Trying to make art healthier for the artist

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Trying to make art healthier for the artist

For two decades, the Korean artist Choi In-han scoured the globe to find oil paints that were non-toxic. He wanted to develop paint whose chemical fumes would not harm artists’ eyesight or affect their mental faculties, which regular oil-based paints are said to do after repeated exposure.
His research took him through 12 countries in the Americas and Europe. In the end, he discovered the solution in the form of a kind of stone in Pyeongchang, Gangwon province. When mixed with the paints or applied to a canvas before painting, it was twice as effective in detoxifying oil paints as the previous stone discovered in Thailand, he said.
Following much experimentation, Mr. Choi obtained a patent early last year for his discovery, which he called “bio infrared light oil color,” with the help of a geology lab. The coarse dust is not yet available to the public, but the process is nearing its conclusion. When completed, it could be called the product of one artist’s deep attachment to creating healthier paints.
“Reports mention the danger of [exposure to] a chemical substance in oil paints, which is known to cause harm to the human body,” Mr. Choi says. “Especially after seeing crayons in the hands of children who are currently in their growth phase, I’ve realized the need for a non-toxic material.”
Mr. Choi’s invention is a kind of stone dust, which essentially counteracts the toxicity found in oil-based paints.
According to a report by the Korean Infrared Light Organization, when Mr. Choi’s infrared light oil paints are used, the surface of a painting turns red, while with regular paints the surface turns yellowish. As the outside temperature rises, the release of infrared light halts the emission of the poisonous substance.
“By using these infrared light oil colors, artists can reduce the incidence of headaches, prevent the risk of harm to their eyesight and inflammation” of different body parts, Mr. Choi says, adding that infrared oil paints can also be used to cover a crayon, and thus protect children from toxicity. They can even function as a preservative agent for artwork; they prevent cracking, block attacks by insects and slow color change.
“It is my hope that this creation rings a bell in the artistic community, which still ignores the importance of materials,” Mr. Choi says. “In other words, artists should not concentrate only on their technique; they should pay attention to the materials being used.”
Mr. Choi says he will contribute all of the profits from this endeavor to a young artists’ scholarship fund for Koreans.


by Chung Jae-sook
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