Can you imagine spending many weeks preparing to install a work of art, followed by three weeks of the actual installation in a museum, only to have it painted over once the exhibition closed? On purpose?
Artist Richard Wright did just that. The Glasgow-based artist won the Turner prize last December in the Tate Britain Museum for his untitled, baroque-style fresco that is created with gold leaf on the entire wall of a gallery. Wright began with the traditional pounce method used in fresco: a cartoon (drawing) was pierced with holes through which chalk was rubbed. Once the cartoon was removed, a “ghost” outline was left. He then sized (applied a special adhesive for the gold leaf) the outlined areas, followed by the application of the gold leaf at just the right time. If the size is too dry, the gold leaf will not adhere. If the size is too “wet”, the gold leaf becomes dull. Honestly, how he did it in just three weeks amazes me!
The fresco, seen from afar, seemed like an abstract design but up close, the design was composed of landscape images such as clouds and sun. It was said to be mesmerizingly beautiful.
Once the Turner exhibition was finished, the fresco was painted over. Whew! Wright said: “To see a work knowing that it will not last emphasizes that moment of its existence”.