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Where science meets art: Inside Auckland artist Jake Feast’s resin pieces

Where science meets art: Inside Auckland artist Jake Feast’s resin pieces
It took being thrown out of business studies and into an art class for him to find his calling, but now 22-year-old  Auckland artist Jake Feast’s ‘science experiment’ resin pieces are taking off.

In his own words, Jake Feast can’t paint a pretty picture to save himself, but he can do some pretty incredible things when given a blank canvas, some chemicals and spray paint.

The up-and-coming artist makes resin pieces that are growing in profile online and in galleries, but if it wasn’t for being a troublesome student, Feast may not have ended up in art at all. 

After being kicked out of business studies at Rosmini College, Feast ended up being placed in an art class and discovered he had natural talent. 

Feast worked in the film industry after college, and was inspired to pick up a paintbrush again after being exposed to different artists, creatives and sources for props and materials. 

He started off with experimenting with everything from acrylics to oils, but found his patience wore thin when trying to paint a detailed portrait. 

Then one day, a friend asked if Feast could do a resin piece for him, though the process is notoriously difficult to master.

“I played around and it came out okay,” he laughs. “But from then on, I was hooked on resin.”

In 2017, he decided he wanted to take a chance and have a crack at the full-time artist hustle.

Feast uses spray paint, chemicals and resin to form his swirling creations, which can resemble an alternate universe (or hallucinations an acid trip) to the naked eye. 

The process is as follows: when acetone or alcohol is mixed with resin in a cup, a chemical reaction occurs, making the resin separate. Feast then pours the thick liquid onto a canvas and uses a hairdryer to spread it, making a ripple effect. 

From there, he puts a clear coat of resin overtop, lets it dry overnight, and then repeats the mixing and pouring process with resin and different coloured paints. The final step is sanding down the edges, as well as using a flamethrower to get rid of the bubbles. 

The finished pieces have a 3D, depth-of-field effect due to the different layers of paint.

Feast says the unpredictable, high-energy nature of resin art works well with his personality.

While he can work to colour requests, he says he only controls about 90 percent of the artwork. The rest is fluid, abstract and unpredictable. 

What actually goes into the overall concoction is a bit like a science experiment. Feast says some of his more unusual ingredients in the past have included oil, food colouring and even fly spray.

In one memorable moment, he almost set his Dad’s entire house on fire when a whole art piece went up in flames due to the acetone, and it quickly spread to the walls.

“It was pretty hectic,” Feast says.

Now, he’s settled on a formula he thinks works best (and is less life-threatening) but this complicated process is part of the reason he thinks resin art isn’t that commonplace in New Zealand. 

"To be good with resin is problem-shooting it. There’s so many issues that can happen. I actually  think the biggest art to it is having everything level. That’s literally the secret."

- Jake Feast

“There is such a process to it, half of it is preparing for it versus actually pouring the paint,” Feast says. 

“To be good with resin is problem-shooting it. There’s so many issues that can happen. I actually think the biggest art to it is having everything level. That’s literally the secret. The canvas has to totally level, and also sometimes the resin sticks to the table underneath so you have to have little things sitting under the canvas [to prop it up].”

Another problem is bugs tend to get stuck in the art pieces while they’re drying, which explains the need for a mosquito net.

Feast knows of about three other people doing resin art here, but says  it’s more popular overseas in Australia and Canada.

“I just don’t think it’s hit here and I don’t think many people have discovered it. A lot of people tell me they’ve never seen it before and I think that’s what a lot of my recent successes have been from, because in New Zealand, it’s quite rare.”

A year or so in, Feast has already been in one solo show and two group shows. He’s also done a live painting for Lululemon during one of its yoga sessions, which is now featured in one of its stores.

However, he is limited by the constraints of resin – such as his canvas needing to stay flat and level – so the usual commercial route of feature walls is out of the question. 

For now, Feast says he’s pursuing the fine art side of things by selling his work via galleries and private sales.

But he says he’s just grateful he now has the time to work on his craft all day and night. 

“I’ve been really lucky, and I don’t even know how I’ve got so lucky to be perfectly honest. But yeah, there is moments where you’re thinking, ‘holy shit, how am I going to pay for rent?’ But it’s all kind of worth it in the end – I don’t have an alarm any day of the week.” 

Catch Feast’s upcoming show, ‘In our eyes’, at Auckland’s Allpress Studio from June 10 to 18.

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