Graphic Grey

Friday, 10 February 2012

Further Thoughts on my Industrial Resin Project

The first 6-8 months of the project were almost all devoted to experimentation and playing with the various different resins to learn how they behaved under different conditions. As the resins are all used industrially, they have never been explored as a painting material, and so I was going into entirely new territory, with all the unexpectedly wonderful and also discouraging results that go hand in hand with a project of this nature.

Working alongside a polymer chemist in my studio, we would spend hours weighing, mixing, pouring, scooping, dripping and timing setting times of a whole range of resins. It was such a pleasure to work alongside someone so knowledgeable, who also seemed excited about what I was doing because I was exploring the use of these resins in ways that had never been done before. I began with the premise that as there were no rules or instructions (apart from health and safety- I always wore a mask and gloves) about what I wanted to do I should try anything and everything. So I mixed a little bit of this with a bit of that and stood back to see what would happen. Sometimes the results were amazing, but equally sometimes things failed miserably and I ended up with a puddle of resin hardening in the middle of my desk or floor. Even more frustrating was when I created something wonderful, only to find that I could not repeat it to achieve a similar result.

Around February of last year I began to feel I was really making progress, with the resins beginning to behave in an aesthetically pleasing way. My favourite resin was (and is) the one used in the works The Sea Made Flesh, Tricky and Entropy. This resin starts with a honey-like consistency after mixing and then sets incredibly quickly to an incredibly hard, rubbery finish. It is designed for use fixing buoys at sea and North Sea oil rigs. I was getting along well with the supplies I had and needed to order some more, only to find that the new batch had a different chemical composition, which meant that although it looked and felt similar to the first batch, it reacted in an entirely different way when used as a painting material. And this was not at all successful.

So with the exhibition deadline rapidly looming I was forced to begin my experiments with the new resin all over again. This was the most difficult time during the project, as for a while I thought I couldn’t succeed in making the resin behave as I wished. I had promised to produce and exhibition of new resin work, and yet all of a sudden it looked like this was impossible. Thankfully after a couple of fraught months my perseverance paid off and I was able to begin making work again.

The works in this exhibition are a cross section of all the experimentation I undertook during the project. I wanted to show a wide range of the results I achieved with the various different products (e.g. Diaphaneity and Half Round made using a resin glue more commonly used to stick spoilers onto cars). This show, though, is the tip of the iceberg. For each artwork that you see here there are probably at least 2 or 3 experimental pieces which will never see the light of day. Many pieces failed dismally due to the fact that I was working without instructions or boundaries, but this was also why the project was so exciting for it allowed me to write my own rule book and also made successes even sweeter. I feel, however, that I have only just started to discover the potential of these exciting materials within my art. I will continue to explore and push the boundaries of what it is possible to create. It has been wonderfully rewarding and exciting for me to collaborate both with industry and with Llantarnam Grange throughout this project, and this is something that I hope to be able to continue with long term. I welcome future collaboration opportunities and the chance to exhibit my resin works further afield.