chemigram / chimigramme

Work
1 of 2
Medium
Saliva, nail polish, hand sanitiser, cologne, and deodorant; on black and white RC photographic paper
Size
8″ × 10″
Date
March 2022
Work
2 of 2
Medium
Solution of oil and water; on partially-fixed black and white RC photographic paper
Size
8″ × 10″
Date
March 2022

Chemigrams are intrinsically tethered to the agency of chance, as each resist delays and mutates the effects of developer and fixer. Taking a more painterly approach to darkroom practice, this diptych leverages lumen exposures and chemical reactions to form vivid colour from ordinary resin-coated B/W paper.

Photosensitive paper, when exposed to enough light, will eventually begin to darken without chemical intervention. I found that slower exposures produced a pinker tone than direct sunlight, which typically sent the paper straight to gray. Coupled with the use of slightly older paper, this lumen exposure was used to pre-tone the page before resists were applied.

Experimentation with nail polish was directly inspired by Cordier, and the drying time influenced the relative levels of light exposure. The first panel was produced away from the darkroom, left to dry, and then transported. Dipped into stop, fixer, developer, and fixer: the alcoholic substances turned a vivid blue, where aerosolised metals left fine texture. Much of the brilliance of the blue came out in the final wash, but left is this impactful and dynamic trace of the movement left by the dispenser.

The second panel is simply from submersion in a direct solution of water and oil. The ratio thereof—and the duration of fixation—was subject to a lot of trial and error. I can't say exactly how I achieved the golden hues in parts of the final image, but love the rich warmth.

Liam Macann is a Sydney-based emerging artist, whose practice spans a profusion of new media art disciplines. Works touch on themes such as sex and the body, social history, and contemporary politics.