This cellulose paint medium can move between liquid and solid. Two examples of work by artist Raewyn Martyn made using this medium are shared here. Untitled (2017), and E. E. Adams (2020). Cellulose and cellulose-derived biopolymers have been used by humans for a long time, involving more or less extractive methods. Eucalyptus plantations grown for the industrial-scale production of cellulose have been associated with unsustainable practices and so the sustainability of cellulose can be a complex question and raises important issues around production.
Untitled (2017), was part of The Materiality of the Invisible at Marres House for Contemporary Culture, and is made using seawater from the Zeeland coast and calcite (chalk) from the Maastrichtian Group of rocks.
These works are biofacts and biofictions that arguably refuse to become artifacts. They are made using methyl-cellulose powder, coccolithophore skeletons (in the form of calcite pigment), and seawater from the Zeeland coast (that possibly includes some live coccolithophores at the time to collecting it, for the sake of biofiction we can say it does).
On the gallery floor there is a puddle, or self-contained flood, within the existing Corey McCorkle circle. The circle is used as a template for producing circles of drying/dried methylcellulose film. Once a month a new sheet is poured and peeled from the floor and adhered to the umbrella structure in the garden outside the gallery space.
As each circle is poured, and as it dries, the flows mix the calcite pigment, carried in variable ways around the circle. When dry, the areas that contain calcite are translucent to opaque, and grow crystals from the reaction between seawater and calcite. The resulting umbrella skin filters light in subtle ways.
Depending on humidity and weather conditions, the cellulose umbrella changes over time, if it rains heavily, it is possible that it disappears within hours of installation. As each new circle of film becomes available it will layer over the one before, possibility accumulating over time. But more likely, not. Unfortunately, the concept was not fully realised because repeating the process during the run of the exhibition was not successful, and it caused some damage to the gallery floor.
E. E Adams (2020), is one of the more recent examples, extending the methods and processes used for casting the cellulose medium. This includes etching the casting surface to the deposit plant and mineral pigments which are drawn up into the cellulose film as it dries. And use of liquid plant dyes (indigo and alkanet) painted directly onto the drying plate and between layers of the film. Varying amounts of calcite are added to the emulsion, triggering ph changes in the dyes as they come into contact with the emulsion. E. E Adams (2020), is part of a new series of works that embed personal family narratives into the cellulose skins.
The cellulose emulsion was originally developed in conversation with faculty at The University of Akron (UA) Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center (BRIC), in 2015 and through studio experiments with artist Dana Carter in 2016, who was then teaching at SAIC in Chicago. Dana Carter passed away in 2019 but examples of her work developing mediums and methods for painting with saltwater on textiles (2009-2015) can be found online and in the e-publication Not standing still (2018), published by Blue Oyster Art Project Space. And special thanks to the Jan van Eyck Academy for their support of this research 2016-2017 and to Whiti o Rehua School of Art at Massey University College of Creative Art for their ongoing support of Martyn's current PhD research.
Raewyn Martyn and Romy Finke (Interior photographs of Untitled (2017)