Just like the first gush of black gold that emerged from Saudi Arabia’s inaugural oil well in 1937, the idea to chronicle the petrochemical age came quite suddenly to artist Piers Secunda. He was riding on the London tube reading Daniel Yergin’s history of oil, The Prize, when it occurred to him that he wanted not just to paint oil scenes, but to paint them with crude oil.
The artist soon proceeded to collect archival footage of the world’s original oil wells – from Saudi’s Dammam No. 7 to others in California, Texas, and elsewhere. These he then transferred to a silk screen painted with oil. But in order for Secunda to be satisfied with the project’s authenticity, it was absolutely necessary that every single piece was painted with crude oil taken from the original wells being depicted!
But Secunda set himself up with a huge task since buying drops of oil is significantly more difficult than buying barrels.
In the case of Dammam No. 7, he waited two years before finding a corporate paper weight containing oil from this historically-important well.
With Saudi’s peak oil on the horizon and climate change looming large, the fossil-fueled frenzy that has characterized the last century will undoubtedly fizzle out in the next few decades, but it won’t be easy.
“The incredible thing about crude oil is that it’s absolutely and totally inseparable from everything we do. It facilitates everything – if you remove it, you’d have mayhem,” Secunda told the paper.
For more, please visit The National, where the original story is posted.
images via Piers Secunda