Phobic Encounters, 2021–2023Acrylfarbhaut auf Holz bzw. Leinwand aufgezogen / acrylic paint mounted on wood or canvas
30 x 20 cm, 60 x 40 cm, 100 x 70 cm, 190 x 140 cm

Die Serie “Phobic Encounters” basiert auf Experimenten, die Julia Gruner während ihres Aufenthalts bei der Elephant Lab Residency in London 2019 in Zusammenarbeit mit den dort ansässigen Chemiker:innen der Farbenfirma Winsor & Newton zu den chemischen Reaktionen zwischen wasserbasierten Farben im Zusammenspiel mit unterschiedlichen Ölen unternommen hat. Während des Trocknungsprozesses stoßen sich die Farben und Öle ab und es entstehen, je nach Zusammensetzung der Inhaltsstoffe, spezifische Rissmuster. 

The series "Phobic Encounters" is based on experiments that Julia Gruner undertook during her stay at the Elephant Lab Residency in London in 2019 in collaboration with the resident chemists of the paint company Winsor & Newton on the chemical reactions between water-based paints in interaction with different oils. During the drying process, the paints and oils repel each other and, depending on the composition of the ingredients, specific crack patterns are created.

Excerpt from an interview with Louise Benson from Elephant Magazine on the occasion of Elephant Lab Residency in London in 2019:

If you think you know painting, Julia Gruner might just push you to think again. Forget brush, easel and canvas; this young German artist gets her hands dirty with the viscous ooze of paint itself. Building up layer upon colourful layer of paint, she works until the surface can be peeled away as an intact, supple skin of sorts. If Gerhard Richter took his squeegee to a plastic bag, this is what it might look like. In the work of Julia Gruner, abstraction meets psychedelia in freewheeling colour combinations and coagulating patterns. Mixing anything from oil paint to cooking vinegar and salt together, this is part chemistry experiment, part artist studio—with a healthy dose of cooking show thrown in for good measure. […] Now, she has come to London to take part in the latest residency at Elephant Lab, where she is free to experiment with as many paint products as an artist could dream of, with full technical support from the laboratory team.

What have you been up to during your residency at Elephant Lab?
I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of paint that repel each other, like Winsor & Newton oil and Liquitex acrylic. One is oil-based and the other is water-based, so if you mix them they create interesting patterns. I tried a lot of different combinations of materials, and tried to create images from them.

How do you choose the colour combinations?
I try to get as much contrast as possible, so you can really see what happened. I want to give an indication of the chemical reactions. The colours themselves are selected quite intuitively, and also just based on what I could find in the studio. I choose maybe seven different colours and then combine them.

There is an element of chance and randomness in the process of mixing these chemical reactions. How does that influence the final product, and what part do you play in it?
My part in this is choosing the colour, but everything else that happens is left up to chance. Of course, I can make tests to see what ingredients are doing what, but I cannot really influence the image in the end. I like this, actually.

Is there a loss of control?
Yes, right. I can see the first layer and see what happened, and then I choose the next layer according to what happened there. I react to each stage of the process.

There so many layers coming through. How many have you been working with here, and how do you decide when you are finished with a piece?
It’s finished when the whole sheet is covered. Each ingredient needs a different number of layers, because some oils are really repellent so you need many more layers to close it up. Others are already dry after three layers, so then you only have three colours. You need a certain number of layers to peel it all off in the end.
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