Narrator: The Mexican artist David Siqueros was a radical Marxist who believed that modern art should use modern materials. This picture is painted with car paint. It was created at the Experimental Workshop that Siqueros ran in New York in 1936 - where groups of artists, including a young Jackson Pollock, worked together to learn new techniques. Tate conservator Patricia Smithen:
PS: "The paint they used was a nitro-cellulose-based paint - also known as Piroxylin - and it was a material that was developed in the 1920s specifically to use for cars and other machinery. It's very very fast drying, it's a very glossy surface at the end, and the reason why this paint was allowed to be developed is also because around 1907 was the invention of the air-spray gun which allows a very fast even application. And this nitro-cellulose paint when it was first introduced incredibly speeded up times of manufacture - it allowed a car to dry in 30 minutes as opposed to several days.
So, the whole idea behind the Experimental Workshop was that you would experiment with the paint, you would understand its flow properties, its viscosity, the way it handled in all different situations. And once you got a real grasp of the material you'd then be able to manipulate it to suit your artistic purposes.
This painting is a really good example of the experiments that they did with the paint. In the background you can see it's rather glossy and it gets more rough and ready and more textured towards the front of the painting - particularly in the middle-ground where you see the lovely sand-rock texture. Siqueros added these materials to his paint in order to counteract the glossy smoothness of the enamel surface.
One of the other techniques he would do is lie the board flat on the ground, apply a couple of layers of paint and then pour some solvent on top of that. As the solvent dissolved into the paint it swirls around mixing the colours and creating these lovely effects almost like petrol on water. And you see that on the left-hand side of the painting in the lovely swirly bit in the middle-ground.
In the foreground of the paint we've got these beige triangles and they were actually created using a stencil. He applied the stencil over the paint surface and then used the air-spray gun and sprayed the thin paint over the stencil in various areas.
You can also see if you look a little bit more closely at the surface you can see the drip technique - particularly in the lovely red flame in the centre of the painting. That is obviously a bit of paint that was just swirled and dropped, very delicately, probably from a stick or something.
We don't really know how Siqueros approached his paintings - we don't know if he had a subject matter in mind and created the painting to fulfill the subject matter. In this case we think that he experimented with the paint and he created these effects and I think he probably saw the subject matter, of war and violence, in the effects that he created. So while he was using these artistic techniques he was actually using them to fulfill his political purpose."