I prepare the pigments for my works by grinding a wide variety of raw materials, such as meteorites and seashells, as well as by extracting colours from plants and algae. I view the pigments as collaborators whose ‘experiences’ define the conceptual message of each work. For example, I have used stones which are millions of years old as pigments, to depict the lost landscapes of the Carboniferous Period (Stories Told by Stones, 2018), and burned fox bones to paint a herbarium that reflects on the circle of life (Eighty Modest Statements About the Impossibility of Death, 2013). I have gathered many of the materials myself at natural sites around the world, where the more unique materials are collected with the help of specialists.
In addition, I distil colours from flowers, preserve the dyes in various ways and bleach plants to make them appear entirely white. The technique is based on a notion that most organisms, both in the plant and the animal world, seem to lose their colours in death – flowers wither and bodies blanch. Thus, all the colours in nature signal the presence of life energy. The result in my three-dimensional paintings is a poetic separation of the vivid life energy (the preserved colours) from their empty, pale bodies (the bleached flowers). For example, the installation Study of Eternal Cycle (2014) shows a single bleached rose with three laboratory glasses that are painted with the colours distilled from the very same flower. A spotlight illuminates the glasses and the painted colours are reflected back to the bleached rose, which again appears vivid and red.
My practice draws on the traditions of painting, installation, and conceptual art. The works are marked by the influences of science, animism, and alchemy. Medieval alchemists studied natural materials, which they also used to make colours. Through the materials, they sought to understand the surrounding universe as well as the interconnectedness of everything in the cosmos and the individual’s role amongst all others; oneself. One of the most important steps in alchemy was repeated distillation, which left the purest essence of the substance – and the alchemist – in the glass flask.