05 April 2012

Book du jour - graphite

This rather geographical-looking bit of rubbing is inspired by the sublime graphite works of Guiseppe Penone. It didn't start out with any geographical intent, but as experimentation - how to get different shinynesses on black paper. The geographical aspects - maps of counties or types of vegetation - revealed themselves, and now I'm thinking how this can move from "map" to "book", from small to large-scale (local to global?)...

My samples are A4-size; Penone's works, shown at Haunch of Venison last year, are rather larger -
Another great use of graphite is Tracey Rowledge's Surface at the Jerwood a couple of months ago - an entire wall densely covered in graphite.

It seems the simpler the finished work, with such "rich" materials, the more associations it carries.

In my quest to discover why graphite is shiny, I have discovered that the harder forms (like pencils designated "H" rather than "B") have corresponding larger proportions of filler: clay and wax. (This varies from brand to brand.) Graphite is carbon and its structure is flat hexagonal plates which slide over each other - this makes it a good lubricant. Carbon isn't a metal but has some metallic properties, including shine. However, some people insist graphite is dull. Are they getting mixed up with charcoal, which is almost pure carbon? Why are they different, anyway...?

Going back to the dictionary definition of graphite: "A soft, steel-gray to black, hexagonally crystallized allotrope of carbon with a metallic luster and a greasy feel, used in lead pencils, lubricants, paints, and coatings, that is fabricated into a variety of forms such as molds, bricks, electrodes, crucibles, and rocket nozzles. Also called black lead, plumbago."

And from the information here, we learn that it comes down to the allotropic form - the geometrical arrangement of the atoms. Apart from the crystalline graphite and diamond forms, there is also an amorphous form, found in smoke and soot - and charcoal.

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