Abstract Expressionism is now over half a century old, and in all those years nobody has bothered to improve upon the antiquated techniques of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. If you want to express your emotions, the expectation is that you spill or spread colorful pigments onto a swathe of canvas. Through some sort of synesthetic transference, the artist’s tormented mindset is supposed to be experienced by the audience. And maybe it works. But there’s a far more direct way to paint emotions. All you have to do is to paint with pheromones.
Pheromones have provided a way to express emotion for far longer than we’ve had museums, paints or language. They predate our species as a means of communication, and they remain our most direct conduit, telling how we really feel even when our words deceive. For that reason, I have begun to use pheromones in place of color pigments to make honest paintings laden with emotion. I call it olfactory expressionism.
I’m making my emotional pigments by collecting pheromones from my pores while watching the TV news. Each sample is classified according to how a news item makes me feel (joyous, sad, frightened, etc.). The pheromones are saturated in linseed oil to produce a palette of colorless paints. I make my colorless paintings on canvas with combinations of those oils, thickened to the consistency of putty. Each painting – titled according to the news items I saw – expresses a different combination of mixed emotions for as long as the oil remains wet, which could be as long as several centuries.
Through the mechanism of empathy, spectators can feel what I feel, far more primally than they would through the arcane – and culturally specific – language of Western painting. Moreover, through my mixture of pigments I can create and induce novel emotions never before experienced. Anyone else can do the same.
And what if we all started mixing our emotions, creating a global feeling? That would make a mural worthy of the National Gallery or the United Nations.
The first exhibition of Jonathon Keats’s Olfactory Paintings will open on May 31st at Team Titanic Gallery in Berlin. More information: www.teamtitanic.com