Friday, August 15, 2014

Deborah Kapoor uses ancient technique to create very modern art

Artist Deborah Kapoor at CQA meeting
Seattle-area artist Deborah Kapoor calls her work mostly experimental as she continually pushes to new boundaries. That she does this using one of the most ancient of art media--encaustic--intrigued the members of Contemporary QuiltArt Association as she spoke at the group's August 9 meeting.
The materials of encaustic: beeswax, pigment, resin (R&F Paints)

Encaustic work uses a mix of beeswax, pigment and resin that functions as paint and that can be used in much the same way as oil paints, but with the added ability to encase three-dimensional objects within the wax. Some of the earliest uses of encaustic date back to 500 B.C., and the medium was used in mummy paintings by the Egyptians around 100 A.D.

"Hot boxes" or palettes (R&F Paints)
The wax, pigment and resin are mixed and melted on top of a "hot box" or palette, and applied with brushes or spoon- and knife-like metal tools. Modern encaustic materials have an advantage over oil paints in that there's no need for solvent--they can be cleaned up with soy wax, then soap and water.

"BloodMilk"--encaustic with plaster bandage, wire, thread, book pages, onion skins, lace, Saral transfer, string, dryer sheets.
Encaustic pieces are archival--as long as they are not subjected to uncontrolled intense heat--and can be reworked at a later time by applying heat to any given area. They can crack if dropped--but the artist can then simply reheat the affected area and fix it!
"Retention of Life Force"--Encaustic,wire, paper, yarn.
"Non-Violence"--Encaustic, lace, paper
"Swinging Between External and Internal"--Encaustic, ink, fabric, ribbon

Kapoor was into painting and drawing in graduate school, then found herself cutting things up and adding stitching to her paintings. Soon she was integrating cold wax into her paintings to create layers, so it became an easy move to encaustic.
"Vehicle of the Gods"--Encaustic, dryer lint, thread, batting
Closeup of "Vehicle of the Gods"
"Inexorable Passage of Time"--Encaustic, old greeting cards

Many of her works spring out of three main themes--nature, the body, the self--each of which offers numerous paths for her to follow. Her husband is from India; that, combined with travel to India and study of Indian philosophy, has resulted in a good deal of her work exhibiting themes from Indian culture and traditions.
"Small Acts of Kindness"--Includes rubber bands in encaustic
"Village Gods"--Encaustic, paper, ink, thread
"Sense Base"--Encaustic, Satsuma peels
Back side of "Sense Base"

Kapoor takes full advantage of encaustic's ability to "hold" three-dimensional objects within the wax, and she collects and uses materials as disparate as bags of fibers, rubber bands, eye makeup-remover pads, dryer sheets, dryer lint, greeting cards, batting, "plaster bandages," plastic wrap, Satsuma peels and madrona bark in her work. She often includes prints and/or printed materials, and some pieces include hand-written mantras.
"Inner Soul"--Encaustic, thread, paper (with written mantras)
"Divine Mother"--Encaustic, felt, ink, paper, cord. Part of "Remembering" installation honoring Kapoor's late mother-in-law.

Installation of "Remembering"
"Cosmic Consciousness"--part of "Remembering" installation. Encaustic, paper, found objects, brads, cord.

"Remembering: Bones"--Encaustic, cord from pajamas

Kapoor began teaching encaustic classes at Bellevue College last year, and this winter will be teaching classes in Color Theory and Encaustic and Color. Her work can be seen at Art Exchange Gallery in Seattle, and on her website:
Students gather around Kapoor in encaustic class at Bellevue College.

For more information on encaustic history, materials and techniques, go to R&F Paints,