Accidental art with oil, paints and soap

The works (above) by WeAreColorful, comprising artists Thomas Blanchard and Oilhack, are on show at Washington’s Artechouse gallery space.
The works (above) by WeAreColorful, comprising artists Thomas Blanchard and Oilhack, are on show at Washington’s Artechouse gallery space. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The works (above) by WeAreColorful, comprising artists Thomas Blanchard and Oilhack, are on show at Washington’s Artechouse gallery space.
The works (above) by WeAreColorful, comprising artists Thomas Blanchard and Oilhack, are on show at Washington’s Artechouse gallery space.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The works by WeAreColorful, comprising artists Thomas Blanchard (left) and Oilhack, are on show at Washington’s Artechouse gallery space.
The works by WeAreColorful, comprising artists Thomas Blanchard (left) and Oilhack, are on show at Washington’s Artechouse gallery space.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • It all began by accident.

After hurting his wrist, artist Oilhack started mixing paints, oil and soap in a bowl, experiments that eventually morphed into brightly coloured moving seascapes in a collaboration with fellow Frenchman Thomas Blanchard that Apple used to promote its iPhone X.

In their United States debut, the pair, who form the WeAreColorful collaborative, are bringing an immersive experience - filling the main gallery space at Artechouse, a Washington venue marrying art, science and technology, with 270-degree projections of their liquid mixtures.

Varying hues, from deep blues to sparkling gold, ripple across a surface, spill onto geometric shapes and drop dramatically onto flowers like milk or heavy smoke to the beat of a dreamy electronic soundtrack from Leonardo Villiger.

The shapes seem huge in the projections, towering far above visitors, but Oilhack and Blanchard in fact worked on tiny surfaces sometimes no larger than 5cm, shooting with powerful 100mm macro lenses.

"What we film, you can hold it in the palm of your hand," Blanchard said ahead of the show, which opened last Friday.

"A lot of people thought we were filming in swimming pools and said, 'What's with all this waste?'"

Hours of mixing acrylic paint, glycerophtalic oil-based paint, liquid soap, bleach and canola oil were distilled into a 15-minute sequence.

The oil's reaction to the paint forms small beads that come undone in what the artists describe as "explosions". "It's very ephemeral," said Oilhack. "It opens up like lace... When the music picks up, that's when we show the explosions."

In one portion of the video, marbles and prisms dramatically shift slowly while colours spew out onto them.

To create the effect, the artists used strings attached to stones to suspend small wooden shapes measuring just a few millimetres, then injected liquids into the space.

The resulting projections are very soothing. "For a few minutes, we forget our problems," said Blanchard, who gave the rights to one of his videos to an Australian children's hospital, where staff said it calmed the sick children.

The artists hail from the city of Lyon, the French creative centre that also served as home base to Adrien M & Claire B (Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne), who created the interactive abstract landscapes for Artechouse's inaugural show from June to September.

Artechouse co-founder Sandro Kereselidze calls technology a "fresh, new form of art".

To take the psychedelic experience to another level, evening visitors can virtually augment their drinks at the bar in the mezzanine, which overlooks the projections and the guests experiencing them below, lounging on benches and comfortable grey ottomans.

Cocktails topped with an edible wafer stamped with a colourful swirl come alive with the venue's smartphone app, showing smoke or bubbles of colour lifting out of the glass.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2017, with the headline 'Accidental art with oil, paints and soap'. Print Edition | Subscribe