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Vinegar Strokes

Art-machine Iteration: Country Fair with Prize Tent 1997-1998

In this work from 1997 I had been tasked by my Artmachine (a semi automatic idea generator I’d invented at art college) to create a 24 foot long painting of a traditional English agricultural show. According to the instructions It had to be painted in oils 12 inches thick. I spent a month experimenting with different thickening mediums in order to achieve this but to no avail; the paint simply wouldn’t dry quickly enough or else it collapsed under its own weight and dropped off the canvas long before reaching anything close to 12 inches thick. I was getting ready to give up when I remembered some paintings by James Hyde I’d seen when I visited him in New York. He’d created a series of three dimensional abstracts in glass cases by mixing oil paint with silicone rubber. He’d managed to create thick contorted paintings bordering on sculpture whist still maintaining the vibrancy of the paint when wet. I thought I might be able to utilise the technique. Over the next two months, after building a wooden armature to hold the weight of the thick paint and temporarily turning my studio into what smelt like a vinegar factory (If you have ever used bathroom sealant you will know it gives off an eye-watering stink of vinegar as it is drying,) I had completed the task. It had required over 2000 tubes of bathroom sealant and several sets of overalls to finish it. I eventually showed the piece in a solo exhibition at Delfina Studios in 1999.

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