Plastics and Art Caroline Bunnell Kar-Chan Choong Crystal Hou
Introduction Art – no single definition, use of skills and imagination in creation of aesthetic objects, environment, or experiences that can be shared with others. Plastics – synthetic polymers, dictionary defines it as “capable of being molded or of receiving form.
Why plastics are used? Capable beyond the capacity other materials. Give any complex shape. Durable, inexpensive, light in weight,pleasant to handle, not scratch. Color Easy to combine with other materials.
Plastics as Art Medium Decorative Art Architecture Sculpture Art Restoration Modern Paint
Decorative Art Earliest plastics used: Vulcanite, Parkesine and shellac. 1860s, celluloid created to replace ivory.
1920s, Bakelite & Beetle were used to substitute wood in radio cabinets. Bakelite- colorful and glossy effect. Beetle used for kitchen and tableware – chemical stability and lighter color.
Melamine, Nylon and Polythene are used in tableware and laminates. Polyurethane, ABS, acrylic & PVC are used by designers to create product, clothes & jewelers with foam shape & glossy ‘wet look’.
Nylon Both Nylon-6,6 and Nylon-6 can be extruded into strong fibers, and can be made into textiles similar to silk and cotton, although the most common and sought after use of nylon in the first 30 years after its discovery was as women hosiery and stockings. The reason why nylon makes good fibers because of the hydrogen omitted. There is a hydrogen bond attraction between the N-bonded hydrogen atoms on one chain and the C-bonded oxygen atoms on another.
Architecture Not widely used before,misconception of plastics, suspicious of longevity. Extensively used now to replace traditional building materials such as protective coating, insulator, damp proof membrane. 1940s, traditional materials cost increased, plastics were manly used in fencing, wall & ceiling claddings & joinery molding.
In expensive architectural, transparent acrylic or scratch- resistant polycarbonate sheeting are used – can be heat-formed to curve and shape, high resistance to breakage.
Centre Georges Pompidou (1977), Paris The external escalator tube are formed from clear plastic panels shaped into curves.
IBM Pavilion Designed by Renzo Piano’s Building Workshop in which the strength of formed polycarbonate is cleverly exploited.
Olympic Game Tent In 1972, Munich. Tension structure designed by Frei Otto. Synthetic fabrics made from nylons, polyester or glass fiber coated with PVC or neoprene.
Fuji Pavilion Expo 70 in Osaka. The latter comprise either single later, air- supported membranes that require a constant input of air to maintain internal pressure, or tubular, ribbed air- inflated structure.
US Pavilion Acylic Panel were used within the geodesic dome structure designed by R. Buckminster Fuller for the US pavilion at Expo 67, Montreal.
Disadvantages Flammability and degradation of plastic. Unavoidable environmental concern as energy used and pollution in manufacturing process.
Advantages of Using Plastics in Sculpture Versatility Light weight Low cost Uses the same tools as in metals, wood
Polyester Resin Thermoset: hardens when a catalyst is added or heat is applied Manufactured by network formation crosslinking with the use of polyols This plastic can degrade by hydrolysis
Polyester Resin Cont. Made by the Artist before use - Fillers: Color (pigments), texture (sand, gravel) $39.99 for 1 gal to $129.99 for 5 gal One example of use is in bonded bronze - Grounded bronze added to polyester mix to give the appearance of cast bronze
”The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin In bonded bronze
Epoxy Created in a two step process - step growth polymerization - the molecular weight is then increased in a curing step, reacted with an anhydride
Epoxy Cont. Thermoset: hardens when a catalyst is added or heat is applied High chemical and corrosion resistance Brittle and high moisture absorption $23.99 for 1 qt. to $59.99 for 1 gal. This is another plastic created by the artist
Epoxy Cont. Used to create form through molding - a mold is created by clay; epoxy is then applied to mold and then allowed to dry
”Red Sculpture” By Gerard Bowles Materials are epoxy and polyester resins
Acrylic Poly(methyl-methacrylate) Also known as Plexiglas ® A Trademark of Rohm & Haas Co Free-radical Polymerization Thermoplastic, amorphous Resistant to acid and environmental deterioration
Acrylic Cont. Susceptible to thermal degradation by depolymerization - chain scission breaks backbone bonds, creates free radicals Rigid, transparent, and shatter resistant Easy to scratch
Styrofoam Polystyrene Created by free radical polymerization Thermoplastic Vulnerable to photooxidative degradation - ultraviolet radiation is absorbed and cleavage occurs along main chain and phenyl ring, creates carbonyl-group formation
Styrofoam Cont. Creates a brittle and a yellowing of the plastic 2 Cubic Feet $15.00 to 40 Cubic Feet $175.00 Used in lost form casting - a foam sculpture is set into a sand mold the sand is packed tightly, then a molten metal is added to the mold
“An Unexpected Surprise” By LeRoy Wynne Lost foam casting in Bronze
Art Restoration Varnish - a solution that is made from synthetic or natural resins dissolved in organic solvents, after drying it creates a protective film on the surface. Natural varnishes tend to yellow and darken with time, while synthetics tend not to yellow as quickly
Art Restoration Cont. They have differing properties in gloss, durability, flexibility and protection Acrylic varnishes and paints dry quickly and acrylic paint cracks less then oil based paint The use of acrylic varnishes and paints can create problems however
Art Restoration Cont. Acrylic varnishes and paints have a glass transition temperature at or below room temperature They will always be in a soft state - easy to damage - they collect dirt and dust giving the work a “dirty appearance”
Art Restoration Cont. Should acrylic varnishes be applied to acrylic paints? Many artists have insisted their works remain unvarnished If the varnish ever has to be removed in the future the solvent used to remove the varnish would harm the painting
Pigment can be considered, as an objective of a painting and medium is a means to an end. In order to serve the pigment well and to preserve the life of a painting, all media have to meet certain requirements. These requirements are follow: The medium must have enough transparency in itself and not to change the color of the pigment.
