Published: 12 June 2022
We are delighted to be representing the captivating work of internationally acclaimed artist Gail Catlin who currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa. Using a dynamic harmony of mixed media, alchemy and expressionistic form, Gail is one of the most successful artists in the world who has perfected the technique of using liquid crystal in an art form. Liquid crystals are infinitely flexible and fluid, enabling transformational art technology with mesmerising qualities. This highly sensitive and scientific substance responds immediately to changing intensities of temperature and light with dramatic shifts in colour, reflectivity and sheen. The question which begs an answer is: why would she choose to use such a difficult and elusive medium? While she lived in Arniston, SA she became fascinated by the nacreous quality of sea shells and mother-of-pearl and was convinced that a new colour spectrum needed to be developed to capture the subtle and ever changing shades of nature. She experimented with clays, resins and fibreglass which played nicely with light but only when used in sculptural form. She wanted to paint with materials that played with light. Her aim was to capture the most elusive of nuances, the most intangible subtleties of nature but she was frustrated by the inadequacies of the traditional media of oil paint, acrylics and watercolour.
While at the Royal College of Art in London, she visited the Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine and asked the scientists there how she could capture the pearly colour of sea shells. They advised her to use a mirror to split white light into the colour spectrum. She made contact with a Dr Cyril Hilsum at General Electric, who was a world expert on liquid crystal and indeed it was he who first introduced her to the mesophase. The beauty of liquid crystals from an artist's point of view, is that they are infinitely flexible and fluid and can be painted onto an artwork, it's like painting with liquid diamonds. Through painstaking experimentation over many enormously frustrating years, both in England and South Africa, Catlin gradually began to master the fugitive alchemy of liquid crystals. She learned how to capture iridescence and lustre, as well as the changing diel and seasonal moods of landscapes and objects. She began to paint with liquid crystals in such a way that she could anticipate their responses, to light, to temperature and to each other. Gail Catlin has possibly come closer than anyone to capturing the infinitely varied iridescence and colour spectrum, not only of the pearl but also of the African landscape.