Darkness & Light, “Absolute: Radiance”
by Daric Gill
After a delightfully busy week of studio work and paneling an art festival, I’m continuing the process of re-documenting my collection.
It’s not the biggest or the smallest piece in this series. It doesn’t hold the most humor or even seem as conspicuous as some other pieces in this series. But this piece holds a lot of information for portraying so little. It’s the sometimes less is more analogy. There’s also a lot of hidden secrets in this piece. Painted on quilted black walnut, even its fairly small dimensions are a sneaky deception. Absolute: Radiance weighs as much as a piece 3 times its size due to its thick cross section. The security code usually stamped on the back is hidden on the side wall of the wood. Even the materials it is made of has a literal and figurative duality.
This painting depicts a bent nail resting on a vein of halo’d metallic gold paint. This effervescent vein follows the grain pattern of the wood and changes sheen based on where the viewer stands. As you have read, there’s some interesting aspects of this piece’s process that makes for some cool behind the scenes information.
The real nail used as subject matter is still IN the piece… after it was liquified and used to dye the frame.
[Image Gallery & More Below]
The Secret In the Frame
Yep, the real nail I studied as subject matter was partially turned into a chemical and then used to dye the frame. This solution contained white vinegar, a plant-based astringent called tannin (in this case wood + brewed tea), and iron acetate (in this case the nail) to create a natural dye that darkens the wood. This process is called chemical ebonizing. It is so named after taking on the look of ebony wood. An example of ebony: the original wood that was used to make the black keys on a piano (ebony and ivory = ebony wood and ivory tusks).
Depending on the types of wood this solution is being applied to, the result can be anything from grey, brown, and black. In many cases, the darker the wood the more tannin the wood naturally contains. For an additional darkening you can add a really strong brewed tea which has an extra boost of tannin. The advantage of this type of chemical reaction is that it costs virtually nothing, contains home accessible ingredients, and as it’s a chemical reaction dye rather than a stain. What’s the difference? Well in many instances, store bought stains are absorbed into the soft grains of the wood more effectively while the denser hard grain can sometimes repel the stain. Since the wood contains tannin throughout, the chemical reaction reacts to the whole surface and gives a more thorough look. After the dye was applied, I sanded down several layers of the wood to give a worn but stable look that matched the color changes in the actual painting.
And as a final thought: even tannin has 2 meanings…