Arve Håland - Rust Never Sleeps

Rust Never Sleeps

Making Paintings with Sulphate Ferrique and Other Unusual Materials


Experimenting with Materials

For many years I have been fascinated by the aesthetic effects you can achieve by mixing sulphate ferrique with materials like cement, plaster, marble dust and other unusual and more or less porous materials and put it onto medium-density fibreboard (or just paper) to form a kind of painting. And as indicated in the title of this project, the most fascinating part is that the mixture has its own life. It does not just stiffen on the plate in a certain configuration, at least not right away, but undergoes various visual changes through the first days or weeks.
Slowly I have gathered a certain control over these configurations and changes. I have been experimenting with fibreboard and various types of paper (like drawing paper and paper for watercolours), and I have tried to mix the sulphate directly into cement or plaster, but also tried to dissolve it in water and polyvinyl ace- tate glue and apply it to the surface of the cement. In this way I have seen that the sul- phate mixed into the cement may give a thick, relatively rich and stable colour, even with varied texture (more or less thick mixtures). But now and then the colour is reduced and disappears after some weeks, and a white salt appears. And I have for instance noticed that if I put the sulphate on the bottom of the picture and cover it with marble dust, it is able to "bleed" right through several layers of the dust.

In general the rather unique rubiginous colour that I can call forth with the sulphate ferrique (and that only with great difficulty can be achieved with e.g. a colour pigment of iron oxide) is the main point of my project because of the many layers of meaning with which it endows the pictures, aesthetically, metaphorically, symbolically.

An Exhibition and a Seminar
Obviously, I feel I have a quite good grasp of the aesthetic aspects of these works - yet it would be very interesting, and hopefully not only for me, to hear comments from other people like critics, art historians and fellow artists. What I do not at all master, however, is the question of what actually goes on in those living pictures in a chemical sense. Therefore it would also be interesting to listen to comments from a chemist.
And since I now have gathered a stock both of works that I would consider as finished, and of examples of my experiments, it feels natural to show the results for a broader public and to arrange an informal, one day-seminar in connection with the exhibition.

The exhibition will be a mixture of a "traditional" art show of finished works and a presentation of methods, sketches, explanations etc. Even though I have this stock of finished works etc. I will have to make some works specially for the exhibition and have photographs and a video taken of the process for documentation.
The seminar will be a mixture of presentations and discussions, open for colleagues, students and the general public. Since we cannot expect huge crowds for the event, but only a small, interested group, the plan is to have the seminar in Rom 8, surrounded by the works and the documentation.

Background and Broader Interest
One can perhaps characterize my work by comparing with other kinds of paintings and works of art that may come to mind. One, maybe farfetched, example would be Neolithic cave paintings, paintings on porous, often chalky walls. The great difference here is that the Cro-Magnon people would use various kinds of pigment to depict animals etc. Behind the cave painting, however, must be an original observation that (what we understand as) spontane- ous chemical processes in moist walls of a cave create coloured configurations that in the flickering light of torches may suggest animals, not quite unlike the shapes that appear in my works.

Another example would be fresco painting. The similarity here is the use of wet, fresh, lime mortar or plaster that is applied to a wall by the fresco painter, and that you only see the final colours when the plaster has dried and reacted with the air. The difference, once again, is the use of pigment in the plaster, instead of relying on the colour that is created by itself through the chemical reaction.

The important point of my paintings is that I use effects that we would normally try to avoid (first of all rust, but also other kinds of discolouration) for a meaningful, aesthetic purpose, and the closest parallel to that is of course the use of rust in certain kinds of sculpture and architecture.

I do not know any other painters who work with exactly the same technique as the one with which I have been experimenting, but my artistic inspiration comes from artists who work with materiality and the consonance between the intuitive and the controlled, e.g. Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Antoni Tàpies, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter. And I am convinced that other painters will be able to draw in- spiration from my work.

Published: 6/28/2013 by Cecilia Gelin Updated: 8/17/2015 by Gard Andreas Frantzsen