Sunday 15 March 2015

Painting with eukaryotes

This time I'm making paint for muticellular organisms...

Ha ha, that's right, humans, lovely, fantastic humans.  This is from a wee course in 'Winter flowers in egg tempera' at the Botanics.

 It's a very procedural business, you have to prime and gesso your own boards and then mix your pigments with your egg yolk and then get to grips with how to use the paint, which isn't quite like anything else.
If you want to know how to do it,  Koo Schadler is excessively good at it and generously shares her how-to expertise here.
We were doing this sort of thing:

I'm fond of doing this as it involves plenty of old-fashioned craftsmanship which is great for slowing down the thinking and making you focus on what kind of picture you think you want to make.  There's a lovely textility to the work, the paint is applied in lots of translucent layers of small brushstrokes so you get a very lively surface which is nice, the pictures look still from a distance but close-up are full of the joyful seething animation of everything as it cavorts about its business.
This really isn't for the vegans! There is something both creepy and glorious about the organism-ishness of the thing you make, with its wooden support, and its rabbit-skin glue colloids, and its boney, chalky ground, and its fatty eggy skin.

©Annie Barton

What are we doing here at the Botanics?  These classes are marketed as opportunities to "develop your skills and abilities", the idea being that students used them as a basis for follow-up work later on, if they wished, or simply enjoy them as a sort of hardcore way of having quiet fun.  So they have to function as 'leisure' or 'hobby' activities and be transformative-educational at the same time.  I've been wondering, what is the difference between 'leisure' and 'culture'? *

Why might the world need an enlarged dissection of a cycalmen in egg tempera? Who knows. But there you are, it's got one now, and it'll have to make of it the best it can.

One of the great things about this medium is that because you use food to make your paint, you are viscerally aware of the consuming nature of doing your doing. Especially as you use the yolk for the work, and the white for stiing in the fridge not being made into meringues. But help is at hand with  Marvellous Egg-white Dispenser, in the form of Blue, my wonderful studio neighbour's wonderful pal.

*The answer to that of course is; "If it's done by youngish men, then it's certainly Culture, and if it's done by older women, then it's certainly Leisure."

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