacts of the China collection. 

The first decade of its life, the Institute became a meeting point and concentration of the sinological know how prevailing in Belgium at the time. One of its founders, Louis de la Vallée Poussin, started the publication of the series Mélanges chinois et bouddhiques (MCB), which is still being continued today with contributions of renown Belgian and international sinologists and buddhologists.

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