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GALCIT Colloquium

Friday, January 12, 2024
3:00pm to 4:00pm
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Guggenheim 133 (Lees-Kubota Lecture Hall)
Hydrodynamic instabilities in modern artistic painting
Roberto Zenit, Professor of Engineering, Brown University,

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 painted to provide protection against the environment or simply

for decoration. This process, in an industrial context, has been vastly studied and it is

well understood. In the case of artistic painting the purpose is different. Painters learn

how to manipulate the nonuniform deposition of paint onto a surface, through lengthy empirical testing of the action and modifying the physical properties of the fluids, to create textures and patterns of aesthetic value. In this talk, an analysis of some notable painting

techniques is presented from the point of view of fluid mechanics. In particular, we discuss

the so-called "accidental painting" technique, originally devised by David A. Siqueiros,

which is the result of a Rayleigh-Taylor instability. An analysis of several techniques used

by Jackson Pollock is also presented, showing how he learned to carefully control the

motion of viscous filaments to create his famous abstract compositions. We also briefly

discuss how pattern and textures are produced in decalcomania and watercolor painting.

These investigations indicate that it is possible to establish concrete scientific discussions among modern fluid mechanics, art, art history, and conservation.

For more information, please contact Stephanie O'Gara by email at [email protected].