This is an idea I came up with for an art-form that, while I experimented with it pretty thoroughly, I never quite got off the ground. Therefore I am putting it, and the problems I had with it, in the public domain for others to address.


Initially the idea formed around pieces of fruit: I began work with a full, ripe tomato. Fruit should be taken and immersed in liquid nitrogen (-195.8°C) until the temperature equilibrates (basically when the nitrogen stops bubbling insanely). Then remove this frozen fruit from its dewer and place it in a steel box roughly 2 cms wider than the tomato, a sturdy mallet should be taken and used to shatter said fruit (taking care none of the fragments are lost). Forceps and wire can then be used to assemble tomato shards into a form similar to its inital state. The ideal concept was to form a timeslice of the moment the fruit shattered. When the form is as best as can be achieved, pour a mixed two-part epoxy resin over the assembled piece and leave it to cure.


The idea was to create unique objects that looked like bizarre creations trapped in amber. I found that yellow food-colouring didn't interfere with the curing of the epoxy resin, and that varying the amount would give everything between an enriching yellow tint to a distant and cloudy Silurian amber appearance; I will admit that in this process, a number of bluebottles gave their lives in the name of art. Tomatoes seemed an ideal choice since the effect was most arresting when applied to something that never cuts cleanly, and a shattered tomato is an unusual sight. I had further considering applying this to small mammals (shattered mice!) but felt that it would be too Damien Hirst derivative.


I did have some limited success and I have a handsome shattered banana in blue epoxy (bananas in amber seemed too plain) sitting in my bedroom, however there were some fundamental problems with the process that I had trouble finding solutions to and after seven attempts I admitted defeat. The main issue was with thawing: the moment the fruit is removed from the nitrogen bath it begins to soften, and this means the initial strong angular edges begin to smooth out until the piece loses its form. I experimented with keeping the steel box inside a larger bath of nitrogen and this did slow down the process considerably, but I could not halt it. Further, this increased a second problem of cold curing. The epoxy setting process works very poorly at low temperatures, and itself produces heat. Thus typically my epoxy would come out heterogeneous with areas set and areas liquid. I do have some ideas for how to repair this: I have suspicions that with a viscous enough epoxy it would not need to set immediately because it would hold the fruit form by virtue of its thickness. However, with my workshop these problems proved undefeatable.

I realise this is not the easiest artform to continue, liquid nitrogen is not available around the cornershop, but I was beginning to sense a real scope for this artform, almost anything looks good through cloudy amber. I would be grateful for word on any successes.

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