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An Ambiguous Medium: On Lee Ufan

Traditional painting materials—East & West

I was startled to read Barry Schwabsky saying that Lee Ufan used the techniques/materials the West has seemingly forgotten in painting, and he talked about painting using animal skin glues on silk.

I’ve been using “hasen lime”, rabbit skin glue to size, protect and as a vehicle for color on Dupioni silk for twenty-five years. (And I use it exclusively on other fabrics—linen, cotton duck, mixed fabrics, etc.) I train all my students in its use. Particularly how it works as a siccative, tapping the color of the fabric out into the mixture of colors or oxidizing catalyzers: copper, iron ore, titanium, molybdenite…

Perhaps it is true in general about the West, but there have always been traditional alchemists among painters in the West, hiding in plain sight. Hiding because these procedural traditions are not well received. (We get together in our covens and speak about our secrets in hushed tones.)

I’ve tried other processes, but rarely am I happy with the results.

And one can glaze on this surface with any “new” paint technique: spray, for instance. Just because one mixes in heterogeneous fashion that doesn’t exclude an artist from the tradition. Titian did much the same sort of mixing.

I am sure Schwabsky knows all of this, but it is incumbent upon us painters to make these things explicitly known.

Leonard Bullock

Basel, SWITZERLAND

Oct 4 2011 - 12:26pm

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