The medium should not discolor with age. The medium should protect the pigment by forming a file while the paint go dries. The film should allow for expansion and contracting of the paint caused by temperature and humidity changes so that the paint will not crack. The medium should be a strong binder and it should maintain the adhesion for unlimited time.
Natural and Synthetic Binders (Resins) Natural Resins * Oil and watercolor. * Used it as interior and exterior house paints by most artists. Synthetic Resins * Acrylic and Vinyl. *Have a number of advantages over natural Resins. (i.e. quick drying time, reduced yellowing with time.)
Synthetic resin become available and have been widely used through out the twentieth century paints. They are… Nitro-cellulose (Pyroxylin) Alkyd Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) Acrylic
Properties of Nitro-cellulose Quick drying time Resoluble and create a thin layer in every application at all time Tendency to become brittle therefore, not recommendable as an outstanding medium for painting Has serious disadvantage for painting because it decomposes with time
David Alfaro Siqueiros * Claimed to be the first artist who used it as a painting material. * Used it as in unconventional way such as; staining, dripping, and pouring fluid paint onto a support. Jackson Pollock * Dripping paint on the horizontally place canvas. * His way of painting was different from usual techniques of painting. Who used Nitro-cellulose and how they used it?
Alkyd Is a polyester; formed by reaction of polybasic organic, acids and polyhydric alcohols that become an ester linkage. In 1927, the first oil modified alkyd was introduced into the paint market. In 1940s, alkyd resin was introduced to the industry and household paint formulation.
The replacement of nitro-cellulose by alkyd house paint was not succeeded; because of longer drying time and only give limited success in the artists’ paint market.
Who used Alkyd and how they used it? Pablo Picasso was the most famous artist who worked with alkyd in his painting, house painting, and boat painting. Many artists used house paint rather than artist’s paint because artist’s paint was expensive and often unavailable in market. Other artists such as Willem de Kooning, Australian artist Sidney Nolan, Peter Blake, and Frank Stella used Alkyd in their career.
Alkyd Gillian Ayres, Distillation 1959, oil and alkyd house paint on hardboard (1959).
Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) In 1930s, PVA first appear in paint market. There are two kinds; solution and emulsion form of PVA. The solution form PVA gets dry easily by evaporation of solvent and much faster than alkyd oil paint. The emulsion forms of PVA are not dissolved in water but dispersed in water.
The major advantage of the emulsion are shorter drying time and water is the main component in emulsions so that it can reduce the amount of organic solvent and strong odor. A number of artists were used PVA emulsion in their paintings such as Alfred Duca, Bridget Riley and Kenneth Noland. However, it did not give much success to those artists because of a very limited color range and the introduction of the quality acrylic emulsion to the artists.
PVA Sidney Nolan, Woman and Billabong, 1957, PVA emulsion on hardboard.
Acrylic Acrylic becomes widely used in 1930s. Acrylic is the newest painting medium and has the advantages flexibility & brighter colors. Acrylic applications are waterproof when dry. The first acrylic paint was known as Magna and is the best known of the acrylic solution range of paint.
The first artist acrylic emulsion paint was known as Liquitex. Liquitex did not success in the market because it was thin and runny. Acrylic emulsion paints are not much different to the PVA emulsion such as “they can be thinned with water when wet, but cannot be re-dissolved in water once dried.”. The significant feature of acrylic was the ability of reducing wrinkles while the painting was drying.
Acrylic and PVA Kenneth Noland, Gift 1961-2, acrylic solution and PVA emulsion on canvas.
Acrylic Helen Frankenthaler, The Bay 1963, acrylic on canvas. The Detroit Institute of Arts.
Conclusion Polymers can be used in many different applications in art from architecture to paints. Its versatility and properties offer durable and low cost. They can offer the artist or designer different avenues for creating and design. With the rapidly expansion of study in polymers, plastic is potentially used as an alternative material for art with its own unique freedom of expression.
References: 1. Beck, James: Art Restoration: the Culture, the Business and the Scandal, W.W. Norton, New York, 1996. 2. Faulkner, Ziegfeld: Art Today, an Introduction to the Fine and Functional Arts, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1956. 3. Fried, Joel: Polymer Science and Technology, Prentice Hall, New York, 1995. 4. Newman, Thelma R.: Plastics as an Art Form, Chilton Book Company, Philadelphia, 1969.
5. Padovano, Anthony: The Process of Sculpture, Doubleday and Company, Inc., New York, 1981. 6. Smithsonian Center for Material Research and Education. Ed. A.B. N’Gadi. 2001. 24, March 2001. http://www.si.edu/scmre/ 7. Williams, Arthur: Sculpture Technique Form Content, Davis Publications, Inc., Massachusetts, 1995. 8. Crook, Jo, Tom Learner, “the impact of MODERN PAINTS”, Watson-Guptill Publication, N.Y, 2000. 9. Woody, Jr. R. O., “Painting with Synthetic Media”, Reinhold Publishing Corporation, N.Y., 1965.