Antique paintings are fascinating when you realize how as the once vibrant creative strokes fade away bit by bit with each passing second, their crisp and hues withering away into a more somber dusty shade. British artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey have also been fascinated with this aspect of vintage art and found the most creative way to recreate the effect.
Rather than painting on a canvas, they have perfected the art of creating detailed patterns onto a living wall of grass which they manipulate by changing the intensity of light it receives.
English duo uses the power of photosynthesis to create photographic images on the blades of growing grass. Plots of seeding grass are exposed to a 400-W projector bulb in a studio with covered windows, which makes sure that the only light reaching the canvas is passed through a slide of a negative photograph.
The changes in the densities of the negative’s lighter and darker areas create a full range of mid tones. The high light intensity produces green, or darker tones, while the lesser density light produces lighter (yellow) tones. The photosynthesis completes its course, which then in a few weeks’ time creates a grass-covered canvas in the shape of a living print of the photograph.
Using this technique, the artists create a portrait of the person in the negative photograph, which then fades away into blank sheets of greens as the grass grows normally into a longer length. Ackroyd and Harvey have been playing with the light-sensitive chlorophyll for the last two decades, creating hundreds of projected negative images on the green canvas.
Dan Harvey told Great Big Story,
“Where the strongest light hits the grass it produces more of the chlorophyll, more of the green pigment, where there’s less light, it’s less green, and where there’s no light, it grows, but it’s etiolated and yellow. So you get the equivalent of a black and white photograph, but in tones of green and yellow.”
The collaboration began between Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey in 1990,
“after observing the pale outline created by a ladder left on a lawn for a few days”.
In 1997, both of them joined IGER (Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research) scientists who had come up with a type of grass that stayed green even under stress.
These blades of grass retained their chlorophyll more effectively than regular grass, while other effects such as oxidative bleaching could cause an irreversible loss of image. This allowed the two artists to create their photographic canvases and then dry them.
If the art pieces are regularly watered and kept in low light conditions, they can last indefinitely. You can find more about this amazing form of art on the artists’ website.