Art

This artist was able to make crystals by painting with chemical reactions

Belgian artist Dries Ketels might not be the Night King from Game of Thrones, but he too can turn things into ice.

Inspired by the beloved George RR Martin series, Ketels has come up with a collection of paintings that contain miniature frozen landscapes. Entitled Witnessed Winter, it involves painting with temperatures of over 2,000 degrees celsius, resulting in canvases lined with crystal chemical reactions.

“I kind of paint with ice and fire here,” said Ketels, referencing Game of Thrones.

Ketels, whose works have won several prizes and have been exhibited in cities all over the world, hopes that his art pushes the discussion regarding global warming forward.

We recently caught up with the Belgian artist to find out more about his work.

Tell us about the process behind painting with temperatures of over 2,000 degrees celsius?

“It’s a painting method I’ve invented and developed over the past few years where I paint with forces of nature, such as chemical reactions (the ‘crystallisation process’). It’s a way of painting where nature gets the status of an artist: Nature as the artist.

“In this way, I become the assistant of nature and nature becomes the assistant to me. I’m not a painter who tries to manipulate the exact image all of the time, but more like a painter who tries to let the image create itself.”

You’re using this new Witnessed Winter series to raise awareness around climate change. What are your own thoughts about the impending peril the globe is facing?

“We are not used to this type of anticipation. For thousands of years, we only had to anticipate for what was about to happen a few weeks ahead – at maximum. It was only in the last couple of centuries that a few years in the future started to matter.

“But now, after a couple of decades with climate change, nuclear waste, the power shifts from countries to companies, and so on, we have to think several generations ahead. At the moment, we are completely failing at that.

“In other words, I think nobody is really aware of what’s going on and what is awaiting us in the future. Winter is coming! Game of Thrones fans will understand me on that.

“Nature is, and always has been, the most beautiful thing we have. Sometimes we think our house, our car, or our watch is more beautiful. But deep inside, we know that these material things are not important or beautiful.

“Painting hand in hand with nature, where nature becomes a painter, hopefully reminds us of the beauty of nature. It’s a way of painting where my actions anticipate the actions of nature. Because nature is creating parts of the painting, it sometimes feels as if I’m enslaving nature to work for me.”

Where did you learn to paint with chemical reactions?

“Up to now, you cannot learn it anywhere. There are no courses on the subject. I’ve studied and developed this on my own. And I hope I will give some workshops in the future for other people to prevent them from walking down the path of failures and struggles.

“I learned chemistry and science myself out of books and from the Internet. But I also took some basic science courses – chemistry, physics – in university (out of personal interest, not to get a degree ) and from that point, I started experimenting and finding my way.”

Tell us about three artists that we’ve probably never heard of but should!

“Naïm Mertens (Belgium). I’m pretty sure nobody heard of him before. He has no online representation at the moment. But mark my words. He’s gonna do some amazing stuff in the future.

“Daniela Ruiz Moreno (Argentina). If it’s true what they say about the ‘curator as artist’, then she might become one of the best artists we will have.

“Djanlissa Pringels (Belgium). For some reason, we haven’t heard much about the ‘critic as artist’. If there’s going to be a ‘critic as artist’ in the future, it might as well be Djanlissa.”

You can find out more about Dries Ketels here.