Mark Golden on Paint

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Is High Gloss Back?

4 October, 2006 (01:01) | General

I’ve seen over the past few years, a trend back towards an incredible almost mirror like gloss that artists have been incorporating into their work. For many years we have been directed by artists to create products that tended to move in the other direction, towards a dead matte finish. With artists trying to achieve a feeling of earthy, raw material. This extreme matte surface has been a fixture of contemporary painting, whether from traditions borne out of colorfield staining of canvas or the minimal color of Yves Klein. This sense of a direct contact of the material has been quite important. I’ve also seen this in the rediscovery of traditional non-western paintings methods using mineral pigments in tempera.

It seemed as if gloss was nowhere to be found other than in artists working directly with the acrylic media or some artists working in hyper-varnished surfaces. There appeared to be a sense that gloss created too reflective a resulting finish. Too difficult to photograph with that blast of light. Yet, just when you think you understand an aesthetic direction artists turn the world upside down. Over the last few years there is definitely a new appreciation for the color saturation and brilliance of a gloss surface. This new trend seems to build upon some of the early works of artists like Ron Davis in the 1960’s, painting in polyester and fiberglass surfboard finishes, working with some of the new synthetic coatings in very direct ways. We’ve seen an increase in gloss surfaces from many of the artists experimenting with all of the new acrylic gel and gloss mediums. Developing an entire new genre of work that looks to be a dimensional watercolor. Not only do we see through layers of color like a watercolor but the extremely translucent gels allow a significant build up of surface in which the color literally floats above the surface in this water-media.

But recently… I seems within the last half dozen years, that some artists have been looking for a hyper-gloss. Not just clarity to be able to see through layers but also a high polished lacquer-like gloss. This is a new challenge for a paint maker. Creating a finish that can be laid down by the artist that is flawless and gives incredible punch to the colors underneath. The most difficult part of this level of performance isn’t creating a gloss or quality of leveling of the product, but creating the perfect clarity. We have over this time created several gloss pouring mediums, running from a fairly thick product, down to a heavy cream consistency. How thick can we go and still retain this clarity. This is the part that gives me incredible pause. It is the part that I can’t predict. Over 100 years… 500 years… will these surfaces still have that incredible clarity.

I do think it is important to share some suggestions for artists working in this new manner. Here are the caveats: Work as thin as you possibly can. The thicker your layer the more likely you will see a loss of clarity. Avoid overworking these clear areas. The more you work this material the more inclusions of air and dried film you are likely to create. This will dramatically reduce the resulting clarity and gloss.

Now that I’ve given the caveats, I know that you will ignore them… and as painters you probably should. Just as you explore new surfaces and ways to get them… we will be by your side trying just trying to keep up!

Post blog addendum…
As I shared these thoughts with our Technical Support team, Sarah Sands sent me a note sharing her own thoughts on the subject. As is often the case, I am so fortunate to be able to lead an organization that includes within its walls so many of my own mentors… so here’s Sarah’s much more insightful inclusions.

“The tension and tug-a-war between high gloss and matte is actually something I think relates to a long and deep dialectic in art history – with roots in the tensions between the classical and baroque; the coolness of the mechanical/industrial vs. the warmth of the hand, the broken mark, the fractured surface. Think of the Impressionists’ varieted surface versus the high polish of the Salon; in sculpture, David Smith vs. Donald Judd. Also something about the solidity of stone, where color and surface are seemingly one, vs. the high reflectivity of water where light dances off the surface and makes you aware of that barrier and membrane. Of course these are rarified, pure poles – most of the exciting stuff comes in-between, where the tensions between the two are held in high pitch. Like a soft grape held between hard teeth.




Comment from Chinedu Okala
Time: October 4, 2006, 2:56 pm

You know this high gloss issue was making the rounds powerfully among serious artists during CAA conferences. it appears the need for the shiny exterior lends credibly to the implied solidity of the artists process as both a mirror and an invitation to treat on various subjects. As an artist who appreciates high intensity in color, and with some of my weird requests you will note, I have found that there is an unspoken, even unspeakable wholesomeness that the artist experiences as these tough looking hues dry.

With respect to working it, I have found that one can still achieve thick high gloss by being patient. Yes- and I mean patient. This is accomplished by methodically laying the color down, forcing some dry heat on it and then allowing a significant cooling off tome, then repeating the steps. Anyway, Ride on, you will always make great paint. Quick note, htose gels and medium types available from Golden can be marvellous, but in its many combinations and experimental applications, it is not for the faint hearted, just the “PAINThearted”.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: October 5, 2006, 11:59 pm

Chinedu Greetings, So glad to hear from you! And thanks for continuing to push these materials. It has always been a delight to see what you manage to do with this stuff! Barb sends her greetings as well. Warmest regards, Mark

Comment from Anonymous
Time: October 8, 2006, 1:17 am

man, i have to start buying the high gloss mediums….

Comment from madrigle
Time: October 8, 2006, 11:57 am

Brian, have you tried using GAC 200 as an additive to your mediums? needs to be used on rigid supports but also imparts a VERY tough, glassy like propertie to your work.

Comment from Brian Firth
Time: October 13, 2006, 7:33 pm

Mark, I appreciate your feedback on this. The Golden techincal team has been very helpfull and informative, like always. I am glad to see that Golden truly is a dynamic comany that is always striving to make its products the best they can be. Thanks!

Comment from Barbara Taylor
Time: November 14, 2006, 1:22 pm

So nice to hear others are using the high gloss in their art. I painted a raging river in gloss and peaked the waves with gel and left the background matte and everyone raves about it and I often get asked how I put the shine in the water. Golden, of course! I will be interested in a product I can use that hardens since the gel dried pliable and hardened more like glass would be better. Thanks for your wonderful products. Next on my list is iridescents.

Comment from Julie sadler
Time: November 15, 2006, 10:00 am

I work in collage and after reading about this intriguing trend of gloss, I have been using more glossy labels in my work! I also broke out the jar of golden semi gloss to see what would happen when mixed with the liquid golden colors…Thank you for this interesting blog. Who can say what little piece of information will change our work?

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