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What Happens When An Ex-NASA Engineer Drops Paint Into Fish Tanks

Before switching to the creative life in the 1970s, artist Kim Keever worked as a thermal engineer on NASA projects. Perhaps this is why his abstract imagery has the air of a particularly thrilling science experiment.

Keever drops industrial paint tints into 200-gallon fish tanks, and photographs the swirling, ballooning colors as they mix and disperse through the water for his series “Across The Volumes.” Keever turns the images upside down, giving the mishmash of colors a stormy quality, as if the paint was exploding upward through the water. At times, the ethereal tints begin to appear almost solid, as if they were swathes of silk or clouds of cotton candy.


The paint dispersal, according to Waterhouse & Dodd, a New York City gallery displaying the work, adds a “high degree of randomness to the abstract images.” The nature of each pigment causes the different colors to move through the water molecules differently, resulting in a rainbow explosion within the confinement of the fish tank.

“The abstracts are like a blank canvas with paint randomly poured on it–only composed in the 3-D world of water and photographed,” Keever tells Co.Design via email.* Out of the 9,000 images he’s taken so far, less than 100 have been usable. “Though most of the images billow out in an almost predictable fashion, it’s the ones that veer off and do amazing things on their own,” he says.

[H/T: designboom]

*This article has been updated with comments from the artist.

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