'Untitled #1-5 (macro/microcosms)' 2012
9.75 x 11.75 inches, spray paint, epson and table salt;
Edition of 5 unique diptychs
Capturing the Invisible
My collecting habits have increased over the years: shells, corals, seaweeds, minerals, crystals, lichens, branches, pressed plants and pine cones, to name a few. You can find these things in my kitchen drawers, hallway, and basically on and in every available space throughout my attic and spaceship-like apartment. My work draws upon the imagery of nature and the sciences, but it is not limited to technologies of the present. I’ve been drawn to 19th century Naturalists like Ernst Haeckel, a biologist, philosopher, physician and artist, and Anna Atkins, a botanist and photographer. I find myself connected to them, and imagine if we had tea at my apartment, they would think it was natural. But my work also imagines that the depths of the ocean reach into outer space; that through an organic prism, vision can fluctuate between the micro- and macroscopic.
My process is simple: I collect vegetation in my neighborhood, which I then lay on photographic paper and spray paint around, leaving an index. The image left behind resembles that of a photogram or cyanotype*. I boil water, and then slowly add salt until it no longer dissolves. After I let the super-saturated salt water solution cool, I paint and pour it on the spray-painted substrates: paper, mylar, and on photographic paper. The salt water mingles with the dyes in the photo paper, stripping away the three-color emulsion layers (cyan, yellow, and magenta) and diffusing the dyes into the salt water solution pool. This same pool of dye and solution repels the spray paint. As the solution evaporates, sparkling tiny salt crystals appear and grow. Ridges and multifaceted forms are visible throughout the surface, forming microscopic worlds. As time progresses, these ridges and forms grow into mounds. They become land masses, with their own shifts in hue and texture. The color of this landscape will continue to change as a reaction to light and temperature. The ever-evolving nature of the ‘finished’ work constantly performs an alchemical relation with the qualities of memory and emotion photography attempts to fix.
*Cyanotypes are an early 19th century photographic process using a ferric ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide to create the light sensitive emulsion that creates a blue print. It uses the UV rays (sun) to expose the paper and water to develop and fix the image. Anna Atkins is the first person who introduced this process to photography, creating a limited edition of books documenting her seaweed collection.
Christine's Limited Edition project is accompanied by a sound collaboration with Chris Fifield. To hear the sound piece, click here.
Christine Nguyen currently resides in Los Angeles, California. She received her B.F.A from California State University, Long Beach and M.F.A from University of California, Irvine. Solo exhibitions of her work have been featured at the Hammer Museum (Project), Michael Kohn Gallery, Andrewshire Gallery, Sam Lee Gallery in Los Angeles, and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Kiel, Germany; Laguna Beach Art Museum, Laguna Beach; San Art, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Sprueth Magers Projekte, Munich, Germany; Dancing Elephants Project, Bogota, Columbia, and Churner and Churner, New York.