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Hydrodynamic instabilties and modern artistic painting

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GFSW04 - Form in art, toys and games

Co-author: Sandra Zetina (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico)

Painting is a fluid mechanical process. The action of covering a solid surface with a layer of a viscous fluid is one of the most common human activities; virtually all manmade surfaces are covered with a layer of fluid, which eventually cures and solidifies, to provide protection against the environment or simply for decoration. The process of applying layer of fluid of uniform thickness on a surface has been vastly studied and it is well understood. In the case of artistic painting, the objective is different. Painters learn how to manipulate the fluid, through lengthy empirical testing of the action and the physical properties of the fluids, to create textures that can be used to create patterns and compositions of aesthetic value. In other words, artists aim to create non uniform paint coatings, produced at will and in a controlled manner. It has been recently identified that, for the case of modern artistic painting, one successful way to create such patterns is by provo king hydrodynamic instabilities in a controlled manner. In this presentation we analyze several particular cases used by notable modern artists in their works: David A. Siqueiros used the Rayleigh-Taylor instability for his ‘accidental painting’ technique; Jackson Pollock learned to control the curling instability of viscous filaments in his dripping technique; Max Ernst used the Saffman-Taylor instability to paint with decalcomanias, etc. Furthermore, we analyze other modern painting techniques and their relation with modern and very active fluid mechanics areas of research. We also discuss the importance of the properties of modern materials and how their evolution could have influenced the emergence of new artistic painting techniques. The aim of this investigation is to create an explicit relation between the body of knowledge of modern fluid mechanics and those of art history and conservation.

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