I work with paint that has a backstory. South Africa has the oldest paint backstory on record.

Buried deep in a cave on our coast a 100 000 year old* paint making toolkit was recently discovered. It played a crucial role in telling us a pivotal evolutionary story of our human mind, and led archaeologists to reposition the birthplace of modern human behaviour from Europe to Africa.

Intrigued that a mixture of land and liquid in a perlemoen shell can speak of who we were as a species at a vital stage in our evolution, I explore what contemporary paint and painting may tell to those in the future about us in what could possibly be a pivotal stage in ours.

In my process, I collect spent paint in all forms from all who use it - be they renowned international artists or unknown local housepainters. I work to understand its nature, experimenting with properties such as its three-dimensionality, weight, memory, flexibility, strength and impact on our immediate natural world, including our health. Attempts to change its destiny from landfill to artwork, from the discarded to the collected, have led me to develop processes for producing reclaimed paint from spent remnants and other forms of discarded painting material.
Melikhaya Mdungwana and Tom Vidal assist me to process this paint for use in my art making.

As I work, the paint evokes stories of how land speaks of our interaction with it.

Carolyn Parton 2015


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