Cluttered with bottles, tools, and interweaving shapes, not everything is meant to be immediately understood in The Alchemist’s Mainframe. Alchemy is a medieval “science” that combined superstitious rituals with a nascent knowledge of chemistry procedures and a wide range of philosophical beliefs. Alchemy has some of the most interesting illustrations depicting its procedures, filled with symbolic meaning and bizarre interpretations that predate concepts found in Surrealism. In the complex, chaotic, yet somehow organized installation, bottles are filled with unknown potions, scattered materials are on hand ready for future concoctions, and oddly pyramid-shaped books hold secrets left by earlier practitioners. Like a large computer filled with wires, chips, and other mechanisms, it can appear incomprehensible to someone unfamiliar with the layout, but the viewer is left with a genuine curiosity and desire to learn more.

The artist believes that mysteries stay more interesting if they are never quite resolved.
The Alchemist’s Mainframe is meant to mimic that mystifying force.



Phase 1: Extractor
45 x 40 x 10 inches

Phase 2: Ingredients
24 x 21 x 10 inches

Phase 3: Installment
36 x 35 x 8 inches

Phase 4: Incubator
34 x 20 x 10 inches

Phase 5: Trinity
36 x 32 x 8 inches

Phase 6: Instruments
24 x 21 x 10 inches

Phase 7: Synthesis
44 x 34 x 10 inches


Nicholai Shaver is an Indianapolis artist who specializes in assemblage sculpture and in paintings on wooden panels. From a childhood filled with drawing, he learned metalworking and then attended the Herron School of Art where he branched out into book art, photography, and painting. He had access to an abundance of wood surfaces, whose grain and natural knots enabled him to highlight its natural characteristics in his painting. Since then Shaver has evolved from a painter into an assemblage sculptor, making complex wood constructions which he carefully hand-paints. He is strongly influenced by the Surrealists’ perspective systems and their use of symbolic objects. Much like them, Shaver strives to bring a sense of mystery and symbolic allure to his current installation.


Phase 1: Extractor