Liz Sanders


By Ron Saunders


16”X24”, acrylic and spray paint on canvas

The following paintings are the result of recent experiments using liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze water and oil-based paints, thereby using phase transition as a method of slowing down paint dispersion in a closed setting of simple rules.  The majority of the two paintings and the accompanying details were completed during the February 2014 Astronomers Without Borders live google hangout.


I’ve used two methods that utilize liquid nitrogen in these pieces.  One is by dripping small drops of paint into a container of liquid nitrogen, thereby allowing the paint to freeze into tiny balls, which could then be placed onto a flat canvas or panel.  The other method is to drizzle thin lines of paint into the container.  Upon contact, the paint instantly freezes into webs that can be transported onto the painted surface before they melt.  This drizzling technique had two surprises that I didn’t anticipate.  First, the webs did not form exactly how they were dripped, they were much more geometric, and therefore the process seemed to take on a life of its own, achieving a latent result.  The second and more dramatic surprise happens in the thawing process.  The liquid nitrogen seemed to pull out some of the moisture from the webs, therefore allowing them to maintain their three-dimensional form even after drying.  


16”X16”, acrylic and spray paint on masonite

There are dangers with this technique, of course. In order to turn nitrogen into a liquid, it must be cooled to about -346°F, which means it can cause frostbite if it comes into contact with your skin for too long.  More dangerous, however, is the fact that it can cause asphyxiation if you are handling too much of it, or are handling it within enclosed spaces.  Only a relatively small amount of liquid nitrogen has to evaporate within a room to result in an oxygen deficient environment.  Because nitrogen is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, there is no warning that the environment has become oxygen deficient.
But as with most things in life, some risk must be taken in order to move forward. For me, discovering this new method, despite its risks, helps to push the materials and dialogue of contemporary painting into new territories.    

 -Ron Saunders is an artist who works in both traditional and experimental media.  Currently, his work is inspired by astronomy and utilizes basic physics and the scientific method for creating unique paintings that test the boundaries of art practice.  All work created is for sale.  Contact the artist for details.


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    Location:Florence, AZ
    United States of America (the)