By Gabriella Vivaldi
Time is one of the most critical elements that impacts art at its core. It transforms sculptures, paintings and installations at every second that passes. Artists and curators are increasingly turning to science to find ways that can help prevent the deterioration of art pieces, while conversely there is a burgeoning trend among young creatives to implement techniques such as decomposition and incompatibility to express their vision. In these processes materials are the stars that unknowingly determine the result. The artists that chose this path don’t necessarily know what the final piece will look like, but have a very specific and precise idea of which materials are needed to tell the story they have in mind. Leaving the result unknown is part of the creation process, which becomes the art piece itself.
When experimenting with incompatibility, artists play with unorthodox materials that largely differ from the usual bronze, acrylic paint and ceramics (among others). They lean towards materials that have chemical and physical properties along with a tendency of reacting, corroding or rusting when in contact with one another.
An interesting example of incompatible art is “Drip,” a sculpture created by young artist Takashi Masubuchi, for his graduation project at the Tokyo University of Art. Takashi combined two materials that by nature, structure or properties are incompatible when used together: Styrofoam and petroleum paint.
The first, which is generically identified as expanded polystyrene foam, is made of ninety-eight percent air and foamed polystyrene, and is known for its extremely light and buoyant properties. It has been developed by Dow’s Chemical Physics lab and is commonly used in insulation, packaging and crafts.
The latter is instead a naturally occurring flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons or various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, which are found in geologic formations beneath the earth’s surface. One of its plentiful applications is as an ingredient to make paint.
Masubuchi strategically selected these materials knowing that they would react with one another and create a unique effect that resembles a decaying process. Each “circle” in the sculpture is accurately crafted using either black or white petroleum paint.
In order to create this sculpture, Masubuchi climbed on top of the huge Styrofoam cube and patiently dripped black petroleum based paint in a hole created on the top. The result is the creation of organic concentric circles that are almost disturbing to stare at but offer a mesmerizing effect. Takashi did the project several times, applying black paint, and separately white paint, in order to show different effects.
The chemicals contained in the petroleum paint to keep it liquid dissolve the Styrofoam at contact. Since the paint dries when all the solvents have evaporated into the air, the closed cell extruded polystyrene foam structure is broken down by the paint solvents and start to blister and bubble.
Like Masubuchi, many artists are experimenting with materials and processes trying to find the most innovative way of creating art. By combining science, design, graphics, chemistry and materials, the spectrum of what can be created is infinite. We just need to wait and see what will be next.