top of page

Bellum - The technique

The ten polyptychs of Bellum are encaustic photographs on poplar. The photographs started as impressions on black and white film and were developed with the traditional methods of analogue photography. Subsequently the images were transformed into digital files, to be enlarged and color printed on a particular film.

At this point, the individual poplar boards were prepared and a special alcohol glue was applied to them to facilitate the adhesion of the film. After a few minutes the film is “ripped off” leaving on the wooden board all the colors that make up the image. This is how the “image transfer” was done. The special nature of the process also lies in the fact that unlike a paper photograph glued to wood, with this process in the light parts of the image we can see the ribbing and the tone of the grain, which in the case of poplar is particularly bright. Subsequently, the boards were worked with the application of various coats of natural vegetable varnishes to increase the brilliance. When these are well dried, the working continues with the encaustic process, which is done with beeswax and other waxes and vegetable resins to give further coloring and structure to the surface.

The encaustic process is an ancient technique all traces of which had been lost for centuries, and even today it is only occasionally practiced for artistic purposes. In ancient Greece the hulls of ships were waterproofed with beeswax and colored with colored pigments. Many funerary masks that adorned the deceased were painted in the encaustic mode. In ancient Egypt, where the floods of the Nile subjected the objects to the stresses of vigorous alternations in the degree of humidity, wax, resistant to the weather and salt, was used to give resistance to the objects. Pompeii with its painted walls is a real open-air museum of the encaustic. We can also mention some famous examples of artists from recent times who have used this technique, such as De Chirico and Jasper Johns. The natural materials used in antiquity are very similar to those found in current workshops where the encaustic method is practiced.

The "caustic" part of the term indicates that heat is used to melt and mix the layers of wax, and the tools to do this are called, in fact, cauteries. The waxes, in addition to being used for their natural colors, can be melted together with the most diverse colors and spread in various ways. In the case of Bellum we preferred to work only with the natural colors of the various waxes and resins used without modifying them with added colors.

The next step of process is the polishing of the waxes done manually over several days. Finally, the twelve panels were collected in a single polyptych.

Back to the gallery

bottom of page