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Author of photographs Laurynas Skeisgiela

The Marvelous Journey

Acrylic on canvas
300 x 300 cm
2021, 2022

This site-specific painting was done for a solo show at the Energy and Technology Museum in Vilnius.

The narrative of the work can be divided into several parts, however, I will mention three of them. The first is the exhibition place: the first public electric power plant in Vilnius, where some furnaces were burning coal.

The second is the main color of this painting. Chemists produced the first synthetic colors while experimenting with coal-tar, an industrial by-product of the production of coke from soft coal. One of the first synthetic dyes was a purple derived from aniline, a coal-tar extract. In 1856, eighteen year old British chemist William Perkins unexpectedly discovered it in a failed attempt to synthesize the anti-malarial drug quinine from coal-tar hydrocarbons. The same year he applied for a patent, withdrew from the Royal College of Chemistry, and entered the dye industry. He first marketed the dye as "Tyrian purple" but it quickly adopted the name Mauve.

At the time, all the dyes used for coloring cloth were natural substances, many of which were expensive and labor-intensive to extract, and many lacked stability or fastness. The color purple, which had been a mark of aristocracy and prestige since ancient times, was especially expensive and difficult to produce. Because its extraction was variable and complicated, Perkin and his brother realized they had discovered a possible substitute, and mauve, which had previously been an expensive privilege of the wealthy, became affordable—and became a major fashion fad.

The third part is about the painting’s surface, which is smooth without any traces of voluminous brushwork. The aim of this surface is to convey the synthetic nature of acrylic paints, the invention of which also greatly influenced the perception of painting. Although the brushwork of the painting is expressive and the brushstrokes are "all flying countryward, like so many migrating birds of purple paradise" as fashion magazines wrote about people wearing Mauve back in the day, yet the strokes remain visually imprisoned, flattened on a smooth surface.

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