Wine lovers don’t like to waste a good vintage, but to Italian, Bordeaux-based artist, Aurodeva Guerci, to simply drink it all would be a loss.
Guerci has found a novel use for a bottle of red (or white or rosé): creating paintings on canvas of everything from abstract portraits to landscapes featuring local châteaux. “I’ve noticed that low-quality wines are the ones which give the least satisfactory colours,” he explains.
Like all great inventions, Guerci’s wine-paint came about by accident. While studying philosophy at university in the Netherlands, he’d been working on a large, acrylic painting in his spare time. Perfecting it one night, glass of wine in hand, he mistakenly spilt some on the canvas.
“I threw it away, but when I went back to it a few days later I realised, even though the wine was moulding and looked ugly, it had incorporated itself into the painting. This sparked my curiosity.”
Guerci immediately began researching painting with wine. He found artists using the drink as a watercolour (and many using coffee and chocolate as paint), but nobody seemed to be mixing it with acrylic paint.
“It was almost unexplored territory,” he says.
Obsessed by his discovery, Guerci contacted a couple of chemists to see if they could help him create the ideal mix of paint and wine. “Over two years I’d perfected my formula and was finally able to create a paint that can stick to canvas.” The chemists had worked their alchemy and found a way to stabilise this natural matter.
“I guess that is also the beauty in this wine painting – it is very unpredictable. Whenever I make a painting, I never know how it’s going to evolve over the years.”
Guerci keeps his wine-paint formula under wraps, and other artists can be quite inquisitive about his process. “It’s something I’ve developed for a long time. I don’t just give it up easily!”
Among his first wine paintings were those of abstract faces – strokes of wine-paint make up their features. Some have a glass of wine in hand, some are surrounded by grapes, others feature two women.
Where does he find inspiration for each work? “A particular wine will evoke some kind of emotion in you, even if you’re not a wine expert. And I’m not a wine expert: I just really like colours, this is my passion, so what I try to do is transmit this emotion through the face, or expression.”
Having developed his wine-painting technique and realised there was a demand for his work, Guerci moved to the wine capital of the world, Bordeaux. The region’s red wines are particularly useful. “Red wine has a bigger quantity of pigment and is therefore easier to use as a paint. You have to reduce less of it – I reduce the wine and that makes it richer and more intense in colour… red wine has more colour and nuance, but I have done quite a few paintings with white wines and rosés.”
How the wine develops once on the canvas adds further interest. “The most fascinating thing about this whole project for me is that I can’t really tell where a painting will go with time,” Guerci explains. With red wine, the paint usually starts off in a purplish colour on the canvas, turning to a chocolate-brown colour over the years. The oldest wine painting he owns has turned to a bright orange.
Varnishing the painting stops this colour-changing process, but some clients ask Guerci not to varnish their commissions. Instead they send it back to be varnished after four or five years, when they’ve finished ageing.
Those who are curious about the process can see how it begins before committing to a commission. Guerci offers interactive demonstrations through the cruise line, Scenic, which provides passengers with a chance to see his painting in action as part of a trip to 2,000-year-old Château de la Rivière on its Beautiful Bordeaux voyage.
Guerci has also been developing workshops: “If you have experience in using acrylic colour or oil colour, there’s a point where you have to relearn things because wine paint behaves quite differently.”
While admitting he’s no oenophile, Guerci enjoys the perks of his job – plenty of wine freebies. So what’s his favourite wine, for imbibing? He lists Saint Émilion and Médoc wines from Bordeaux before settling on wines from the Chianti region that are “particularly good for drinking – and painting.”
At 25, Guerci has forged a career as an artist and expects wine-painting to keep him busy for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think I’d ever be as happy doing something else.”