Wine has been the inspiration of many famous painters throughout the centuries, but Florentine artist Elisabetta Rogai is taking the relationship between the drink of Dionysus and art to a whole new level, by using wine as paint.
Can a painting truly age? The concept was first explored English writer Oscar Wilde, in his book, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, and now, over a century later, it’s taking a new meaning in the work of Elisabetta Rogai. The Italian painter uses only white and red wine, with no other chemical additives, to create beautiful paintings. This “allows the wine to reproduce on the canvas exactly the same process of ageing that normally takes place inside the bottle,” she explains, adding that “the wine aging, which normally occurs over the years, takes only a few months on the canvas.” The difference between a freshly painted artwork and a three-months-old one is clearly visible; the texture changes and the colors evolve from young purples and cherry reds to more mature tones of amber, orange and brown. Unlike the portrait of Dorian Gray, her works become more beautiful with time.
But Elisabetta Rogai wasn’t the first artist to try and paint with wine. Many others have tried before her, but the results were less than satisfactory, due to a variety of factors. The challenge of removing alcohol through Reverse Osmosis, the density of the wine, chromatic scale limitation, the volatility of alcohol and the possibility of working only on small canvases have been the main reasons why most painters gave up on the idea of using wine as paint. Elisabetta Rogai herself admits it took a long period of research and experimentation, and help from the University of Florence to develop her wine paintings, but the results were definitely worth it. Although she uses regular bottled wine for her paintings she also takes bottles of wine to the Florence University laboratory for processing, and takes home a gooey residue with a texture similar to oil paints.
To keep the aging of the wine going on on indefinitely, until the colors fade almost completely, Elisabetta Rogai has created a natural color fixating system based on water and flour. This leaves the hues unchanged but prevents colors from fading over a certain threshold. Her wine paintings are available for prices starting at € 5,000 ($6,400).