“As an artist, you’re always throwing away small amounts of paint, but when you add it up, you realise how substantial it is. The idea came to me after I’d completed a large installation. I had so much paint left at the end of it, that I realised the extent of the leftover paint – the weight and heaviness of it. So I decided to work with it.” Carolyn Parton – local artist.
Becoming aware of the traces that the process of painting leaves and its impact on the environment, Carolyn set out to do some research on the production of paint materials, the implications of the global art market and the waste materials and by products of paint to evaluate its ecological sustainability.
Some of the ingredients in the pigment used in paint are poisonous and produce toxic waste during their manufacture. As environmental awareness increases many paint suppliers are improving their environmental credentials. However labelling can often be misleading.
A paint may be certified “non-toxic” but this only applies to its potential health risks and not to the potential waste-disposal hazard it may cause to the environment.
The term “natural” is equally misleading. Turpentine is made from the sap of pine trees and is technically ‘natural’ but it is also hazardous.
Another misnomer is the use of “water-based”. Water based paints still contain solvents and therefore have environmental implications. Global paint production in 2011 was estimated to be 35.5 million metric tonnes. Many of these paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – these are emitted as a vapour while drying – a major contributing factor to global warming.
But replacing VOCs with water doesn’t make them environmentally friendly because water-based paints often still contain toxic substances.
To ensure that her work has a minimal impact on the environment Carolyn’s work involves the collection and reclamation of spent paint from painters – ranging from international artists to local contract painters. She removes the leftover paint from tins or cans and uses this paint to create her masterpieces such as Threshold and Transcodes featured in this Blog post. She even uses the hardened bits of nail varnish.
She leaves us with these words: “No matter how depressing the environmental debate can become, creative thinking and action and shift it into positive territory and has the potential to precipitate and evolutionary leap that can benefit all.”
Do you know of any environmentally aware artists who are incorporating sustainability into their work? We would love to feature them on our Blog.
If you live in the Cape Town area and have some leftover paint that you would like to donate to Carolyn, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also drop it off at the following outlets: Midas Earthcote in Fish Hoek or Paint&Place in Blaauwberg.