Mercurochrome, charcoal tablets, Friar’s Balsam, iodine tincture, potassium permanganate, Med-Lemon, Gastropect and copper sulphate.
These medicinal remedies double as artistic media in Cape Town-based artist Jo Voysey's unorthodox practice. Voysey began using medicine as material during her time as an undergraduate student. "At the time I was working with ideas of hurt, loss and healing that related to my experience of the sudden and traumatic deaths of my three uncles, who died in quick succession over a very short period of time," the artist explained to The Huffington Post.
Grappling with themes of life, illness and death, Voysey deemed medications the perfect vehicle for expression. "I wanted a medium that could function symbolically and formally and that could evoke the human bodies that I did not want to depict naturalistically," she said. "Medicine offered the perfect medium and continues to function analogically with loss and healing in my work."
For her current exhibition, titled "Animal," Voysey returns to medicine to depict the relationship between human beings and the animal kingdom. The works resemble the artistic love child of a prehistoric cave painting and a laboratory petri dish, resulting in chemical-infused abstract renderings of vaguely recognizable animals.
Because of the unpredictable nature of her materials, Voysey starts each new work strategizing which medicine will be used and where, trying to envision the final image. However, she's the first to admit she can rarely predict the final outcome of her paintings, given the erratic nature of the pharmaceutical paints.
"The unpredictable nature of the medicine's chemical makeup makes it incredibly difficult to know what is going to happen on the surface," she said.
Most of the medicines Voysey uses to paint are in liquid form to begin with; some, however, come as granules or tablets she must dissolve in boiling water. To create her images, she spreads canvas on the floor and begins what she describes as an incredibly fast and feverish painting process, completed in a single sitting.
"It feels like a frenzied moment of creating where I dash around the canvas pushing and pulling the liquid in different directions until I am happy and then have to wait and see how it turns out," Voysey explained. "That's the fun part. It always looks so different the next day. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."
Voysey's subject matter currently revolves around animals, namely the way they are mistreated by humans. Inspired by news stories and anecdotes regarding human ignorance and neglect of the wildlife around us, the artist makes emotive and instinctual portraits that simultaneously stem from and beg for a cure.
"My hope is to expose the violence and mistreatment of animals by humans through various visual means," Voysey said. "In doing so I aim to draw attention to the ignorance and disregard for life in general."