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An artist from Russia burns paintings with wax: the revival of the ancient painting technique - encaustics
An artist from Russia burns paintings with wax: the revival of the ancient painting technique - encaustics

Even in ancient Egypt, wax paints were already used to paint tombs. This material perfectly retains its shape and color. It is not known for certain when exactly this technique appeared. Later it was used by the ancient Greeks. They burned stunning, incredibly lifelike images with wax paints on a marble board. This technique is called "encaustic". Over time, it was forgotten and almost completely lost. Now this unusual old technology is experiencing its rebirth thanks to a Moscow artist Yulia Mamontova.

The peak of development of encaustics and its decline

Wax paints

The heyday of this ancient trend in art fell on the 1st-4th centuries AD. At this time, with his help, an incredible variety of still lifes, portraits and icons were created. During the medieval era, the encaustic technique was forgotten. The secrets of this art have been lost. Oil painting replaced it. Oil paints were more convenient to work with. Wax painting went into oblivion for many centuries.

Encaustic technology today is already the finds and techniques of modern masters. All of them are trying to restore this ancient technique. The wax in the composition of paints gives them one indisputable advantage over all the others - they do not lose their color over time. The only thing such paintings are afraid of is mechanical damage.

Now this ancient technique is experiencing its rebirth

Encaustic today

The modern market offers a huge variety of off-the-shelf wax crayons. You can also make your own wax-based paint. Both beeswax and regular paraffin are suitable for this. Natural material is usually whitened with hydrogen peroxide or simply kept in sunlight for a while. To do this, the wax is rubbed very finely, laid out on sheets of paper and exposed somewhere in the sun until it acquires the desired shade.

Wax paintings can be created in a variety of techniques. Artists often combine them as well.

Encaustic portraits from the Icon of Style collection. Author Julia Mamontova

The waxing technique involves the creation of a contour layer with wax paints. After the drawing is painted over with watercolors, the outline is left intact. Some make the relief with wax, and paint over it with gouache or oil. After the bas-relief is covered with a layer of varnish. For relief painting with painted wax, homemade paints are used. They are applied melted or burned out with a soldering iron. Turpentine is used as a solvent. When using the scratching technique, colored wax is applied to a board or sheet of paper, and then the drawing is scratched.

Triptych "Grapes", encaustic on a wooden panel. Julia Mamontova

Classical modern encaustics (moxibustion) involves the use of only melted paints. To do this, take either homemade wax paints or ready-made crayons. Background paints are applied to an iron heated to medium temperature, then they are transferred to paper. After that, all small details are neatly drawn with the tip of an iron or a soldering iron with a nozzle.

Portrait of Evgenia Linovich. Julia Mamontova, 2015 Rose Heart of Aphrodite. Julia Mamontova

Encaustic in Russia

Russian artist Julia Mamontova (Zabrodina) (Julija Mamontova) was born in the Komi Republic in 1980. She now lives and works in Moscow. The artist comes from the old Russian merchant family of the Mamontovs.Her great-grandfather Vasily Mamontov in the 18th-19th centuries successfully continued the family trade business, delivering goods from England to Arkhangelsk and the Urals along the Mezen River. Julia took her family name as a creative pseudonym, inspired by family history.

Julia Mamontova at work

Mamontova manages to very successfully combine classics and modern technologies in her work. She perfectly uses both the techniques of the classical Russian school of painting and Western techniques. All this, together with the conceptual presentation, makes her work so unique. The artist successfully works in two directions: she paints in oil and works in the encaustic technique.

Yulia Mamontova conducts a master class on encaustics Master class on encaustics for pupils of an orphanage in the Vladimir region

Julia is in constant creative search. She is inspired by her love of history. The artist studies the creative traditions and art of different countries. This continuous search for new images allows her not only to learn about life in all its possible manifestations, but also to share this invaluable experience with others, passing it on in her works.

Almonds Memory of Phyllida. Julia Mamontova, 2020 Personal exhibition of Yulia Mamontova "Floral myths of Hellas" Tricolor violets The flower of the Greek nymphs. Julia Mamontova, 2020

Julia possesses that ability, which is extremely important for an artist, to notice the smallest details. She knows how to transfer all the subtlest atmospheric nuances to the canvas. Her realistic paintings captivate the viewer with the sincere love for life with which they are filled. Mamontova's works inspire people. They encourage them to get acquainted with the origins, history. Julia considers her mission to revive the culture and art of different eras. She tries to popularize forgotten knowledge and skills as much as possible.

Creativity of Yulia Mamontova

Julia's works have been exhibited in many museums not only in Russia, but also abroad. Her paintings are in private collections around the world. The main goal of the artist is to change the world for the better. In her paintings, Mamontova tries to show how important age-old traditions and history are for modern people. Without this, the world cannot be transformed.

Yulia Mamontova with her work "Rose Heart of Aphrodite", 2020

In her work, Julia uses both classical methods and materials, and non-traditional ones. The central theme of Mamontova's work is the revival of the lost. She was inspired by her family story. Julia's ancestors have always fought for the development and preservation of Russian culture. Studying the family archives and the history of those ancient times, the artist began to think about the very phenomenon of revival.

Progress is impossible without knowing the origins. History is a cyclical phenomenon. It is like a spiral. Periods of upsurge are invariably followed by periods of deep decline. Such science cannot but influence art. This can be well traced, for example, in architecture.

Julia Mamontova with her work "Citrus Heart of a Fruit from the Garden of the Hesperides."

The theme of the cyclical nature of history is reflected in all the creative techniques that Yulia Mamontova uses. When she works on her paintings, she tries to revive all the forgotten knowledge to the maximum. The artist is engaged in the popularization of ancient painting technologies. Encaustic is one such technique.

All this helps to revive the culture and art of different eras, not only in Russia. Only a synthesis of modern and ancient techniques can change the existing order of things. Ultimately, all this works to change the world for the better.

Yulia Mamontova's charity exhibition "Honey Spas" in cooperation with the Gosha Kutsenko Foundation

If you are interested in art, read our article on how the artist brings stones to life, turning them into paintings depicting animals.

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